CEDAR LAKE | The heat and the hills were two obstacles at Tuesday's Crown Point Sectional held at the postcard-like setting at Lemon Lake. But the sudden-death format of the IHSAA postseason was another — or the biggest.
Lowell's Kyle Eller and Andrean's Becca Conley were the two distance runners who ran through the barriers like they were a balsa wood wall. Eller in the boys race and Conley in the girls race were able to finish stronger to earn the sectional championship.
It was the first individual title for both runners.
Eller said that he was chasing Crown Point's Alex Ray and was lagging midway through the race. Concern was falling down with the colorful fall foliage.
"I started to push it," Eller said. "I'm glad something happened out there, and I was able to catch up."
The warmth and the terrain seemed to suck wind out of the runners who took off early in both races. It was those with a plan and steady consistency who finished strong.
The top five teams and top 15 runners advanced to Saturday's Crown Point Regional, which also will be held at Lemon Lake.
In the boys race, Andrean took first, Lowell second, Hobart third, Crown Point fourth and West Side fifth. The other top five finishers were Hobart's Brent Dunn, Andrean's Patrick Musgrave and Blaine Wolf, and Crown Point's Daniel Walters.
In the girls race, Crown Point won its sixth-straight sectional title. Andrean was second, Hobart third, Merrillville fourth and Lowell fifth.
The Bulldogs' Lauren McCarroll was second, Hobart's Celena Guerrero was third, and Crown Point's Lyndie Pierce and Allison Wortel rounded out the top five.
"I felt controlled," Conley said. "I knew McCarroll would go out fast at the start. I just ran my race and stuck to the plan. I broke away at about the 2K. This means a lot to me, my first sectional championship. I believe on Saturday I can go even faster."
Andrean boys and girls coach Rick Torres had two reasons to celebrate, getting an individual and a team championship. The smile on his face showed how far both of his programs have come this autumn.
"Becca and I talked about staying controlled," Torres said. "She followed it. She recovered, and it started from that point on.
"The boys ran a great race today. I'm very proud of them."
Crown Point had all seven runners in the top 17 in the girls race. They were Allison Carpenter (11th), Alex St. Amour (14th), Hannah Wallace (16th) and Amber Willette (17th). With a stronger field in the race Saturday, Bulldogs coach Patty Begley knows Tuesday was good. Saturday must be better.
"We had a good, solid day," Begley said. "We now have three races in about ten days. We ask a lot of the girls this time of year. We just need to keep closing the gap. These girls really want to get back to state so we have to keep working."
For McCarroll, having another chance at getting a first place is big.
"I wanted to win, but I'll take this in stride," she said. "The regional is next, and I'm going to keep going after that."