RSSGirls Cross Country
Orange will remain part of Elena Lancioni's wardrobe when she goes to college.
The LaPorte High School senior, a three-time Duneland Athletic Conference cross country champion who finished third in the recent state finals, has verbally committed to run for Bowling Green State.
"I won't have to change all my colors," Lancioni said. "All the coaches I met were great and had great ideas, but Bowling Green was where I felt at home, where I will be happy attending school. I'll be able to make an impact, but I won't have the pressure to come in and be the top dog."
Bowling Green won out over Bradley and Miami (Ohio) for Lancioni, who said the exercise science and nutrition program there suited her academic interests the best.
"It's quite a relief," Lancioni said. "It can be a stressful process, but everybody was telling me to enjoy it, because not as many people will be wanting you as much as they do right then. I've met so many people, and it's been a unique experience that not many people get to have."
Lancioni has won seven team and five DAC MVP awards, and has been all-conference, all-sectional, all-regional, all-semistate and all-state all four years in cross country. She holds LaPorte records in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in track, as well as the 5K mark in cross country (18:03), which she broke for a final time at state.
After all these years of trekking to Terre Haute for the state cross country meet, you'd think I'd know the trip like the back of my hand.
But those of you who know me well enough are aware I'm as directionally challenged as I am vertically and follicularly (growing hair). Photographer Danny Shelton managed to get me to the course just in time. On the way back, I probably saw about an hour more of east-central Indiana (read desolate) than I needed or wanted to see.
For region teams, the issue isn't getting to LaVern Gibson, it's what they do once they get there. Last Saturday marked the third time in four years on the boys side and fourth time in five years for the girls that NWI has failed to get a school on the awards truck; i.e., finishing in the top five.
LaPorte's 10th-place finish topped the girls, while Munster (12th) led the boys. Valpo's boys, the region standard bearer in recent years, were once considered a medal contender, but were nowhere to be found, lagging in 18th.
A state hotbed for the sport not all that long ago, the area has slipped a couple rungs on the competitive ladder. Never mind hanging with Carmel. With the exception of Columbus North, the Greyhounds are in a class unto themselves, the winners of four consecutive girls crowns and the last two boys.
This isn't about winning state titles — something that hasn't happened since 2005, when Valpo captured its third straight girls trophy — this is about simply getting back into the mix. It goes back to 2001, when Valpo claimed the top boys prize.
It doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon. West Lafayette swept the New Prairie Semistate and both squads are locked and loaded to maintain supremacy in the northern third of the state.
Were we spoiled by the glory days of region cross country? Was the bar set too high to sustain? Is this the new normal? At the risk of sounding all Gloomy Gus, I hazard to guess that the answers are yes, yes and yes.
That said, success in running isn't simply measured by hardware. The good news for the sport in our area is it appears the overall ranks are strengthening. State qualifiers Munster, Lake Central and Crown Point all return the core of their boys lineups, as does near-miss LaPorte. With Valpo facing major graduation losses again, the balance of power in our trio of counties could be shifting. Among the girls, Portage and Lake Central appear set for a good battle at the top.
Individually, Munster's Ryan Kritzer looks primed to become the new lead dog among boys, establishing himself as such in the postseason, while the girls field looks to be wide, wide open in the post-Elena Lancioni era. A true ambassador of the sport, she will be missed.
Congrats to Lancioni, schoolmate Anthony Didion, the Aaron Rodgers doppelganger, and Lowell's Brian Blaylock on their selection to the Indiana All-Star team. They will compete in the Mideast Meet of Champions Nov. 16 in Kettering, Ohio, closing the book on the 2013 season.
In the meantime, anybody who has a fool-proof (with emphasis on fool) route to and from the state finals venue, please let me know. I'd appreciate it.
Rebecca Timm figured out sometime during eighth grade that her athletics future would be in a sport with no ball involved.
"I enjoyed soccer, but I don't have the eye-hand coordination," she said. "I'm super clumsy. I'm better at cross country. It's a lot easier for me to not be clumsy."
When it comes to running, there's nothing awkward about the 5-foot-10 Portage freshman, who effortlessly consumes ground with each long stride.
"We expected her to come in and contribute, we just didn't know how much," Portage coach Jay White said. "She showed up every day in the summer and just jumped right in there. She's adjusted to all the workouts and has just gotten better and better."
Timm and Fegely Middle School classmate Madison Allen were top five finishers in the conference meet in eighth grade, which was about the time Timm began to focus her attentions on running.
"The seniors came and talked to us about cross country," she said. "They made a point about how they were all so close. They were like sisters, like we are now."
It didn't take Timm long to fit in during summer workouts. She ran in the 21-minute range for 5K at Fegely, which she used as a starting point for her freshman season at Portage.
"I didn't know my teammates' times, so it was the only baseline I had for what I was doing," she said. "I made a goal of breaking 20:30. It didn't seem that far out of reach."
After her second race, Timm had to establish a new goal of 20 minutes. A race or two later, it was 19:30, which is her target time for Saturday's state finals race.
"I didn't know how well I would transition," she said. "The first race, the course seemed like forever. It was shock, the first time I won."
