TERRE HAUTE | LaPorte's elite club of distance runners gained a new member at Saturday's boys state cross country finals.
With his fourth-place finish, Slicers senior Anthony Didion etched his name alongside Mike Fout, Matt Miller and Mitch Hubner.
"I've trained for this for so many years," Didion said. "For the results to finally show, I feel on top of the world. It's a guts race. You just try to hold on as long as you can. I felt good at the two mile and kicked it in the third mile. It was something."
Boy, did he ever. Didion passed approximately 10 runners in the 400-meter home stretch to cross the finish line at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in 15 minutes, 43.9 seconds. He improved on his 2012 showing by 80 places.
"I've never raced well here," said Didion, who had the names of his coach and teammates written on his arm. "No matter who went out, I was going to stay in the pack. To post the time I did and (get) the place I did, it means a lot. I didn't expect anything less. You set your goals high and try to achieve them."
Didion was joined on the awards stand by Lowell senior Brian Blaylock, who claimed 11th place in 15:50.3. On the advice of coach Jake Rakoczy, he worked with state-champion Carmel's lead pack.
"He said they would run a smart race," Blaylock said. "It's my last high school race. I wasn't expecting 11th. When I heard them get down to 15th, I was thinking I was like 22nd, 23rd, maybe. I wanted top 20. Going crazy, I would say top 15. Eleventh is really crazy. It's my last year. I wanted to make my last race a good one. It's pretty exciting."
Blaylock's showing earned him another run as he qualified to compete for Indiana in the Midwest Meet of Champions.
"I wanted to carry on Lowell," he said, referring to Kyle Eller's fifth-place finish last season, "to show everybody that Lowell's a good school, too."
Munster junior Ryan Kritzer sneaked into the last all-state spot, 25th, getting the good news from a teammate and assistant coach who saw the results. His time was 16:04.4
"I thought I missed it, until now. I thought I was further back," Kritzer said. "I definitely went out faster than I used to. Going up the hill to the 2K, I felt it. I just kept pressing forward. I tried to block it out as much as I could. Coming around the corner, I knew people were coming. I just held them off the best I could."
Kritzer's finish boosted the Mustangs to the top showing among area teams, 13th with 347 points. Carmel edged Columbus North, 64-78, to defend its title.
"I asked somebody, how do you go from getting sixth in the semistate to getting 13th here?" Munster coach Aaron Brown said. "That doesn't coordinate well, but I'm not complaining. I'm very pleased. You never know how it's going to work out, but we ran better and some teams who beat us (at semistate) didn't run as well. It's going to be a nice ride home."
Among other area teams, Valparaiso was a disappointing 18th (416), followed by Crown Point (19th, 422) and Lake Central (23rd, 587).
Terre Haute South's Jackson Bertoli won the race in a dramatic finish. Fort Wayne Concordia's Zachery Panning held a comfortable lead in the last 200 meters, but fell several times before staggering to the line in 23rd.