TERRE HAUTE | There were two boys races at the state cross country finals Saturday.
There was the one that three-time state champion Futsum Zeinasellassie contested against the state record. Then there was the one that LaPorte's Mitch Hubner ran against the rest of the field.
Zeinasellassie came up six seconds short despite touring the Lavern Gibson Championship Course in 14 minutes, 48.8 seconds. He set the course mark for the meet and his 44.1-second margin of victory is the largest on record.
"I raced for second place," said Hubner, who was next to cross the finish line in 15:32.9. "Everybody knew they couldn't compete with (Zeinasellassie). I knew that wasn't happening. It's sounding weird, but second was first for me. I knew I could do it. My mind's going crazy. There are a lot of emotions. Tenth last year was awesome, and this was unbelievable."
Hubner came in 5.4 seconds clear of Hamilton Southeastern's Troy Reeder.
"I sat back and pushed the pack," Hubner said. "I tried to wear everybody out as much as I could. Coach (Tim Beres) told me not let the other guys do the racing. I was bumping people off the whole race."
In a battle of Porter County, Valparaiso's Ari Coulopoulos edged Morgan Township's Alec Kostelnik, 15:45 to 15:45.1, for ninth.
"We've known Ari's been a good runner since AAU, third, fourth grade," Valpo coach Mike Prow said. "He's finally putting everything together. All he had to do was become a better listener, believe in what we were telling him to do. He's already thinking about coming back and winning next year."
Kostelnik became the first Morgan Township cross country runner to medal at state.
"My plan coming in was to hang with the top 30 the first mile and keep working my way up," Kostelnik said. "I felt a little tired, but I pushed through it. I definitely wanted to walk out with a medal around my neck. I'm so excited about it. It hasn't sunk in and it probably won't for a week or so."
Jake Baranowski of Highland was the next region finisher, crossing 38th, just before Hobart's Brent Dunn.
"My goal was top 25, but I don't know how else I could've run the race," Baranowski said. "I went out hard. It's my last race. Out on the course, I kept telling myself, 'Don't hold anything back.' I wanted to make sure I didn't that, especially my senior year. I didn't want to ask myself, 'what if?'"
For the second year in a row, Northwest Indiana didn't get a boys team on the podium. Valpo, a top five hopeful, finished seventh with 214.
"That's five (straight) years we haven't medaled," Prow said. "That leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted it for the guys, especially for Ahmad (Alojbeh). We're a pretty even team. There was nobody we could say, 'Well, they're the reason we didn't do as well as we hoped.'"
Crown Point (430) headed the remaining area teams in 16th, followed by Chesterton (18th, 479), LaPorte (19th, 492) and Hobart (21st, 512).