MERRILLVILLE | Taylor Austin never runs her best races early in the season.
So, even though she had a goal of breaking 20 minutes at Thursday's Andrean Invitational at Hidden Lake Park, her time of 20:26 still beat Andrean's Becca Conley by 20 seconds.
Though Austin wanted her time to be better, she always saves her best races for later in the season.
"I felt like it was fine," Austin said. "Overall, it was a good race. There were a lot of puddles, and mud and stuff. I tripped a lot, but it's not like it affected me."
Wheeler took first place as a team, finishing with 42 points. Kelly O'Shea finished third with a time of 21:16.20, while Alex Mendoza placed fourth in 22:05.50.
"It was not surprising, because they've been working really hard," Wheeler coach Louie Guillen said, adding he was especially happy with Mendoza's performance as a first-time runner. "They just had to build some confidence, and I think they did that."
On the boys side, Lowell's Kyler Eller won the meet, finishing in 17:12.15. Teammate Jeff Potat was fourth (17:47.40) while Ethan Huseman (18:08.26) placed eighth to help the Red Devils take the boys title with 49 points.
"It was good for the first race," Eller said. "I just wanted to try and stay ahead for most of the race and kick it in for the last part. Jeff was right by me for a lot of the race. He kept up really well. You couldn't really ask for more than what we got."
Eller took the lead during the second mile, and kept increasing the distance between him and Wheeler's Joel O'Shea, who finished second in 17:25.90.
Lowell coach Jake Rakoczy was pleased with his team's performance.
"It's always nice to win, especially against Andrean because they're a really tough team," he said. "I thought Wheeler looked really good, too. Our first three guys ran great. All-around, I was pretty happy with the effort."