HAMMOND | It hasn't taken Selena Guerrero long to make an impact as Hobart's No. 1 runner -- and that's an understatement.
Guerrero, a freshman for the Brickies ran the best race of her life Saturday during the Gavit Invitational at Dowling Park, finishing in 19:41 to win the girls AA division individually.
"It was amazing. I've been running since sixth grade, and this is my first time competing against juniors and seniors," said Guerrero, whose previous best race time was 20:07. "It feels like all my training has paid off. This is probably the best I've ever felt about any of my races."
The girls AA race was a duel between Portage and Lake Central, but Portage's 45 points -- a result of incredible team depth -- were good enough to edge L.C.'s score of 46.
"It was close again. I think it was one point last year with Lake Central," Portage coach Chuck Heimburg said. "We'll see them a lot -- we go against them next Saturday in Lafayette. We race each other over and over. There will be a lot of good battles down the road."
While the invite was definitely a way for the top cross country runners from around the Region to use as an early-season measuring stick, another school was making its first-ever appearance in an athletic event -- and classes haven't begun there yet. Hammond Academy, which had two female runners and a full team of six male runners, finished last in the boys A division race, but the goal of completing the race was met. Every runner competing was a freshman, as the school takes in grades 6-9.
"These are freshmen coming into a meet with (many) schools," said Jennifer Ruff, Hammond Academy's coach. "Other teams started practice in June, and we're a little behind. Our goal was to finish today, and they all did."
Confusion developed in the girls A race, as the route taken ended up being approximately 3.6 miles. Boone Grove's Jordan Chester won the race in 21:19.
"It wasn't my best race," she said. "It was kind of a mental thing with the extra half mile."
On the boys side, Merrillville's Dylan Harrison (16:44) and Jacob Caddick (16:50) took the top two spots in the AA race, but Portage won with 69 points.
"I think I did OK. I did what I needed to do, but there's room for improvement," Harrison said.
In the boys A race, Hebron's Jasen Egolf ran a 17:01, and the Hawks finished with a meet-low of 30 points to win that division.
"I was expecting like 16:40," Egolf said. "There wasn't really anybody in front of me, so it was hard to push myself."