CARMEL – There is a lot of noise around the Zionsville girls cross country team as the season gets underway.
With a bunch of experienced upperclassmen who won a state title in 2017 and were runner-up a season ago, the Lady Eagles find themselves at or near the top of every early season poll and in some national polls as well.
And while the expectations are high within the Zionsville program, they aren’t letting any of the early season hype get in their heads.
“We try to not worry about rankings and all that, because at the end of the day, that’s why we race,” senior Katelyn Wasson said. “I think we are just focused on working hard and are not really focused on what other people are saying about us because we can prove that when we go out and race.”
Head coach Suzanne Rigg said she did share the pre-season ranking with her team, mostly because it was “pretty good and fun.”
But she said with what the program has accomplished in the past few seasons and the experience they have, they know at the end of the day what they are doing on the course matters the most.
“You have to take it with a grain of salt,” Rigg said. “We know we have a lot of hard work in front of us and it’s not something we are looking at every week. We don’t get carried away with that stuff.”
The Lady Eagles showed some of their potential on Saturday at the fifth-annual Zionsville Invite.
Zionsville won the junior/senior race, finishing with 26 points and putting four girls in the top-10.
In the freshmen/sophomore race, the Eagles placed fourth.
“I really felt like we put in a strong performance today,” Rigg said. “It is always tough that first race because you never really know where you’re at. It can take your mind and body a couple races to get back in the swing of things, but I think we had a really, really good start.”
Wasson won the junior/senior race in a time of 14:29.7.
She was nearly 30 seconds ahead of the field.
“I was really happy with today,” Wasson said. “My main goal was just to go out and work really hard. At this point of the season we really aren’t tapering for any races, so it is really about getting in a good effort and seeing what I can do after all the summer training.”
Wasson got out pretty well early, sitting in second place behind Fishers’ Hannah Sale for most of the first half of the race.
But once Wasson got in front, she never looked back.
“The plan was just to get out hard, because a lot of the races later in the season are going to have big fields,” Wasson said. “So I wanted to go out hard and strong and then hang on.”
The Eagles also got strong performances from Anna Settle and Margaret Allen, who placed fourth and fifth respectively in 15:08.8 and 15:17.7.
Both seniors looked strong throughout.
“They did an excellent job,” Rigg said. “Katelyn was out there and pushing it the whole way, and that’s what she needs to do. Anna and Margaret were really working together and I was happy to see that. That was a good race for them.”
Isabella Brady also placed in the top-10, placing ninth in 15:43.8. The final scorer was Keerti Mallur, who placed 19th in 16:24.6.
Kylie Heagy (29th, 17:05) and Kate Dimmett (31st, 17:09) rounded out the first seven.
In the freshmen/sophomore race, Lydia Moore led the Eagles, placing fifth in 15:26.7.
“Her confidence is going to grow and grow,” Rigg said. “With a year experience, she knows the battles she is going to face in her mind and body. She’s really growing into that, and I am excited to see what she does.”
Grace Gongwer was 15th in 16:05, with Ava Ward placing 25th in 16:35.2. Natalie Scholer placed 27th in 16:41.1, with Kaitlyn Lalley finishing in 30th in 16:43.2.
Kyla Stalbaum and Elise Reinking placed 40th and 45th respectively in times of 17:04.7 and 17:11.5.
Rigg said overall, the Invite gave the Lady Eagles a good early season test.
“There was great competition here and it is getting bigger and bigger,” Rigg said. “Over the years it has just grown, and I love the format. The underclassmen aren’t immediately thrown in with the older girls that have been doing this for a few years. It is just a good start.”
Zionsville competes in the Dave Bannon Invite in Shelbyville on Thursday.