NEW CARLISLE | The star power might not be as strong, but the team power is still pretty potent.
Chesterton didn't have the Class AAA race winner at Saturday's New Prairie Invitational, but it still has the team title. The Trojans closed ranks, putting five runners among the first 33 finishers to nip South Bend St. Joseph's 115-117.
"It's neat to see, especially for the three seniors in the top seven (Andrew Morris, Ryan Cutter and Manny Orlich)," coach Tim Ray said. "They weren't top runners, but they worked hard and continued to develop. This is a meet where everybody puts all their chips out there to test the waters and see where they're at, but it's one of those things where we're not going to look too far ahead."
Morris topped the Trojans in ninth, followed by Cutter (14th). The trio of Austin Palombizio, Tyler Rusboldt and Orlich came in less than two seconds apart.
"The inexperienced kids are getting experience and we're learning to run consistently over a period of time, which is a huge part of how successful we are," Ray said. "It's pretty cool to see what they're able to do as a pack."
Chesterton was the top Duneland Athletic Conference team in the field. Ahmad Aljobeh rallied over the last mile to take third for Valparaiso, which settled for fifth place (186).
"I like to run a pretty even pace," Aljobeh said. "I didn't want to get caught up in everybody blasting off. I might die out. (The pace) was still plenty fast. I was fine. I wasn't out of range. I was confident I had the time to start pushing and get up there."
In a battle of small-school powers on both sides of the Illiana border, Beecher nudged Hebron 63-64 to repeat as Class A champion.
"The big thing was trying to narrow our splits down," Beecher coach Henry Nykaza said. "Our four and five ended up sixth and seventh, but we had our other two guys (Aaron Borgman and Timothy Johnson) step up."
Grant and Griffin Nykaza went 2-3 for Beecher, with Johnson securing the back of the group in 34th.
"He's getting stronger and stronger," coach Nykaza said of Johnson, a senior in his first year in the sport. "You can tell he's running a lot smarter."
Hebron came up just short despite putting four among the first 17. Jasen Egolf checked in fourth.
"The first thing he asks is, 'Did I lose it for the team?'" Hawks coach Mike DeFries said. "That's all he was worried about. (Beecher's) picked to win their state championship. They smoked us last year, so I was just hoping to be close to them. This was awesome for us."