With Bailey in front, BNL runners chasing success in new state tournament format

BNL junior Jonah Bailey, a two-time semistate qualifier, will lead the Stars into the 2023 season.

By Justin Sokeland


BEDFORD – The clock is ticking. After all, cross country is always about the clock. Time is everything.

But now the countdown for the state tournament series is focused on the new format. The IHSAA cut out one level of the postseason, expanded the number of advancing teams and individuals. How will that impact Bedford North Lawrence? For starters, BNL will no longer host a regional. As far as the results on the course, the best course is to finish first and not worry about it.

With frontrunner Jonah Bailey setting the pace, the Stars will seek to take advantage of the new format when they get to that point in the season. There’s a lot of miles yet to cover, and a convoy of young runners who need to prove themselves when it comes to competing and scoring in major races.

“Our goal is trying to be consistently good, not occasionally great,” second-year coach Nick Boyd said. “Our expectation is to make it to the regional as a team. Hopefully we can set ourselves up to be in that position.”

The state series change includes the elimination of the semistate races. BNL will still host a sectional, and the top five teams (plus the top 15 individuals who are not members of qualifying teams) will advance to the regional. The new format includes only 25 sectionals (down from 32).

The top five regional teams (and the top 15 individuals not on advancing teams) will qualify for the state finals. The new format includes only five regionals (down from 16). However, more teams (30) and individuals (75) will reach the state finals (compared to 24 teams and only 60 individuals from the four semistates in the old format). BNL will compete in the regional at Evansville.

BNL’s Alex Nicholson returns to add experience on the roster.

Better? Worse? “Tough to say,” Boyd said. “It will be hard to say until we go through it.”

That’s the unknown. BNL’s known is Bailey, a two-time semistate qualifier.

“He had a good track season, something positive to build on,” Boyd said. “He’s in good shape, so time will tell, once we see the first meet. I think the sky is the limit.”

Boyd is counting on contributions from returning junior Alex Nicholson and senior newcomer Jaymee Reed. The rest of the scoring spots will likely be filled by untested freshmen and sophomores.

“There is a lot of space for freshmen and sophomores to run,” Boyd said. “They are showing a lot of promise. The spots are open if they want to take them.

“It’s been exciting to build from the summer. We’ve been able to be consistent into the season with what we’re building.

The Stars will start the season on Aug. 12 at Edgewood.