NEW CARLISLE | With a huge roster brimming in talent, Mike Prow adheres to the philosophy that there is no 'I' in team.
"It's what we've been working on with these guys for three years," the Valparaiso coach said. "I'm trying to get them to realize that you can take a lot of stress off each other if you just settle down and run together. It's a team sport. The individual places will come if you work together. It's starting to catch on with them."
It certainly did Saturday at the New Prairie Invitational, where the Vikings loaded five runners into the top 17 for a tidy team score of 49. Warsaw was well back in second at 104.
"We don't think about the individual. The individual doesn't make the team," said Taylor Bisacchi, who took fourth, just behind teammate Peyton Reed. "I had Peyton in front of me and I wanted to go as hard as I could to catch up to him. Our team's known for packing up. Everybody's thinking of running as a team as opposed to themselves."
Xavier Reed (11th), Pat Dalton (14th) and Landon Davison (17th) also scored for Valpo, which still has 2011 all-stater Ari Coulopoulos rounding into shape.
"Once we got a little confidence last year after DACs, we felt we could do it individually, and things started to fall apart in sectionals," Prow said. "We don't want them to think they're doing it alone."
Neighboring Morgan Township (111) claimed the Class A title on the strength of a two-three finish by Alec Kostelnik and Ben Savage.
"The kids look forward to this," coach Mike Grennes said. "It's still the first real solid course we've been on. It's a barometer to see where we're at. We thought we had an opportunity to win and the kids ran really well from a team situation."
Kostelnik didn't need to bump up to the AAA race for quality competition. He took runner-up to Beecher's Grant Nykaza, the 2011 Illinois Class A state champion, 15:31.4 to 15:57.2.
"He was a Foot Locker national qualifier so I can't really complain about that." Kostelnik said. "I was so far behind him last year, I felt like I'd won. I feel like I'm right where I should be."
Kostelnik was also second to Nykaza last year.
"I love the middle of the race," Nykaza said. "Everybody's out there by themselves. I think people tend to slow down there and that's when I start moving. I just kept up the pace."
Lowell's Kyle Eller rallied to claim second in AAA to Warsaw's Jacob Poyner in 15:41.9.
"Usually, I stay a little behind, then go the last K, 2 K," Eller said. "I was thankful I was able to pick it up a little bit. I've been progressing and I want to progress even more."
Wheeler freshman Joel O'Shea (16:16.3) placed third in the AA race.
"I wasn't trying to go out front, but I knew I had to get in good position at the mile, then start going," O'Shea said. "I was just out here to see what I could do, try to do my best. I didn't know who I was running against. I was just trying to go as fast as I can."