TERRE HAUTE | A fast pace at Saturday's state cross country meet left Mike Prow hoping that the leaders would come back to his Valparaiso pack.
But what started out as a fast race ended as a fast race, as the Vikings (149) settled for a third-place finish behind Carmel (93) and Carroll (116).
"It was a super tough field," Prow said. "At 400 meters, most of our guys were in the last 50. If you asked the guys, they'd all tell you we went out too slow, but the splits were actually faster than they've ever been. They knew we didn't run our best race, but I'm proud they didn't deviate from what we wanted to do, which could have potentially backfired. They didn't panic. They just kept moving up. They executed the game plan we set forth from day one."
Ari Coulopoulos, who took ninth last year, earned another individual medal, finishing 15th in 15:45.4. Peyton Reed was next for Valpo in 44th.
"Ari said he had a lot left in the tank," Prow said. "If they all feel like Ari does, we'll have to think about trying to pick it up at the beginning, being more competitive at the front."
Coulopoulos turned on the jets in the final 1,000 meters to make up what he estimated to be 25 places.
"I was just hoping I'd be lucky enough to squeeze out top 15," Coulopoulos said. "We were looking to run steady the whole way, then all of a sudden at the 4K, somebody yells, 'You're 40th!' and I'm like, 'Dang, I'm really far back.' The whole course just flew by. I felt like I had more in me. Maybe we made our move a little too late. There are all different ways to run a race. We picked the one we thought would work. It's worked in the past. It's just disappointing for all the seniors. I've been with these guys for three years."
While he had title aspirations, Prow found some solace in the third-place finish.
"This group's been to the state meet all four years, some have run all four years," he said. "They were picked 24th as freshmen and finished 19th, 10th, seventh and third. They've improved each year. We thought they were a podium team last year so it helps a lot to at least finish in the top five."
Buoyed by a fifth-place finish from Kyle Eller, Lowell (427) took 16th in its state meet debut.
"I couldn't be happier," Red Devils coach Jake Rakoczy said. "Looking at things after the semistate, I projected potentially as high as 15th. I just didn't tell them that. The first trip, I wanted it to be fun, but I wanted to avoid the happy to be there attitude, and actually race. They went out and executed again, which is hard to do in any sport, week after week."
In its return trip to the Lavern Gibson Championship Course, Hobart (456) improved to 19th with Brent Dunn (63rd) the top Brickie.
"Overall, they performed pretty well," coach Ty Artherhults said. "They handled it a lot better. They were much more goal-oriented than before."