Although Eastern’s girls cross country squad lost three NCAA Division I athletes to graduation from last season’s regional championship team, the cupboard was left far from bare.
The Comets showed as much in Tuesday’s Logansport Sectional, placing four in the top 10 — including a 2-3-4 finish — on their way to claiming a fifth straight sectional crown.
That trio — sophomore Carly Jones, junior Avery Ewing and sophomore Jessie Sprinkles — played an integral part in Eastern’s run to the state finals a season ago, giving the team a comfort factor in the form of experience heading into today’s Culver Academies Regional.
“Having been there, we know what to expect as far as the competition level, and will be able to be comfortable with the course and the atmosphere,” coach Brandon Mink said. “It’s a big advantage having done that. We have three girls who were up there before, and we have some new ones that it’s still a little new to them. They’ve been coming along nicely with the other girls who are bringing them along, so I think we should feel very comfortable as far as the atmosphere.”
Awaiting the Comets is Culver Sectional champion Warsaw, a team that, like Eastern, enjoyed a 2-3-4 individual finish in strikingly similar times. One thing the Tigers did that the Comets did not do at the sectional level was place its top five runners in the top 12.
“Warsaw is definitely the team to beat, for sure,” Mink said. “It’s challenging to make out head-to-head matchups on paper because you don’t know what their strategy was in the sectional as far as whether they were saving some up for the regional or not. What it will take for us to beat them is to run our best race of the year. They have Nos. 4 and 5 runners who are slightly ahead of ours right now, but if they falter a little we have to be ready for any opportunity that may fall in our lap. There’s certainly the possibility for us to be there to nip them if things go our way. We’re the underdogs for sure, but we’re certainly in the mix.”