By Will Willems Sports Editor
Zionsville Times Sentinel
---- — Terre Haute — The Zionsville girls cross country team made their debut at the IHSAA State Finals Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Lavern A. Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute.
Zionsville placed ninth in their first appearance at the state finals, scoring 289 team points. Carmel was the overall champion, with 76 points.
“They really worked hard,” Zionsville head coach Suzanne Rigg said. “This is a hard course; it is a course that really breaks up your rhythm. This is a course they haven’t experienced before; so they coped well with it, and they found it pretty tough. This is was a great experience for us, and this is something that we can really build on.”
With three girls that ran in the state meet Saturday returning and another line-up regular returning next season, Rigg said the next time the girls run at the state meet they will be better prepared for what they will see.
“You have to experience it once,” Rigg said. “The seniors, unfortunately, they can’t come back and do it again, but this is really a building thing for us. This is the start of years to come where we can come to the state meet and get up on that podium.”
Samantha Mitchell was the top Eagle finisher on the day, placing 55th in a time of 19:17.0. That was one spot and 0.2 seconds ahead of teammate Becca Uebele.
Sydney Meyers placed 60th in a time of 19:20.4.
The final two scoring runners were Marianna Kastberg-Leonard (106th, 19:56.3) and Lizzie Torrance (142nd, 20:34.8).
Cristina Guerra ran for the injured Angelina Ellis and placed 179th in a time of 21:12.4 and Cally Sampson placed 184th in a time of 21:18.4.
“They all did well,” Rigg said. “They worked as hard as they could; they put in everything they had. They finished pretty much as they have all year; there weren’t any real surprises from that standpoint. The girls did a great job and worked really hard.”
The race was the final race in a Zionsville uniform for Uebele, Kastberg-Leonard, Torrance and Guerra.
“I have been so thankful and blessed by their willingness to change it up,” Rigg, who was in her first season as head coach, said. “Because they didn’t have to, they could have dug their heels in and said ‘I’m not doing that.’ But they haven’t, and they have really been on board. I just give them a lot of credit, it takes a lot to do that when you are a senior. To have to get used to someone else as a coach and their training methods, it has meant a lot to me that they did that.”
It was the end to a successful season for the Eagles.
The Lady Eagles broke numerous records throughout the season, won the sectional title and made their first appearance at state.
“It has been a really great year,” Rigg said. “The girls have jumped on board with a lot of new and different training. Every week surprised themselves and everyone in the state really. It has been an amazing season and I think one of the best parts was just watching their confidence grow every week. That bond of running and sisterhood has been amazing. This year has set us up for hopefully many more years of making trips to state.”
Rigg added the standards have been raised as to what is to be expected from the Zionsville program going forward.
“The bar has definitely been raised,” Rigg said. “The younger girls in middle school have seen it, and we have girls in elementary school even writing letters to our girls, it is just exciting to think that once we get something going that can trickle down. This group of girls have made history and we will build off that.”