Depth is always a huge advantage for the Carmel High School cross country program.
Yet, that was just one factor in the Greyhounds capturing the IHSAA girls team state championship Oct. 31 in Terre Haute. It was the Carmel girls’ first state title since winning seven consecutive championships from 2010 to 2016. Carmel won with 52 points, well ahead of second-place Fort Wayne Carroll’s 77.
“The keys for us this year at state were that the team trusted their training, executed the race plan and relied upon their teammates to do their part,” Greyhounds girls cross country coach Andy Dalton said. “The entire tournament was a true team performance if I have ever seen one. We had 12 different athletes race at some point, and each week different runners would step up just when they were needed. In terms of strategy, we wanted to get out strong, settle into the pack and then win the second half of the race. The girls did exactly that.”
Dalton said the runners definitely peaked as the training and racing strategy was planned around trying to perform at their best at the state meet.
“The girls were definitely feeling strong and their legs (were) as rested as possible at the end of a five-month season,” Dalton said.
Senior Annie Christie finished third individually after not making the postseason team last year.
“Annie Christie has been a terrific story all season long, especially given how the 2019 season ended for her,” Dalton said. “In fact, I think 2019 was a large motivator for all the work that she has put in the past 12 months to get to where she is now. Her performances over the past month were not surprising to any of us on the team. She has been solid all season and performed exactly as she should have each week as the stakes increased.”
Other Carmel runners in the top 25 were junior Alvia Romaniuk, 15th, freshman Cara Naas 20th, and senior Brooklyn Edwards, 25th.
The state title was Dalton’s first during his four seasons as head coach. He had been part of three previous state titles as an assistant under Mark Ellington.
“But what made this one special wasn’t the fact that I am now the head coach, but instead because of all that I’ve seen this group of athletes go through the past four years and especially this season,” Dalton said. “It may or may not surprise you to know that coaching and competing for a program like Carmel cross country with its rich history of success is not easy at times. The bar has been set very high as I try to fill the shoes of legendary coaches like Chuck Koeppen and Mark Ellington.”
The Greyhounds’ boys cross country team placed second to Columbus North in the state meet. Sophomore Kole Mathison was the top Carmel runner, finishing third among individuals. Other top Carmel finishers were senior Jacob Fisher, 21st, and junior Charlie Schurman, 25th.