The Warsaw girls cross country team is headed back to Terre Haute this Saturday for the IHSAA State Cross Country Finals, and this year the boys' team is going with them.

Both teams qualified for the championship races with impressive performances last weekend in the New Prairie Semi-States.

The girls finished fourth as a team with a score of 162, 52 points behind the champs from Chesterton. They had won both their sectional at Manchester and their regional at Logansport in the preceding weekends.

"The coaching staff has always felt the potential was there," said Girls Head Coach Jason Fleming. "We had just missed last year, and most of our roster was back this season. With the shorter preseason, it has just come together within the past 3 weeks. The girls have really become focused on their goals."

Fleming says the key to a big day this Saturday will be to literally stick together. "We have to continue to work together to keep the margins between our runners to a minimum.  If we are able to do this and run times are what they are capable of, then we should be where we want to be."

At New Prairie, the fastest Warsaw runner was Junior Wini Barnett who finished 15th, but Warsaw had four of the top 36 finishers.

The wait for the boys to get back to the state finals has been a lot longer. While sending individuals to Terre Haute each of the last five years, this will be the first time the team has gone collectively since the fall of 2013, when they finished 12th. The boys also hoisted the trophy for titles in the sectional and regional, and then finished 2nd to Chesterton by 26 points in last weekend's race at New Prairie.

"We have always had the confidence that this team could make it to the State Championships," said Boys Head Coach Jim Mills. "While we have no front runner like years past, this has been a great pack-running team. They are very consistent, hard working in practice and on a mission".

Jacob Kissling was the fastest Tiger at 16:26, which was good enough for 8th individually. Kissling knows the Laverne Gibson Course well—he finished 8th there last season.

The key to this 'run' through the month-long postseason for Mills' team has been getting healthy. Tanner Stiver's return to the lineup has been a big gust of wind in the sales of the squad.

"At one point in the season our top three runners had been sidelined (COVID quarantined and injured)." Mills added. It definitely affected our team mentally as we knew going into meets we would struggle. Fortunately our guys always managed to bounce back."

The team has goals for the state meet Saturday, but no matter what happens, Mills is proud of his guys.

"There are no classes in cross-country, so with approximately 420 member schools and only 24 schools in the state finals, just reaching the State Championships is a great accomplishment."

The girls' race is set to begin Saturday at 11:30am followed by their awards ceremony. The boys' race is scheduled for 3pm, and will be followed by their ceremony.

All ticket sales will be digital-only through GoFan ticketing. No cash will be accepted at the course. The IHSAA is asking you to purchase tickets online in advance and present your purchase verification on your phone to gain admittance at the gate. $10 per person. You can also watch it live via pay-per-view at www.IHSAAtv.org for $14.95.