NEW CARLISLE | There comes a point in every race when a runnner has to answer the question, "Is the pain worth the gain?"
LaPorte's Mitch Hubner and Beecher's Grant Nykaza, both clad in their school's orange, responded in the affirmative in Saturday's New Prairie Invitational, grinding out victories in the Class AAA and A events, respectively.
"It used to be strategy. Now it's gotten to the point where it's just whoever can hold on the longest," said Hubner, who clocked in at 15:32. "Down the stretch, I thought I was dying and I was. I was tired but went a sub-five-minute mile.
"You've got to push through the pain or lose. It hurts, but I'd rather not lose."
Hubner bested a big-school field that included Valpo's Ari Coulopoulos, who challenged for a while before winding up third.
"I felt I had to make a move going up Agony Hill, but he put in another crazy surge after the hill," Coulopoulos said. "I was so ready to run. My breathing was fine and my legs felt awesome. I have noting to complain about. I left it all out there."
Nykaza got Hubner's attention, posting a 15:25 in cruising in the A race.
"I was trying to fight through running tired the last mile," Nykaza said. "The crowd really helped me the last 400 (meters). I stepped up my summer training -- I went 40 miles (a week) as a freshman and sophomore, and my dad allowed me to go 60 this summer -- and it's really paid off."
Morgan Township's Alec Kostelnik was runner-up to Nykaza, 43 seconds back and just ahead of Porter County Conference rival Jasen Egolf of Hebron.
"I did a hundred times better than what I did here last year," Kostelnik said. "(Egolf) kept me motivated. I knew he wasn't going to give up and he knew I wasn't going to give up. It was all guts."
Jake Baranowski of Highland continued to make strides in recovering from a balky back that sidelined him early in the season, taking second in the Class A race.
"Every race back, I'm getting a feel for racing," Baranowski said. "Every now and then, it tweaks, but I have it mostly under control.
"Just the progress I've made to this point is really encouraging. I've got to keep it in perspective."
Lowell's Kyle Eller was next across.
"Usually, I stay off the pack, but this is such a big race, I had to get out so I didn't get boxed in," Eller said. "I looked out for Jake and tried to pace off him. It was hard, but thankfully I had it in me."
Valpo, competing without top runner Ahmad Aljobeh (ankle), trimmed Mishawaka, 73-78, for the AAA team title.
"We've been working on trying to get out a little faster, and that's what it took," coach Mike Prow said. "We had all five in the top 15 right away and we battled to hold people off. Without Ahmad, to still win, we're obviously really super happy."
Hebron was second to Fremont in Class A, followed by Morgan. Lowell was a distant third behind Fort Wayne Canterbury in AA.