By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — For Tippecanoe’s girls, it’s one final chance to prove themselves and cement their legacy.
Having already proved themselves, Tippecanoe’s boys will be enjoying the experience.
For the first time since 2015, both Red Devil teams will run at the Division II state cross country meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron — a meet that was delayed a week due to the weather and flooded conditions of the course — with the girls looking to score another top-three finish and the boys waiting to see what happens.
Because — as the Devils learned when the boys won the state team title in 2014 — anything can happen once the meet begins.
“We were talking about that just today. Once you get to the state level, all of the teams are well coached and fit. They’re all equal in that way,” Tippecanoe cross country coach Byron Kimmel said. “What separates you then is your emotional and mental talent.
“There’s not a lot of disparity physically — the rest of the runners are all solid and fit. What makes the difference is how you approach the race. What you do before the gun can be more important than what you do after the gun.”
This particular group of Red Devil girls knows all about that.
The seniors on the girls team will be making their fourth and final trip to the state meet, having finished in the top three as a team each of the past three seasons. In 2015, Tippecanoe’s girls were second only to Lexington, in 2016, the Devils finished third behind Woodridge and Lexington and last year they were third behind Lexington and Fairfield Union. Katie Taylor has been All-Ohio each of the past two seasons as an individual, leading the way for the team in 16th place.
The only thing that has changed for them this year was the extra week between the regional and state.
“The girls are a veteran group,” Kimmel said. “The five seniors have been at state every year since their freshman year. If anything, the delay made them a little antsy. But we’ve kept them on the same training schedule and not done a whole lot different.
“It’s bittersweet for them because it will be the last high school race for the five of them. There have been a little emotion in practices these past two weeks. But second, third and third — that’s a nice run. And they’re hoping to put in one more good performance at state.”
Tippecanoe’s boys, meanwhile, qualified for state as a team for the first time since 2015. The only member of this year’s team that has run at state before is two-time qualifier junior Bryce Conley, who placed 160th as a freshman and 33rd as a sophomore.
The last time the Devil boys qualified as a team was 2015, when they finished second to Lexington.
“The guys are just excited about being there,” Kimmel said. “They haven’t been at state for two years. We had a run of three years in a row where both the boys and girls qualified, but now only one of our boys — Conley — has even run at state. Making it there this year, I don’t think they care how they finish. It will all be new to them, and they’re excited.”
Because once the meet starts, anything can happen.
“The 2015 boys class finished first in 2014 and second in 2015, and they all bought into a family approach,” Kimmel said. “And that’s what we talked about today, knowing when you need to be strong for your teammates. We’ve worked all year on our mental approach to the race.
“The key to success at the state level is your mental and emotional approach. You’ve just got to have that edge.”
Also representing Miami County at the state meet will be Troy’s Olivia Tyre, Dinah Gigandet and Emma Kennett in the D-I girls race, Troy Christian’s Robert Ventura in the D-III boys race and the Bradford girls team in the D-III girls race.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.