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Written By Ink Free News / Sports on Thursday, October 28, 2021

Andrew Potter played a huge role in Warsaw qualifying for the IHSAA Cross Country State Finals. InkFreeNews file photo by Mike Deak

By Mike Deak

WARSAW – It was perhaps one of Warsaw cross country coach Jim Mills’ best works. And just at the right time.

Warsaw boys cross broke an eight-year drought without a state appearance in 2020, and while the team is well decorated over time, the team didn’t have its usual run of the mill success it was accustomed to having. The Tigers finished third in the Northern Lakes Conference, and while it ran up double digit title streaks in both the sectional and regional formats, Warsaw was anything but a sure bet for the semi-state.

As Mills has bellowed all fall, he needed consistency from his support runners and more push from his front end cast. He got both at semi-state, the team improving in both areas and getting fifth place to forge a somewhat improbable run. Without a true ace to guarantee at least one low score, Warsaw did it with a pack of three and the support of two, which equates to a repeat appearance at the state finals.

“It was relief knowing there were at least 9-10 teams fighting for six spots,” started Mills. “This was only the first or second time that our fourth and fifth runners were going to be the deciding factor in us making it out. That night It sunk in that we got our team to the state meet when many didn’t give us a chance.

The trio of Garrett Hall, Luke Nier and Harrison Phipps have all knotted one another as to who is in what position among the three, but have been consistently together in races. The three were within 11 places of each other at the New Prairie Semi-state, Hall 22nd at 16:46 and himself only a couple paces from landing a top-20. Nier was at 16:51 and Phipps at 16:56, which helps the points game in cross country with 20 teams in contention. The racing of Tyler Swartz and Andrew Potter, however, made the difference for the Tigers, which needed all the help it could get to hold off a trio of Region teams.

Warsaw comes into the state final just one of two unranked clubs in the field of 24, Crown Point the other. The Tigers are making its 12th appearance at the state finals, but just its fifth since 1990. Warsaw was fourth at the 2012 meet, its best-ever finish and 16th a year ago. Mills feels his team could catch the 2020 squad.

“For me I was so grateful that these young men who had worked so hard were given the opportunity to run in the most important meet of their career,” offered Mills. “We had emphasized for the past month that our 4-7 would make the difference. Mixing up our lineup over those few weeks we decided on who to run at the semi-state. Tyler Swartz was our most consistent and Andrew Potter came through in the last mile Saturday to get the job done.”

Izaiah Steury of Angola and No. 1 Columbus North come in as the defending champions. Goshen and Northridge, the two teams ahead of Warsaw at the NLC Championships, are both in the field and carry contending runners in Jack Moore and Jaxon Miller of Northridge and the Goshen trio of Drew Hogan, Cole Johnston and Tommy Claxton.

“Of course, I don’t think you could end 40 years of coaching any better. But as a whole I have been blessed with so many great student  athletes who have filled my life with so much joy I truly believe I’m the luckiest coach. They have done the work and all I have done is steer the ship,” said Mills.

Racing at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute begins with the boys race at noon and the girls race at 3 p.m.

Posted In: Boy's Sports > Cross Country