Keeping Momentum / Top-ranked North boys, girls enter semistate as favorites

For Columbus North’s top-ranked boys and girls cross-country teams, today’s Brown County Semistate is all about keeping the momentum going into next week’s state finals.

Both Bull Dogs teams will be heavy favorites going into today’s 20-team meets at Eagle Park just outside Nashville. The boys race begins at 11:30 a.m., followed by the girls at 12:15 p.m.

“We’ve always really put a lot into semistate just because we want to run our best at semistate because that just rolls into the state meet,” North boys coach Danny Fisher said. “We don’t want to go into the state meet having an average day or even a good day (at semistate). We want to have a great day, just so it gives us confidence and rolls into the state meet.”

North girls coach Rick Sluder is taking the same approach.

“It’s our springboard right into state,” Sluder said. “Regional, we kind of train through a little bit. Semistate, we’re going to be a little fresh for and ready to go and then bounce us right into hopefully a great state meet.”

The Bull Dogs are the only team in the boys field ranked in the top 10. Northview is No. 12, Bloomington South No. 14, Bloomington North No. 15 and Floyd Central No. 21.

The top six teams qualify for the state finals.

The Columbus North girls could have a little more competition with No. 3 Floyd Central and No. 7 Northview in the field. Also competing will be No. 12 Bloomington South, No. 20 Jasper and No. 22 Bloomington North.

“If we run well, we should be competitive for first place,” Sluder said. “But Floyd Central is a very good team, and both Bloomingtons are always good and Northview is very good. So we’ll have a good, competitive meet, but if we go in and take care of business, we should be right up front.”

The Bull Dogs also figure to have contenders for individual titles in boys seniors Reese Kilbarger-Stumpff and Matt Newell and girls juniors Lily Baker and Julia Kiesler.

“The last two years, we’ve had a lot of rain during the week, and Brown County holds some water in a lot of places,” Fisher said. “So it will be good to race Brown County dry. That’s where Reece has ran his sub-15. It will be great to have great competition, great conditions and then we’re rested and running downhill, so to speak.”

“We’re hoping it’s going to be dry and fast,” Sluder added. “Our girls are really pumped for this because we feel really good on the Brown County course and are really looking forward to going over there and winning our third straight semistate.”

Meanwhile, some other area teams and individuals will be competing and shooting for high finishes. The Jennings County boys have been ranked at times this season and could be a contender for a top-six finish that would send them to state.

Brown County’s boys team also will be competing, and junior Chase Austin has a shot at qualifying for state as an individual. So does Eagles junior Hadley Gradolf, who has made it to the girls state finals the past two years.

Columbus East and Jennings County will have girls teams competing. While those probably are longshots to make it to state as a team, Panther junior Halle Franks and Olympian junior Chloe Krueger might have a shot at making it as individuals if they have career days.

“We’ve worked hard all season getting ready for this, so individually, we’re working on getting our (personal records),” East girls coach Jesse Shoaf said. “We’ll probably be in the middle of the pack. We just hope to compete with the teams that are in our conference and sectional again.”