Sectional title a historic run for Archers

October 16, 2020

SurpriseShock. Elation. Just some of the ways that runners and coaches with South Side High School's girls cross country team describe winning the the program's first-ever sectional championship on Saturday, October 10, at Bellmont.

"It was definitely a dream come true," senior Solani Licona tells "Definitely something we had in mind to start out, but it didn't actually seem like a possiblity until it actually happened."

The Archers (58 points) placed their 5 scoring runners in the Top 25, including their fastest 4 runners in the Top 12, to edge Norwell (55 points) for the team title. Licona finished 7th, just behind Lauren Walda's 6th place run. Jaclyn Embry placed 10th, Grace Gillie was 12th, Katey Niblack finished 25th, Madeline Hensler was 38th and Fiona Gochtvott-Stine was 49th.

2020 South Side
2020 South Side Girls Cross Country Team


"It hasn't quite set in for what it means for our school," South Side coach Taylor Buzzard says. "The school's been open for nearly 100 years, and we've never had a girls championship team."

The run to a sectional title is the manifestation of 3 years of hard work put into the program by Buzzard (who is officially the boys coach), new girls coach Blair Phillips, former girls coach Gina Ryan, and, of course, the runners themselves. The idea has become for Buzzard and Phillips to essentially co-coach the boys and girls teams together to make both teams strong.

Much like the girls, the boys raced to their best sectional finish ever, 3rd, and qualified for the Marion regional on Saturday, October 17.

All the while, Ryan, who is now the coach for the feeder program at Memorial Park Middle School is developing the next group of future Archers who will build upon the foundation that was laid.

"We knew we had a chance at it," Embry adds. "It's been a long journey, especially the last 6 months. "To come through every day and train as a team and a family, it means a lot to everyone. And we try our best every single day." 

The road to South Side's girls team title comes from humble beginnings. When the Indiana High School Athletic Association began sanctioning girls cross country in the fall of 1981, South Side fielded its first official team. A Totem yearbook shows that three years prior, four South Side girls formed the first non-sanctioned cross country team, often running with their boy counterparts in unofficial races.

1981 South Side

South Side's girls cross country team from 1981, the first year the IHSAA sanctioned the sport (photo: Totem yearbook)


1978 south

South Side girls cross country first formed in 1978, three years before the IHSAA sanctioned the sport (photo: Totem yearbook)


Fast-forward some four decades later, and the 2020 South Side girls cross country team has taken the program to brand new heights for the next generations of Archers to start from.

"I tell them regularly how much they mean to me as a coach," Buzzard beams. "First and foremost, our goal is to send them out as better people into the world. They have grown a lot of different ways. Athletically, personally, emotionally. And the way they support each other has been just as special, if not more special, to see as their athletic success."

South Side is one of 26 high schools that partners with Parkview Sports Medicine for athletic training, sports performance, athletic rehabilitation, nutrition and other sports medicine services for Archer student-athletes. Learn more at

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