Another titanic clash between Indiana’s top prep harriers – along with some stiff competition from visitors from Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky – is in store Saturday night at the Nike XC Town Twilight, Presented by The Garrett Companies, at the famed LaVern Gibson Championship XC Course in Terre Haute, Ind. The meet also serves as a Nike Cross Regional Midwest Preview for teams preparing to compete in that November showdown at LaVern Gibson.
This meet was launched as the Nike Valley Twilight in 2019, with the NSAF joining in for this fall – building on a great relationship that started with last November’s Nike XC Town USA Meet of Champions and looking to help build this meet into a major regional and national event. The ironing out of the final details of the revamped meet and subsequent announcement was not quite soon enough to catch fire nationally and with other Midwest states, many of whom had already set their schedules.
However, with the memory of last November’s fantastic meet still fresh, the groundwork has been laid for some tremendous expansion of the Nike XC Town Twilight meet in the future that will attract harriers from the region and nation to compete under the lights at this one-of-a-kind venue.
“We love XC Town, LaVern Gibson and this great team here in Terre Haute led by Jeff Martin and David Patterson,” said the NSAF’s Kristi Rieger, who serves as co-meet director with Martin. “We’re excited about Saturday’s meet and all of the great runners who are joining us, and also eager to continue developing this event to what we want it to be.”
The excitement continued to build late this week as the stunning array of 40 portable light banks were placed around the course and then lit up during a test run by meet officials Friday night.
“The illumination of LaVern Gibson with these light banks is truly a sight to behold, providing a unique and incredible experience of running under the lights for these kids,” said Rieger. “This really makes it a special event and opportunity and the NSAF is grateful to be a part of it.”
The Boys and Girls Nike Race of Champions highlight the slate of six races, which start with JV and Open divisions for each gender before the two grand finales. An awards ceremony follows, along with some awesome fireworks to complete the evening. Here’s a look at the competition ahead:
BOYS RACE OF CHAMPIONS
Columbus North and Carmel have been two powerhouse prep XC programs for years, not just in Indiana, but regionally and nationally. What they have this year, both in terms of national-class boys at the top and deep squads behind them, is very special. In new DyeStat National Top 30 rankings released this week, Columbus North and Carmel are at #9 and #19, respectively, and the top two teams from the NXR Midwest Region.
Carmel junior Kole Mathison – one of the best overall distance-running sophomores in the country in 2020-21 – has already shown he’s even better this year. He’s ranked #16 individually after a season’s start that includes two sub-15:00s. He won the Eagle Classic in 14:57 and was 2nd at the Riverview Health Invite in 14:52 (just behind Indiana defending state champ Izaiah Steury, not competing here Saturday). And if that’s not enough, Mathison was 8th last fall here at the XC Town USA Meet of Champions and 7th in last March’s blazing NSAF USA Meet of Champions 2 Mile (9:03.57; also 8:55.12 3200m PR). His NSAF creds are strong!
However, the Eagle Classic victory came with Columbus North’s finest hot on his heels. Senior Reese Kilbarger-Stumpf set a massive PR with his 14:58, bringing his status as a harrier in line with the speed he showed last spring running 4:07.78 for 1600m. Expect nothing less than another classic battle between these two.
As a team, Columbus North goes just a little deeper – or so it seems going into this meet. Senior Matthew Newell is a great #2 and has run 15:29 (three times!). Junior Clayton Guthrie, senior Evan Carr and junior Mateo Mendez were the next three at the Eagle Classic. Carmel countered with senior Charlie Schuman (15:32 PR), juniors Charlie Leedke and Connor Mallon, and senior Connor Heagy.
While there are several other Indiana teams that could contend at least for top three, including Bloomington North and Zionsville, attention turns to a historically great program crossing the border to join in the fun. York might not have one of their all-time great squads in 2021, but they’re still one of Illinois’ and the Midwest’s best. The Dukes are led by senior Ethan Summer, who was 3rd in both the Richard Spring and Palatine Invite meets, two major September showdowns in the Land of Lincoln.
As a team, York was 2nd at Spring and 3rd at Palatine. Saturday will be a good measuring stick for how they rank regionally. And don’t forget about the men of Trinity HS in Kentucky. Senior Zach Woodall is their frontrunner and they were 4th out of 22 teams in the prestigious Trinity/Valkyrie Invite recently.
Other teams and individuals to watch
- Avon IN with senior Griffin O’Neill and soph Sam Clore (7th/11th at Eagle Classic)
- Bloomington IN and Kyle Clark (19th at state last year, #4 returnee in this race)
- The host Terre Haute Vigo South Braves and Matt Gambill (15:40 PR and three top-4 finishes this fall)
- Homestead IN and senior Ethan Baitz (18th at state last year, #3 returnee in this race)
- Noblesville IN and senior Joel Mumaw (15:28 PR and three top-3 finishes this fall)
- Westfield IN and senior Kai Connor (15:25 PR and four top-4 finishes this fall)
- Junior Dylan Zech of Terre Haute Vigo North (8th at Eagle Classic)
GIRLS RACE OF CHAMPIONS
Not surprisingly, the girls teams for Carmel and Columbus North are nearly as formidable as the boys and have great legacies in the state. Carmel, in fact, has made NXN Finals several times, and is currently ranked #19 nationally (behind York’s girls, not at this meet, and Ann Arbor Pioneer in Michigan). Columbus North is close behind at US#24 and MW#4.
At that recent Eagle Classic, Carmel got a 2-4-7 finish from senior Jasmine Klopstad and seniors Alivia Romaniuk and Jamie Klavon to get the 52-59 victory. CN was paced by juniors Lily Baker and Brianna Newell, and senior Katherine Rumsey in 6-10-11. But Julie Kiesler was just 14th and CN’s #4. She won two other meets, the Rick Weinheimer Classic (in a PR 17:35) and the Conference Indiana Champs. If Kiesler is in top form, her team will be very tough to beat.
In fact, Kiesler is perhaps the individual favorite, too, but she could get a good battle from a Missouri harrier she beat at the Weinheimer meet. Julia Ray, a junior at MICDS (Mary Institute and Country Day School, St. Louis), clocked 17:52 behind Kiesler. Ray is the 2nd fastest girl in her state this fall and has two other major victories. Another out-of-state team and individual to watch is O’Fallon HS of Illinois and their senior Peyton Schieppe. She has a PR of 17:03 for 3 miles, though she’s most often been in the mid-17s.
Others to watch:
- Noblesville IN, with freshman Brinkley Cooper and soph Nadia Perez
- Edgewood IN, with junior Clara Crain (#2 returnee from ’20 state meet in this race)
- Homestead IN, with soph Addison Knoblauch (top 4 in four different invites)