The shock soon wore off as finishing at or near the top of the lineup became the norm for Timm.
"She's not afraid to stick her nose in there," White said. "She's gained confidence with each race."
"The Portage way" is used to describe a group mentality that emphasizes the team and not the individual. That philosophy has helped Timm realize she simply has to do her part for the cause. Nothing less. Nothing more.
"We're all together, all interchangeable," she said. "Though we're competitive, we stay together and work as a big pack. We're really close. No one's super-far ahead. In a race, (White) tells us to stay at each other's hips, on their shoulders. Everybody has each other to lean on."
That deep, balanced lineup has been the key to Portage's return trip to today's state finals. After placing 21st last year, the Indians hope to make a run at the top 10.
"I was told the Culver (Academies) Invite was like a mini-state — that's the only information I can base it on," Timm said. "We did really well at Culver, so I believe we'll be able to do it. The team says it's fun. We get a day off of school. That's one bonus of going. There will be a lot of team bonding."
An avid reader and A student, Timm is excited about what's down the road for herself and Portage.
"I want to use it as a springboard," she said. "My goals are a little higher. It would be awesome to get on the (awards) podium, but I've got four years ahead of me. I don't want to get so far ahead that I'm in outer space. We'll see what the future holds."
When: Noon today.
Where: Lavern Gibson Championship Course, Wabash Valley Family Sports Center, 599 S. Tabortown Rd., Terre Haute.
Participating teams: (Boys) Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Carmel, Carroll (Fort Wayne), Columbus North, Crown Point, Evansville North, Fort Wayne Dwenger, Homestead, Indianapolis Brebeuf, Indianapolis North Central, Lake Central, Lawrence North, Munster, Northridge, South Adams, South Bend Riley, South Knox, Terre Haute North, Valparaiso, Warsaw, Westfield, West Lafayette, Zionsville. (Girls) Avon, Bloomington North, Bloomington South, Carmel, Carroll (Fort Wayne), Columbus North, Floyd Central, Franklin Central, Homestead, Huntington North, Jasper, Lake Central, LaPorte, Lawrence North, Northridge, Pendleton Heights, Penn, Portage, Terre Haute North, Twin Lakes, Warsaw, Westfield, West Lafayette, Zionsville,
Favorites: Carmel boys and Carmel girls.
Darkhorses: Columbus North boys and West Lafayette girls.
Local runners to watch: (Boys) Bishop Noll -- Sal Cordova; Crown Point -- Tyler Gray, Ryan Kepshire; Hobart -- Brent Dunn; Lake Central -- Zach Hupp, Tyler Kramer-Stephens; LaPorte -- Anthony Didion; Lowell -- Brian Blaylock; Munster -- Ryan Kritzer, Tommy Bolanowski; Valparaiso -- Ari Coulopoulos, Andrew Jankowski. (Girls) Hobart -- Celena Guerrero, Mindy Whidden; Lake Central -- Megan Zajac, Sarah Hunsley; LaPorte -- Elena Lancioni, Kailee Schoof; Portage -- Rebecca Timm; South Central -- Kyleigh Werner; Valparaiso -- Michaela Gazdich, Alison Mundell.
Fast facts: Zachery Panning of Fort Wayne Concordia is the top returning boy, finishing second last year; Coulopoulos (15th) is the top returning local runner; Valparaiso's boys finished third last year; Mackenzie Caldwell of Columbus North is the top returning girl, finishing fourth last year; Lancioni (16th) is the top returning local runner; Portage (21st) is the top returning local team; Carmel is defending champion in both races; Carmel's girls have won three titles in a row.
-- Jim Peters
John Collet wasn't trying to imitate Pheidippides, the first marathoner, but he ran the same way Pheidippides did.
"We used to run our meets barefoot," Collet said. "I liked it, and I felt comfortable.
"Of course, we ran on soft courses, golf courses like Cressmoor (Country Club in Hobart). It was just natural to run in your bare feet."
Collet said he won his first sectional in bare feet, then the IHSAA said runners had to run in shoes.
Collet had quite a prep career. He was a four-time sectional champion in cross country.
"I am proud of that because that is one record that will never be broken," he said. "It can be tied but never broken."
He is part of the Indiana Association of Track Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame Museum's silver and golden anniversary team. Collet, a 1966 Griffith grad, is part of the gold team which will be honored Saturday at the IHSAA state cross country finals in Terre Haute.
"It is an honor and I am looking forward to seeing those guys, especially (Hall of Fame director) Marshall Goss," Collet said. "My wife Carol was a big part of it and my coaching career, and she will be there, too."
Collet won the state 2-mile championship in 1966 with a time of 9:31.
He was runner-up his junior and senior years in the state cross country meet. In 1964, he finished second to West Lafayette's Mark Gibbons, who set a state meet record in 9:26.6. The previous best was set in 1963 by Indianapolis Washington's Dennis Grider (9:40).
"I beat the old mark, too, but didn't win," Collet said.
His successes earned him a scholarship to DePaul where he competed in both sports. The Blue Demons had to be creative since they had no true track facility other than running the halls of old Alumni Hall.
