NEW CARLISLE | A stuffy nose and semistate success seem to go hand in hand for Alec Kostelnik.
For the second year in a row, the Morgan Township standout battled a sinus infection and came up smelling roses at New Prairie.
The runner-up last year, Kostelnik overtook Warsaw's Cody Poyner in the final 800 meters to claim individual honors Saturday.
"I was pretty confident in myself, but at the same time, I knew it wouldn't be easy," Kostelnik said, peeling off a breathing strip. "I was definitely thinking 'win' from the start. I executed the race plan perfectly.
"If (Poyner) went out hard, I was going to sit behind him a couple seconds. He was definitely battling and I just kept picking it up."
Poyner's Tigers also came up second, finishing behind Valparaiso, 45-60, despite putting three runners in front of the Vikings' first -- Ari Coulopoulos (sixth, 16:03.9). Valpo compensated by putting six runners in the top 21.
"We started thinking a little individually and got away from the team thing," Valpo coach Mike Prow said. "It wasn't our 1-2-3 that did it for us, it was our four (Landon Davison, 10th), five (Pat Dalton, 18th), six (Andrew Lyp, 21st).
"Landon was fantastic. (VU) coach (Mike) Straubel spoke to our kids the other night and one of the things he said was a team is only as fast as its fifth runner. How true it was today."
Beyond the top two teams, only 22 points separated McCutcheon and Hobart (189) from Crown Point (211) in eighth. The Brickies, led by Brent Dunn (11th), made it back-to-back state berths for the first time since 1958.
"We knew it was going to be really close," Brickies coach Ty Artherhults said. "The kids ran awesome. They knew what they had to do and they got it done."
Lowell (209) was on the right side of the bubble, slipping past Munster (210) and C.P. (211) for the final ticket to Terre Haute.
Kyle Eller placed third and huge efforts by Jeff Potat and Garrett Corning put the Red Devils in the state field for the first time after 14 straight empty trips to semistate.
"Everyone ran well, but those two guys gobbled up 40 places I wasn't expecting," coach Jake Rakoczy said. "I did a mock meet, like every coach, and I had us ninth. It's exciting. The bottom line is, I'm happy for the kids."
Eller finished in 15:57.8, seven places ahead of last fall.
"I would've liked to done better, but I've still got state to do something," he said. "This is a race where I get really nervous but you've got to get used to it."
Crown Point's Alex Ray walked his own tightrope along with the team. The 15th-place chair for individual awards sat empty until Ray, at the urging of coach Keith Iddings, went down to check.
"I was upset because I thought I missed it by one," he said. "It's been my goal all four years to make it down. I was so excited to hear I was 15th."
Ray's joy was tempered when he found out the team didn't make it.
"They're all my best friends," he said. "They wanted it as bad as I did. It's hard to feel good when I'm so sad for them."
Wheeler freshman Joel O'Shea also advanced, coming in 14th.
"At the two-mile (mark), my mentality was, man up," O'Shea said. "That's where I usually start hurting. I was worried about losing it. A Munster guy went by me and I was just like, 'I can't lose.' I had to stay strong, I kept on pushing."
Munster's Tom Bolanowski suffered a double disappointment, coming in 16th in addition to the Mustangs' near miss.