LOWELL | Aunt Cathy’s blueberries, some pancake batter, a good night’s rest and a good stretch equal victory.
For Munster junior Tom Bolanowski, it’s not exactly a scientific formula. However, on Saturdays that involve a big race, it’s a functional recipe for success. Bolanowski won his second big invitational in three weeks fueled by blueberry pancakes, taking the 31st annual Bob Thomas Invitational in 16:11 Saturday morning at Lowell.
“My aunt brings us a ton of blueberries, and they’re being put to good use,” Bolanowski said. “So far, they seem to be working.”
Bolanowski, who won at Gavit two weeks ago, has not won every small meet he’s entered, but with a 13th-place showing at the inordinately stacked Harrison Invitational last week he’s surging as the season’s midpoint nears.
“I haven’t gone all out in terms of training yet, but I feel like I’m improving like I want to,” he said.
Teammates Ryan Kritzer (fourth) and Emmanuel Lopez (eighth) joined Bolanowski in the top 10, but as it was at Gavit, Hobart had the 1-5 depth to earn the team title, improving on back-to-back runner-up finishes here. Hobart had 56 points to Munster’s 70 and Lake Central’s 76 in the 17-team field.
“We’re not done, and we know (Munster’s) 4 and 5 are going to get a lot better,” Hobart coach Ty Artherhults said. “Their top three are so darn good. They’re scary.”
These two Northwest Crossroads Conference rivals meet several more times before the postseason.
John Petroskey topped his personal best by 14 seconds and finished seventh for the Brickies. Hobart’s Alex Cordova was ninth; No. 1 runner Brent Dunn, at about 80 percent full strength coming back from injuries, was 12th, a spot ahead of teammate Zach Spain.
Anthony Didion of LaPorte was the individual runner-up, nine seconds behind Bolanowski and four ahead of Wheeler freshman Joel O’Shea, who was in 10th entering the forest and traded elbows on the way past several upperclassmen.
“I prepared myself all summer, and I have confidence,” O’Shea said. “I feel good. I ran smart.”
If not for Bolanowski, LaPorte would have swept the top prizes.
Defending DAC champ Elena Lancioni, in her lucky black and orange socks, won the girls race by 40 seconds.
“I knew if I ran a strong race I could win,” Lancioni said. “I’m happy I ran a good race and really stayed strong.”
LaPorte, however, couldn’t hold off Lake Central, which had not run in the previous 25 runnings of the girls race at the Bob Thomas Invitational. The Indians put five girls in the top 19 (and a sixth in 20th) to finish with 65 points, while LaPorte had 83 and Portage had 89. The Slicers finished ahead of L.C. at Harrison last week.
“It feels really good because we knew it would be tough to beat them,” said L.C. senior Sarah Hudi, who was 12th, second on the team behind Megan Zajac (sixth).
“We knew we had to run in a pack because every person counted. Everyone on the team was just gunning for the orange jerseys. We talked beforehand about chasing down the other teams.”
Hobart’s Celena Guerrero, Griffith’s Taylor Austin, Kankakee Valley’s Michelle Kent and Portage’s Kyra Ball were 2-5, respectively within 31 seconds of each other.
“My start was bad, but I made up a lot of ground,” Kent said. “I was more comfortable today and able to pace (with Guerrero) and planned a better race.”
T.F. South’s boys finished 13th of 17 teams in the boys race, while the Rebel girls were 12th of 17.
“It was pretty hard,” said South junior Travis Middleton, who was 60th individually and first for the Rebels.
The first two miles were good, but that third one, all the hills got me tired. I’m hot.”
Teammate Anthony Kyte was 66th, and Thomas Kotel was 78th.
“There were a lot of good schools here, and the competition was pretty hard.”
Rebels girls coach Steve Nelson said the 5,000-meter race will give his runners confidence when they go back to the less exhaustive races in Illinois.
“Now when we get into the shorter courses, we’re hoping they’re going to know they can push themselves to go a little faster,” Nelson said.
Senior Jessica Fierce was 63rd in 24:01, and freshman Lily Leopardo was 68th (24:16).