Girls cross country: Season preview

Points or no points, varsity or junior varsity, Abby Fleetwood wasn’t wired to simply go through the motions.

Before the 2021-22 school year, Fleetwood transferred from Brown County to Indian Creek and was athletically ineligible in the three sports in which she excels — cross country, basketball and track and field.

Fleetwood braced herself for the fact her impact would be drastically lessened regardless of the times she produced or the number of baskets she scored playing JV hoops as an unstoppable, apples-versus-oranges guard.

“I tried to be as positive as I could,” said the 5-foot-9 Fleetwood, a senior who averaged 20.9 points in junior varsity games last winter — 16 of which saw her on the court for only three quarters. “Watching the basketball team lose at regional, it was so hard.”

That was February. This is August. The waiting game is over.

Fleetwood, expected to be tested by freshman Libby Dowty for the opportunity to be Indian Creek’s No. 1 runner this cross country season, won’t be blamed for rocketing out of the gate when the Braves open the season by hosting their own invitational on Aug. 20.

“You don’t even know how excited I am to be able to score points for my team,” said Fleetwood, who finished second at last year’s Johnson County meet as a non-scoring individual. “I feel I’m training just as hard as I did last year, and am so glad people are going to notice what Indian Creek can do this season.”

Implying that the sky is the limit, cliché as it is, might be doing a disservice to coach Brady Devine’s squad.

The Braves return senior Paige Iaria, battle-tested juniors Phoebe Dowty and Hannah Seitzinger and sophomore Alivia White. Iaria, Phoebe Dowty and Seitzinger all qualified for the semistate at Shelbyville last season.

Fleetwood, meanwhile, had been reduced to spectator mode, knowing all the while she could have been running as well.

“It’s always difficult for everybody, but at the end of the day I felt bad for Abby,” Devine said. “It was a difficult year for her, but she handled it great. Her attitude was always good. I would talk to her all the time about how I appreciated her attitude.”

The past dozen months were a time of growth for Fleetwood, who admits the process wasn’t seamless.

It was, however, worth it.

“I love Indian Creek,” said Fleetwood, whose brother Henry, a sophomore, is projected to be one of the top runners for the Braves’ boys team. “The atmosphere is so welcoming and enthusiastic. They welcomed me and my brother right from the start.

“Last season, the main thing is that I always put my teammates first just to make them better. This team has through-the-roof type of potential. We just need for everybody to stay healthy. If we do, I think we can go as far as we want.”

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SCOUTING THE COUNTY 

Center Grove Trojans 

Coach: Wes Dodson 

Last season: Runner-up at county, conference and sectional meets, fourth at regional at 14th at semistate 

Key returnees: Lilly Brunsman, Allison Cohen, Gracie Livingston and Elizabeth Madden, juniors; Diana Hodges and Hallie Mimbela, sophomores 

Top newcomers: Chloe Farmer, Annabelle Kemerling, Adriana Rosales and Andra Veleta, freshmen 

Outlook: “We have had a great summer. The girls have been very driven and worked very hard,” said Dodson, now in his 22nd season. “Our goal is to win Johnson County, sectional and regional. We believe that even though we lost a really great runner (state finalist Bella Hodges) that hopefully we will have more depth this year and can compete for a couple of championships.” 

Edinburgh Lancers 

Coach: Amy Schilling 

Last season: Did not score as a team 

Key returnee: Alanna Hobbs, junior 

Top newcomer: Shyleigh Goble, sophomore 

Franklin Grizzly Cubs 

Coach: Ray Lane

Last season: Johnson County, Mid-State Conference and section champion; second at regional and 10th at semistate 

Key returnees: Abby Demaree, Amelia Tisdale and Eran Treibic, seniors; Lauren Klem, junior; Ainsley Botkin, sophomore 

Top newcomers: Ava Ott, Alyx Stacy and Willa Thomas, freshmen 

Outlook: “Our biggest goal is to keep our momentum going,” Lane said. “We know Center Grove, Indian Creek and Whiteland are going to be greatly improved this fall, and we have some pieces of our lineup to fill in. We think we can be pretty competitive by the time we get to October.” 

Greenwood Woodmen 

Coach: Tami Nuhfer 

Last season: Fourth at Johnson County meet, fifth at Mid-State Conference meet and seventh at sectional 

Key returnees: Ava Rippetoe, junior; Makena Cruse and Ryann Marker, sophomores 

Top newcomers: Adelyn Burcham, Marin Burton, Kara Ennis, Milla Newlin, Lily Rollings, Cailey Thompson and Norah Wallischeck, freshmen

Outlook: Cruse made her presence known at sectional last season by finishing 22nd, with Marker taking 34th. Cruse then placed 25th at regional, advancing to semistate. “We have a bit of experience and an abundance of talent,” Nuhfer said. “We are excited to see how the season plays out.” 

Greenwood Christian Cougars 

Coach: Sean Branch 

Last season: Did not score as a team 

Key returnee: Hannah Winn, senior 

Top newcomers: Brooke Weise, sophomore; Lauren Shotts, freshman 

Outlook: “We graduated a great team leader in Whitney Smith, but we have a senior named Hannah Winn and she’s had the best summer of training that I’ve seen as a coach,” Branch said. “She’s training well and running faster times than ever before, and she’s transitioning very well into her role of team captain. She’s kind of the team mom for everyone.” 

Indian Creek Braves 

Coach: Brady Devine 

Last season: Fifth at county, WIC runner-up in Western Indiana Conference; fifth at sectional, sixth at regional 

Key returnees: Paige Iaria, senior; Phoebe Dowty and Hannah Seitzinger, juniors 

Top newcomers: Abby Fleetwood, senior; Alivia White, sophomore; Libby Dowty, freshman 

Outlook: “We graduated just one of the scoring five (runners) from last year. However, we add Abby Fleetwood and Libby Dowty to the varsity roster,” Devine said. “Fleetwood and Libby Dowty should make a push to be state qualifiers. With only six girls on the roster, we are likely pound for pound one of the best teams in the state. We are looking to crack the top 25 teams early in the season and have aspirations to make the state meet as a team, if we can stay healthy.” 

Whiteland Warriors 

Coach: Scotty Kern 

Last season: Third at conference, county and sectional meets; fifth at regional, 13th at semistate 

Key returnees: Jasmine Dubb, senior; Victoria Jackson, junior; Ramya Flaherty, Isabella Fuentes and Julia Lucas, sophomores 

Top newcomers: Megan Lester, senior; Kayci Woods, freshman 

Outlook: “Whiteland cross country has been very consistent throughout the summer putting in a lot of miles,” Kern said. “I think we’ll be in the mix at the Mid-State Conference and Johnson County (meets). We will use that momentum as we gear up for sectionals where our goal will be to place in the top five to advance as far as we can in the state tournament.”