CULVER | If you've ever dealt with rush hour traffic in Chicago, you have an idea what it's like trying to navigate the opening stretch of the Culver Academies Invitational.
With 281 runners converged on a narrowing path in the Open Division, it was a case of pressing the pedal to get to the front or being stuck in gridlock.
"Twenty too many teams," Valparaiso coach Mike Prow said. "When we first started coming here, there was a waiting list. It was capped at 20 teams. Now there's (41). It's a good field, maybe better than the state meet field, but there's a lot more room at state. At 1K, with the turns, kids are still grabbing (course) flags."
The Vikings negotiated the tight quarters to finish sixth in the power-packed field Saturday with 205 points. Three of the top teams were not from Indiana, including champion St. Xavier (Ohio), which topped Carmel for the title, 101-153.
"I take responsibility for our places," Prow said. "I felt our best chance to win was trying to run together. I don't want to let them to start thinking individually and sometimes that slows you down. We weren't even close to guys we were beating at New Prairie. That's just how crowded it was."
Peyton Reed maneuvered his way up the field to finish ninth in 15:45.6, tops among local runners.
"I felt bad as a leader for not taking the team with me," he said. "We wanted to stick together but we didn't want to go out over our heads either. I know I was pretty far back, like 150th at 400 meters. There were definitely parts I wanted to sprint, but I kept my cool. Every time I passed somebody, it gave me momentum to get the next guy, and I just moved up slowly, but surely."
Fellow Viking Taylor Bisacchi was next in among locals, placing 19th. Morgan Township's Alec Kostelnik finished 24th after being in 10th with about a mile to go.
"Honestly, I have no idea," said Kostelnik, whose team bumped up to the Open Division. "From the start, I was already feeling (poorly). I was just tired the whole race. The energy wasn't there and I started falling apart. No excuses. I just ran bad. I'll be all right. October's the month that counts and I'll be ready."
Crown Point was the next region school on the board in the Open Division, standing 14th. Hanover Central's Nick Zak came in 24th in the Closed Division.
Illiana Christian won the Closed Division with 64 points. Tony Wondaal was fourth (16:12.6) and teammate Nick Fiene was eighth (16:19.6).Jordan Dekker (16:43.3) and Nick Wondaal 16:46.8) were 15th and 16th respectively.