LIBERTY TWP. | Perspiration covered Katelyn DeVries' brow after her victory in Tuesday's Chesterton Cross Country Sectional.
In reality, Valparaiso won the girls race without breaking a sweat at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
DeVries defended her title, leading five Vikings in the top seven for a team score of 21, a whopping 60 points ahead of runner-up Portage.
"I told them to try to get five in the top 15 so I'm excited," coach Karen DeVries said. "Some of them were kind of shocked they did what they did. I like the improvement I'm seeing and how they're going after each meet."
Katelyn DeVries checked in at 19 minutes, 11.61 seconds, about seven seconds ahead of LaPorte freshman Elena Lancioni. Tiffany Fortney and Lauren Bigger followed with Erica Wirsing and Tricia Joll sixth and seventh, after Portage frosh Paige Pizer.
"Our fifth runner (Joll) has started closing the gap on the top four," coach DeVries said. "We're moving up. They're starting to catch people they weren't able to catch throughout the season."
Katelyn DeVries appreciated Lancioni's challenge if not the warm temperatures.
"It's pretty hot," she said. "It definitely helped, running with (Lancioni). She's a good runner. Last year, I didn't have much competition. I'm really proud of the team. It's exciting to get the post-season going."
Portage held its own despite having lost three key runners for the season due to an athletic code of conduct violation. In addition to Pizer, the Indians got a boost from freshman Salina McConnell and first-year junior Megan Cassidy.
"A heck of an improvement off how they ran at DACs," coach Chuck Heimberg said. "Obviously, we needed people to step up and they did. We just have to keep building."
Mitch Hubner and LaPorte took an aggressive approach in the boys race as the Slicers topped Valparaiso 45-56.
"I didn't want to let anyone get close to me the last mile, actually two miles, I was hoping for," said Hubner, who crossed in 15:50.63, 12 ticks in front of Valpo's Ahmad Aljobeh. "I think it surprises people when you go out fast, but that's what we're going to see later, so you need to be ready for it."
The Slicers backed Hubner with four in the top 11.
"That's what we needed out of that group," coach Tim Beres said. "They're experienced runners and they responded well. It was starting to look like Valpo was pulling away so it's nice to come back and beat them."
Michael Bobos (eighth) and Ari Coulopoulos (ninth) joined Aljobeh in the top 10 for the Vikings.
"We didn't execute the game plan of running together, and it really affected us," Aljobeh said. "All of LaPorte's guys were in front right at the start as opposed to us, and it was hard to catch up."