HOBART | At the first big invitational of the season, one of Ryan Kritzer’s family members was upset about previous misspellings of ‘Kritzer’ and wanted to be sure there’d be no more mistakes.
He’s since made quite a name for himself and left no question about the spelling.
Kritzer’s name is now on the list of individual Northwest Crossroads Conference meet winners after the Munster junior beat Lowell’s Brian Blaylock for just the second time all season to conquer the course and the competition at the league meet at Maple Lake in Hobart on Saturday morning.
“It wasn’t one of my best times, but it was one of my best races,” Kritzer said. “(Blaylock) has been getting the best of me. Off the course we are friends and we talk a lot. He’s a great competitor.”
Kritzer led a group of six Mustangs who placed in the top eight as Munster totaled just 22 points and won its second NCC crown in a row and fifth in seven years.
Hobart’s girls, likewise, had five in the top 10, including first-time winner Mindy Whidden, to take the team title for the girls and repeat their overall NCC championship.
Both varsity races finished before intermittent torrential rain came.
“For a couple of races in a row, we haven’t been very good,” Munster coach Aaron Brown said. “I thought we might have gone stale and hit a plateau, but we got some good workouts in this week and had a bounce-back performance.”
The Mustangs won the Rudy Skorupa Invitational in August and the Bob Thomas Invitational in early September but slowed down at invites at New Prairie, Culver and several dual meets.
“It’s no secret we didn’t run our best races coming in here, but this was a big boost for our team coming in here and winning,” Kritzer said. “I’ve been working with (senior Tom Bolanowski) since I was a freshman, and (Saturday) it just ended up how it ended. Tommy’s a great runner who’s always by me, and if I don’t win, usually he will.”
Kritzer finished in 16:02 to beat Blaylock by 11 seconds. Bolanowski was third in 16:19. Emmanuel Lopez, Scott Farley, Theo Burgwald and Jimmy Murphy placed fifth through eighth after Hobart’s Brent Dunn.
Lowell was the team runner-up with six runners in the top 16 and 57 points for its top five. Blaylock said he will use his individual runner-up finish to spur him in the postseason.
“I know I have to go out harder each race now,” Blaylock said. “The course was sloppy, and I finished better than last year (sixth). I’ll take the improvement, but it’s not what I wanted and not good enough.”
The girls race had a new individual champion since 2009 when Griffith’s Taylor Austin won her first of four. Whidden, last year’s runner-up, beat fellow senior teammate Celena Guerrero to earn her first big meet title of the season.
“Before the race I was so nervous,” Whidden said after clocking a 19:16 to win by 10 seconds. “I was pretty tired during the race, and this was definitely one of my more tiring races.”
Whidden trailed Guerrero for the first mile and a half and passed her teammate, who had slightly less training recently due to a foot issue.
Cross country is not big on senior night celebrations, so the two Brickies seniors had to settle for a 1-2 finish and a post-race cake.
“I knew Mindy would be right there,” Guerrero said. “I’ve been competing for (the conference title) the last three years and hoping maybe I could win this time. Obviously Mindy wanted it and got it.”
After Whidden and Guerrero, senior Emily McNicholas of team runner-up Munster and Lowell senior Sarah Wieser were 3-4. Brickie teammate Marina Ahner was fifth.
“At the start we had a large pack, and it was difficult to get around either side of it,” McNicholas said. “Once the girls spread out, I made my move and got around everyone. Third was my goal, and I thought it was a lofty one. I’m extremely proud of how I ran.”
Maddie Leonard and Marisa Porras ninth and 10th. The pack behind Whidden and Guerrero fought back and forth all race with many of the Brickies pulling ahead for the final 1,000 meters.
“They were awesome,” Hobart coach Ty Artherhults said. “They’re a fun group and ultra-competitive, and they’re nice girls who genuinely do run for each other.”