Eleven points. No, make that a measly 11 points.
That’s all that separated ninth-place Center Grove from fifth-place West Lafayette at the 2011 girls state cross-country finals, a discrepancy that for the Trojans grows more inspiring by the day.
While being considered the ninth-best team in Indiana by no means is anything to sneeze at, top five means medaling. A more rarefied air, if you will. And coach Wes Dodson’s team was almost there. Almost.
“Our goal this year is to make the top five. Anything beyond that would be gravy,” said Dodson, whose 13th Center Grove girls squad appears to have the talent required to experience a heaping helping of both awards podium and gravy.
“You look at who’s returning, and we have a great team,” he added. “But it’s about staying healthy, which in girls cross country is hard. There are a lot of injuries, but you have to be smart about it. You have to learn your kids and treat each one accordingly.”
Too many familiar faces and skill sets return for the coach not to know this team. The Trojans’ top four finishers at state last October return for their senior seasons: Tori Schoettmer (13th), Delainey Burnett (34th), Jordan Timmons (36th) and Anna Burton (64th).
It’s not a rah-rah quartet by any stretch of the imagination, Burnett probably being the most vocal of the bunch. However, they know what’s expected from their coach as well as each other.
“All four seniors are pretty experienced, and we’re close, too,” Timmons said. “I think we all base our goals off each other and push each other.”
Timmons is particularly stoked for the upcoming season after being disqualified prior to the 800-meter run at the Franklin Track and Field Sectional in May. The meet official claimed she was late to her event, a ruling that drew the ire of both Dodson and Center Grove athletics director Jon Zwitt.
Despite the latter’s email to the IHSAA, the decision was not overturned.
“I’m very motivated because I had a disappointing track season. I want to prove to everybody and to myself that I can place at state,” Timmons said. “I would like to be top 25.”
Two more state finals veterans return for the Trojans, juniors Rachel Dever (103rd) and Shelbi Dishman (136th). The seventh and final varsity spot could be filled by any one of four runners, each representing a different class — senior Morgan Lee, junior Lindsey Kovacs, sophomore Abby Tuttle and freshman Alexa Kovacs.
It shouldn’t take long for Dodson to gauge where this team is. Center Grove opens its season Aug. 18 at the Carmel Classic (hosted by the defending state champion Greyhounds) and follows that up a week later at the Noblesville Hokum Karem.
It’s all part of the long trek to what promises to be three months chock full of expectations at Center Grove.
“These girls know exactly what our goals are,” Dodson said. “Most importantly, they’re going to be great leaders. They’ve been doing this forever, and it’s really a huge advantage for us.”