They were good. Really good.
Cathedral High School girls cross country improved throughout 2022, then ran competitively during a difficult postseason schedule. Circumstances kept the Irish from the later rounds of the postseason. That didn’t keep 2022 season from being a success.
Or from setting the tone for a bright future.
“Any other regional in the state we still would have been going,” Brad Peterson said. “Geography was not on our side.”
Peterson, hired as the Irish’s girls cross-country coach in late May, said the team underwent a culture change in 2022. The Irish saw big-time results with a third-place finish in the Section 20 meet at Brebeuf Jesuit that enabled them to advance to the Region 10 Meet at Noblesville.
“That’s a pretty big step,” Peterson said.
The Irish finished seventh at the regional, narrowly missing advancing to the semistate meet. The regional meet, historically the state’s toughest, held true to that reputation in 2022 – and the Irish would have advanced to the semistate in any other regional.
“I feel badly because five of our seven at regional were seniors,” Peterson said. “I really wanted to see those seniors get that. They never got a taste of regionals, let alone a semi-state, until this year. We only had three months. I feel like if we’d have had a whole year, it could have been something special.”
The Irish finished third with 79 points at the sectional behind North Central with 43 points and Bishop Chatard with 76 points. Senior Gracie Bragg finished seventh in 18:53.5, with junior Lucy Marquart finishing 10th in 19:08.4, sophomore Addison Stanley finishing 18th in 19:57.0, senior Dearbhla Delaney finishing 19th in 20:16.5, senior Brooke Wojcieszek finishing 25th in 20:43.5 and junior Teresa Wojtalik finishing 44th in 22:12.0.
Bragg finished 11th at the regional in 18:39.1 and Marquart finished 24th 19:08.6, with both qualifying individually for semi-state. Delaney finished 39th at regional in 19:50.6, with Holtrup finishing 41st in 19:59.1, Stanley finishing 59th in 20:36.0, senior Skylar Landis finishing 61st in 20:48.9 and Wojcieszek finishing 68th in 21:04.2.
“It was a lot of fun,” Peterson said of a season marked by most of the team dealing with COVID-19 in September. “Some of these girls were PRing every week because they were just getting more and more healthy. I told the girls, ‘We just ran out of time.’ We needed about two more weeks and we’d have been even better.”
The Irish as a team averaged 19:38 at regional, which was a five-second improvement from sectional and which would have won nine other regionals.
“We’re definitely a Top 15 team in the state,” Peterson said. “Unfortunately, we just weren’t be able to show it.”
Bragg turned in a 19th-place finish in 18:58.5 at the Shelbyville Semi-state and Marquart placed 25th in 19:09.3.
“I can’t say enough about Gracie Bragg,” Peterson said. “She’s becoming one of the state’s best. It’s a year where five or six seniors are on big-time full rides. She’s been lost in the shuffle, but she’s good. She led the way by example. She took it seriously and she made them take it seriously.”
The postseason performance marked a dramatic improvement for the program from recent seasons, with the Irish finishing seventh at sectional in 2021.
“The key varsity runners really bought in,” Peterson said. “They put the work in in the summer and showed up. We met pretty much every day all summer, Monday through Friday. Accountability was key. We made it known that if you were going to be on the team, everything was mandatory. That was the key, just taking it seriously and holding the program to a high standard.
“The girls we had in the line at regionals were the ones who were supposed to be there. They ran for each other and cried together afterward and rejoiced in Grace and Lucy’s success making it to semi-state.”
And as a result, Peterson said a tone was set for the future.
“Cathedral is a historic program that over the last two years has not been nearly at the level it used to be,” he said. “We’d like to get back there. There’s plenty of optimism for next year and years to come. The foundation has been laid for what we’re shooting for.
“They see what needs to be done and I think they’ll do it. This was the first step. The girls we have coming back are going to be hungry. They see that if they put in the work what will happen. They see now they can do it. If we put in the work, we can do big things.”