This was absolutely a season to remember.
That was how it was throughout the Cathedral High School girls cross-country 2019 season, and falling oh-so short of the final step didn’t change that.
“We kept getting better and better through the season,” Irish girls cross-country coach Mark Doctor said.
The Irish, who finished the regular season seventh in the inccstats.com Indiana state rankings, turned in their best performance of the season with a second-place finish at the Regional 10 meet at Brebeuf Jesuit October 19. They battled injury and illness the following week, narrowly missing the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Cross-Country meet with a seventh-place team finish at the Semi-State 2 meet at Shelbyville.
“In our semi-state, there’s really no margin for error,” Doctor said. “That was just too much for us to overcome.”
Seniors Gillian Cridge and Gracie Carr, along with senior Audrey McKinney the key veteran leaders for the ’19 Irish, both qualified individually for the state meet. Carr finished 53rd at the state meet at Lavern Gibson Cross-County Course in Terre Haute with a time of 19:15.5, with Cridge finishing 65th with a time of 19:25.5.
Cridge qualified for the state meet three times in her career. This was Carr’s first state appearance and McKinney qualified for the state last season. Doctor called the trio perhaps the strongest top three in program history.
“We’ve had strong front twos, but we’ve never had that third before,” Doctor said. “That was really a key this year.”
The state meet capped what Doctor called a strong season for a team that featured a standout senior trio and multiple talented underclassmen who should form the core of the program’s future.
“Once they started to see a little success, their confidence grew,” Doctor said. “Then they would see more success and their confidence would grow some more.”
The Irish won the Indiana All-Catholic meet by a point, then followed that by dominating the large-school division and finishing second overall at the Midwest Catholic meet.
“That was kind of the turning point there,” Doctor said. “The light went on and the girls said, ‘Hey, we might be able to do something this season.’ Once they got the confidence, it just kept building.”
The Irish also turned in a strong performance at the State Preview Invitational in Terre Haute in early September, a meet in which they finished second despite Cridge’s absence because of an international triathlon. Carr finished second in the state preview 19:10.40.
The Irish started the postseason with a strong third-place finish at the Sectional 20 meet at Brebeuf with 69 points, 12 behind sectional champion Chatard and three behind runner-up Brebeuf. Cridge finished seventh at the sectional with a time of 18:50, with Carr finishing eighth in 19:00, McKinney finishing ninth in 19:16, freshman Grace Bragg finishing 22nd in 20:09, junior Eliotte Thor finishing 25th in 20:14, senior Megan Kaster finishing 38th in 21:10 and freshman Dearbhla Delaney finishing 39th in 21:19.
A team that had been improving late in the season then turned in its best performance. The Irish finished second at the regional with 72 points, 14 points behind regional champion Carmel.
“The regional, they just ran amazing,” Doctor said. “Unlike last year, when we kind of snuck up on people in that race, a lot of people were expecting us to do well – but they weren’t expecting us to do that well. We beat the two teams that had beaten us at the sectional the week before.”
Carr finished fourth at the regional with a time of 18:11, with Cridge finishing ninth in 18:32, McKinney finishing 14th in 18:42, Thor finishing 20th in 19:05, Bragg finishing 36th in 19:27, Kaster finishing 64th in 20:37 and Mernitz finishing 86th in 22:46.
The Irish finished seventh as a team at the semi-state meet with 179 points, missing qualifying for the state meet by 10 points and finishing 93 points behind semi-state champion Zionsville. Cridge qualified for the state meet by finishing 12th in 18:58.1 and Carr qualified for the state meet by finishing 13th in 18:59.6.
McKinney finished 33rd in 19:32.2, with Thor finishing 41st in 19:49, Delaney finishing 131st in 21:45, senior Kendrick Mernitz finishing 135th in 21:49.1 and Kaster finishing 138th in 21:50.9.
Doctor said while he entered the season wondering about the strength of the program beyond the seniors, the ’19 season produced a strong young core with the potential to improve in the coming seasons.
“With Ellie Thor, and then Grace Bragg – that should give us a good one-two,” Doctor said. “We have several freshmen who didn’t show up in the top seven, but they were in the No. 8 through 12 spots ready to move up. We may not be real dominant next year, but in the next couple of years we’re going to be building as we bring these freshmen along.”