TERRE HAUTE | When a runner leads as many races as Elena Lancioni has in her career, people may not notice whether she has a kick or not.
The LaPorte senior sure showed it in Saturday's state cross country finals, turning on the jets to pick off three runners down the long final straightaway and capture third place. She broke her own school record — again — with a time of 18 minutes, 3.5 seconds at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
"The girl who was fourth (Rachel Nichwitz of Hamilton Southeastern) is a good friend. I fought to pass her. She came back, but I wasn't going to let her beat me," Lancioni said. "It was my last race with the team, my last race as a Slicer. I still have track, but cross country's my favorite. I had to represent. I was going to give it all I had."
The showing continued Lancioni's progression in four state meets, improving from 28th as a freshman to 21st as a sophomore and 16th as a junior.
"To go from 16th to third is crazy," she said. "It's been such an amazing journey. I can't tell you how great it is."
LaPorte coach John Dearing said Lancioni positioned herself well for her late strike.
"We didn't necessarily want her to lead, protect herself, just stay with the lead pack 'til she was ready to make her move," Dearing said. "She's been running with such confidence this year."
Lancioni's finish boosted LaPorte to 10th place as a team with 344 points, the best among area schools.
"They (all) ran very well. They all had good times," Dearing said. "I had no idea how they'd do here, it's such a big event. Our other top four all ran the Nike meet here, which helps, but this is a whole different thing. They seem to have handled every situation all year long. Our goal all year was to get here, but I've told them, they keep achieving, so they have to keep advancing their goals, and our goal was top 10. That was our aim."
The only other local runner in the top 50 was Lancioni's teammate, sophomore Kailee Schoof (48th). Kelcy Welch won in 17:53.9 to pace Carmel to another team title with 76 points.
Portage came in 15th (394), up from 21st a year ago, and Lake Central was 22nd (512). Both teams ran six underclassmen.
"We knew LaPorte would be tough (to beat) with Elena up there," Portage coach Jay White said. "We ran well. They packed up, like they've been doing all season. We brought 11 girls and 10 of them have been in the meet before. They're a year older. They put in a lot of time and effort in the summer. They were ready. They really wanted to come down here and perform well, give it their best, and I think they did."