South Knox’s boys and girls cross country teams have been defeating teams in the area for decades, but sectional titles haven’t been as easy to obtain.

That might come to an end this Saturday at the South Knox Sectional for both the boys and girls, with each posting strong seasons to date. Lincoln and North Knox are among the roughly other 10 schools in the field at the Robert C. Swank course.

The top five teams in each race and the top 10 individuals not on those teams advance to the Pike Central Regional the following Saturday. Because of that, all three county schools should be well represented at the next level.

But the South Knox and Lincoln boys, along with the South Knox girls, have trophy aspirations Saturday.

The Spartans and Alices have run against each other in several boys meets, with South Knox about 10-15 points lower than its county foe each time. Both are good enough to be 1-2 Saturday, with Gibson Southern and Barr-Reeve the closest competitors.

The Spartans have won 10 boys sectionals, but the last one came in 2014. Despite that,

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coach Matt Toothman isn’t playing up an attempt to break the dry spell.

“It should be a good battle, and I know if we have a solid race, we’re going to be in contention,” Toothman said. “Obviously we want to win, take some hardware. But the name of the game is survive and advance. It’s happened where a team finishes second at the sectional and then wins the regional. I know I’d take that.

“We go out and do the work, take care of what we can take care of during the race, and the banners are going to take care of themselves.”

South Knox junior Oliver Smith is expected to battle for an individual win. He was fourth at last year’s sectional at 17:31, with only Gibson Southern senior Zach Purcell faster among returnees at 17:23. Senior Trenton Faulkner, sophomore Jacob Siewers, junior Will Staggs. freshman Caleb Cork, freshman Chase Staggs and sophomore Dylan Hardig complete the top seven.

The seven were all within the top 11 at last week’s Blue Chip Conference win, and Toothman noted that his team is in good form.

“If Oliver runs his race, he can win it and break 17 minutes. Our 5-7 runners are coming, closing the gap on our 3-4 runners, and they’re interchangeable,” Toothman said. “Our best time gap is 1:28, but I’m looking at 1:15. They’re capable of doing it.”

Lincoln has made big strides under first-year coach Craig Klitz. The Alices were sixth, and first team out, at last year’s sectional but have caught just about everybody else in the field this year.

Senior Parker Mullins has been a veteran low stick for Lincoln, but has company in classmate Trevor Robbins, and sophomore Blake Meade was nearby at last week’s Big Eight Conference meet. Sophomores Keenan Clegg and Nate Harris, and senior Evan McGuire finish the roster. The 1-5 time gap last week was an impressive 54 seconds.

North Knox doesn’t have the ammunition to hang with the two county teams, but junior Cavan Lemberg and senior Steven Calvert have qualified for the regional in the past. Senior Dayton Poe has regional potential too. Also running are freshman Anden West, sophomore Ethan Stiles, freshman Dakota Lawrence and junior Isaiah Calvert.

While the South Knox boys have high hopes, they’re not any bigger than the South Knox girls. The Lady Spartans have only lost to one team all year, Forest Park, and that was without their top runner, senior Mykayla Couchenour.

They have been good for years, but only own one sectional title, that coming in 2009. They’re looking to double that win total Saturday.

“They’re ready and they’re hungry,” coach Betsy Couchenour said. “The winning they’ve had just breeds their confidence. Last week we had our best times across the board. I was looking at last year’s sectional times and we had Mykayla at 21:04 and a couple more in the 22s. We’re looking right now to have seven runners under 22. The quality of our runners right now is phenomenal.”

Freshman Ava Like has been near Mykayla Couchenour in most races to make a strong 1-2, with junior Lexi Detweiler, sophomore Macie Couchenour, junior Gretchen Carie, sophomore Talia Small and freshman Peyton Robbins following.

“Winning would be great enough, but to see them get those times (under 22 minutes) rolling going into the regional would just give them that much more confidence for a regional title,” Couchenour said.

North Knox and Lincoln, like the rest of the field, are not in South Knox’s neighborhood. But the girls meet has just eight teams, so there should be several spots open for county runners to reach the regional as individuals.

For the Warriors, junior Brittany Page and sophomore Macy Dye were regional qualifiers last year, and freshman Reegan Hammelman topped Dye by five seconds at last week’s Blue Chip meet. The other runners are freshman Ava Williams, sophomore Graycie Poe, freshman Hailey Pahmeier and senior Brianna Page.

Lincoln freshman Gracie Kramer, junior Alexus Arvin and sophomore Sierra Mullins are good enough for regional hopes too. Juniors Jasmine Anderson and Jayda Hovland, and sophomore MacKenzie Taylor are the team’s other runners.

SOUTH KNOX CROSS COUNTRY SECTIONAL

Boys race: 10:30 a.m. Saturday; Girls race: 11:15 a.m. Saturday

Teams: Lincoln, South Knox, North Knox, Barr-Reeve, Gibson Southern, North Daviess, Pike Central, Princeton, Tecumseh, Washington, Washington Catholic

Regional qualifiers: Top five teams and top 10 runners from non-advancing teams

2018 champions: Boys, Gibson Southern; Travis Hart, Gibson Southern, 16:41; Girls, Barr-Reeve; Makenna Pruett, Barr-Reeve, 20:30

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