Photos by Drew Fritz, Times-Union
Jacob Kissling sprints toward the finish line during Saturday’s Semi-State cross-country meet.
Photos by Drew Fritz, Times-Union Jacob Kissling sprints toward the finish line during Saturday’s Semi-State cross-country meet.
For the first time in a long time, Warsaw’s boys and girls cross-country teams are both headed to the State Finals.

Led by senior Jacob Kissling’s 8th place finish in 16:26, the boys ran an outstanding race as a team to capture second place in the hotly contested Semi-State meet at New Prairie High School on Saturday. Four Tigers placed in the top 21 which gave them enough of an edge to nip third place Crown Point by a single point, 118 to 119. Perennial powerhouse Chesterton won the meet with a team score of 92 while the boys individual winner was Highland’s Lucas Guerra in 15:26. The Tigers average time was a very commendable 16:42.

Junior Wini Barnett again led the Lady Tigers by placing 19th in 19:45. As a team, the girls finished a very strong fourth to also qualify for the State Finals which will be held this coming Saturday morning in Terre Haute. Chesterton also won the girls team competition while Lowell junior Karina James took the girls individual title in 18:08. The Lady Tigers average time was a very impressive 20:14.

Only the top six teams in each of the state’s four Semi-State races advance to the State Finals next weekend and in Indiana there are no class divisions in cross-country or track, like there is in football and basketball. For both boys and girls teams to qualify for State Finals is a truly remarkable achievement. The last time the Warsaw boys qualified for the state meet as a team was 2013. The Lady Tigers last qualified for state in 2018.

Boys Head Coach Jim Mills was very complimentary of his team’s performance.

“This is the best we’ve run all year,” Mills said. “Our top four guys were lights out, and our five and six guys also ran well. That first mile the race went out super fast and I think Garrett and Luke paid the price a little bit at the end but they held up and I’m very proud of them all.”

“We’ve had just the worst team luck for the past several years and for various reasons have only had individuals qualify for state,” Mills continued. “So that makes this race maybe a little payback for what the program has gone through.”

“They definitely proved today they are worthy of making it to the state meet. They came to run and really delivered with the best overall team race we’ve run this year,” Mills added. “We’ve still got some goals though and next Saturday we’ll see if we can finish off the season the way we want to.”

Girls Head Coach Jason Fleming was elated with his team's surprising performance.

“We got our best race today,” Fleming said. “We had great efforts.  (Adree) Beckham broke out and had a season best today. We saw a great time from Wini (Barnett) that we’ve been waiting on, and even our 6th and 7th runners posted times that are close to if not PRs, so I’m genuinely happy with the way the girls ran today.”

On punching their ticket to the State Finals, Fleming said “We talked all week about how places matter and don’t end with any kind of regret and finish on empty. I feel like the girls really established themselves today and I’m very proud of all of them.”

"I knew it was going to be tight but I didn't expect us to be that far up the line so that was a real big exclamation point on the effort the girls put on," he added. "This is probably the most focused and competitive mindset I've seen them approach a race with. It was amazing to watch and just goes to show that when they serious they're a lot more capable than people might give them credit for."

The Manchester Squires had one runner qualify for State Finals as well as an individual. Senior Carter Bedke clocked 16:35 to finish in 18th place.

State Finals will be held next Saturday at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Hautre. The girls race starts at 11:30 am ET. The boys race begins at 3 pm ET.

WARSAW BOYS

8    Jacob Kissling     SR    16:26

19    Sam Lechlitner     SR     16:37

23    Tanner Stiver     SR    16:40

27    Harrison Phipps     JR    16:42

71    Garrett Hall     SO    17:22

72    Luke Nier          JR     17:23

106    Samuel Slough     JR    17:49



WARSAW GIRLS

19    Wini Barnett     JR    19:45

28    Ava Knight     JR    20:05

33    Regan Brouwer     JR    20:08

43    Adree Beckham     SR    20:21

75    Erika Bugg     SO    20:52

85    Marissa Howett     FR    21:01

88    Elizabeth Vander Bie  FR    21:02