Nothing came easy for Cathedral High School girls cross country in 2018.
But while that was true, Irish girls cross country coach Mark Doctor also said what at times was a tough season produced remarkable results.
“The end result was good, but it was a weird road getting there,” Doctor said. “There was a lot of bizarre stuff that went on. In the end, it kind of sorted itself out.”
The underclass-dominated Irish not only had two meets canceled due to weather in ’18, they also competed in a slew of meets defined by uncommonly hot weather before persevering and surprising many observers by advancing as a team to the semistate round of the postseason.
The Irish, after a third-place sectional finish and a fifth-place finish regional finish, finished ninth at the Shelbyville semi-state meet – with junior Gillian Cridge and Audrey McKinney advancing to the state meet.
“The regional meet was just amazing,” Doctor said.
Cridge finished 24th with a time of 19:01.3 at the Indiana High School Athletic Association State meet at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute on October 27, while McKinney improved rapidly late in the season to finish 73rd at the state meet in 19:39.1.
It was a strong finish to the season for the Irish’s two top runners. Cridge missed multiple meet representing the United States in Australia at the World Triathlon Championship before making her second appearance at the state cross-county meet.
It was McKinney’s first appearance at the state meet.
“Both of them ran fantastic,” Doctor said.
The Irish’s 94 points at the Noblesville Regional placed them fifth behind Brebeuf Jesuit (60), Noblesville (74), Pike (77) and Carmel (90). Seven Irish runners had personal records at the regional, with Cridge finishing third in 18:12.81, McKinney finishing seventh in 18:26.20, junior Gracie Carr finishing 10th in 18:33.78, sophomore Ellie Thor finishing 36th in 19:45.12, junior Megan Kaster finishing 46th in 20:02.34, junior Kendrick Mernitz finishing 62nd in 20:48.36 and junior Lindsey Douglas finishing 70th in 21:09.86.
“It was the dictionary definition of stepping up,” Doctor said. “They just really stepped up and really ran well at that meet.”
The Irish the following week finished with 196 points at the semistate meet, 120 points behind semistate champion Zionsville. Cridge finished 11th in 18:41.2 and McKinney advanced to the state meet by finishing 17th in 18:50.6. Carr finished 43rd in 19:36.1, with Thor finishing 78th in 20:24.4, Kaster finishing 93rd in 20:43.4, Mernitz finishing 110th in 21:03.0 and Douglas finishing 130th in 21:31.6.
“They ran pretty well,” Doctor said. “It was one of those where we had a good day, but to advance we were going to have to have another great day.”
The Irish finished third at the Brebeuf Sectional with 61 points behind champion Pike (47) and Brebeuf (53). Cridge finished fourth at the sectional in 19:40.4, McKinney finished sixth in 19:54.6, Carr finished ninth in 20:05.09, Kaster finished 19th in 21:36.4, Mernitz finished 23rd in 21:49.1, Thor finished 24th in 21:50.6 and Douglas finished 39th 22:47.0.
The Irish also finished as the runner-up to a strong Cardinal Ritter team in the city meet, with the All-Catholic meet one of the Irish’s two meets canceled by rain in 2018. Cridge finished third at the city meet in 19:22.1, with McKinney finishing fourth in 19:26.6 and Carr finishing fifth in 19:48.6.
The run through the postseason meets not only made a satisfying, successful finish to the 2018 season, it established the Irish as a strong contender for 2019. The Irish competed this season with just one senior among their top 12 runners, with junior Kylie Price – the Irish’s eighth runner much of the season – showing signs of competing for a top seven spot next season.
“This season seemed like a lot of work to overcome a lot of things,” Doctor said. “The way it all come together was great. I generally hate to use to the term ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year,’ because it just seems like it’s a copout on this year, but really this time it’s ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year.’ It should be a really good season.”