"Lincoln Park was where we ran," Collet said. "We trained outdoors all year-long and I think it made us tougher and better runners."
That included the blizzard of 1967.
"Running in snow made your legs stronger," Collet said. " I used that when I coached track at Bloom Trail. My guys hated it, but come the end of the season when it counted, they were in great shape."
Collet went to coach cross country at Griffith, Highland and Bloom Trail. His 1983 Bloom Trail team was second in the Illinois High School Association's Class AA meet, losing 49-46 to East St. Louis Lincoln. The 1985 Trail Blazers were third in Class AA. At Bloom Trail, he had some great track meets with Bloom, coached by legendary coach Lonnell Poole, for the bragging rights of Chicago Heights.
"Lonnell always had a powerhouse and all those kids knew each other," Collet said. "We had some great teams back then and our conference (SICA East) had Homewood-Flossmoor, Thornton, Thornridge, Thornwood, us and Bloom. A great track conference."
Collet and Carol are busy getting their new sporting goods store ready for its opening. They merged St. John Sports and Mike's Sporting Goods and will open a new Mike's Sporting Goods in a strip mall in Schererville.
NEW CARLISLE | It's called having your cake and eating it, too.
LaPorte's Elena Lancioni not only won Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, she led the second-place Slicers to their first state berth since 1999.
"I've been third or fourth all my years; I really wanted to get the win," Lancioni said. "It's great to follow in the footsteps of Waverly Neer, Ashley Erba, Bobbie Burgess. This is my 12th time racing here. I know what I'm doing. The title's just a reward for my hard work. I've gone to the starting line at state by myself for three years, so to be able to do it with my team means the most."
Lancioni posted a six-second victory over West Lafayette's Lauren Johnson, crossing in 18:11.3. The Red Devils ran away with team honors, matching the meet record score, (32) while the Slicers topped Portage for second, 116-126. Lake Central (179) advanced to state in fourth.
"This is what we've been going for the whole way," said coach John Dearing, who contacted runners from the '99 team to provide inspirational support. "It's always been the goal. We were looking for our 3-4-5 to try to run with Portage and they hung tight."
Portage's balance was the key for the Indians again with five girls in the top 34, led by freshman Becca Timm (24th).
"It's exactly what they've done all season," coach Jay White said. "The Portage way. It's really a close group, They stayed together. They ran together. They've been interchangeable all year. We came into the season with high expectations and it's gone very well. We've improved and we've been lucky to stay healthy."
L.C. returns to Terre Haute after not making it last year. Megan Zajac and freshman Sarah Hunsley went 21st and 23rd, respectively.
"Lake Central had been going for a while and not going last year was on a lot of their minds," coach Ann Downey said. "It was a dogfight. The girls had to perform and they did. It's been a wonderful ride this year. It wasn't just talk. They gave validity to the talk. They showed up all summer."
Hobart's Celena Guerrero took eighth, making it individually along with teammate Mindy Whidden (12th).
"We have an advantage. Most people don't have the opportunity to tun with a teammate, to push them the entire race," Guerrero said.
Guerrero qualified for state as a freshman, finishing 20th, but three stress fractures conspired against her chances as a sophomore and junior.
"I'm really grateful to be able to do it again, to go down for one last hurrah in cross," she said.
South Central's Kyleigh Werner was also among the individual qualifiers, finishing 16th.
"The past couple years, it's been my goal and it hasn't happened, so to be able to finally make it, it means a lot," Werner said. "I really ran a controlled race the first half. That was my main goal. Last year I was in shock. I couldn't believe what was going on. I was pretty excited about my kick at the end."
Valparaiso's string of state berths came to an end with an eighth-place finish, though Michaela Gazdich and Alison Mundell advanced individually.
"Injuries make you re-evaluate your goals," coach Boomer Nellessen said. "We've been trying to play catch-up all year. The girls did everything they could. That's all you can ask for."
WHITING | First off, it’s Citlali. C-I-T-L-A-L-I.
Google her results under ‘Citali’ or other erroneous takes on the name. Either way, the name Lopez from Whiting is near the top of the listed finishers.
Those close to Citlali Lopez just call her CiCi, but now she has a new moniker: the first semistate qualifier in Whiting cross country history.
The local face of a new rule that allows more individuals from non-qualifying teams to earn a trip to the next level, Lopez has had her sights set on a big finish since learning that her senior year would be the first time the previous also-rans from outside the big programs would have a crack at big-time advancement.
The old rule dictated that the top five teams and top 10 individuals advanced, and usually those 10 individuals tended to be from the teams that advanced as well.
“When I heard about (the rule change), I was like, ‘Nice. I can leave a mark and have all my teammates look up to me and give them motivation to make it to semistate or state,’” Lopez said. “I was like, ‘Now is my chance to go far.’”
Whiting has had a middling cross country program for at least the past decade, but the school most often doesn’t field a track team.
This season, however, has been huge with more than 30 runners across the boys and girls cross country teams. Lopez’s success is the product of her own hard work but also a deep, close team and the presence of some talented boys such as Damien Resa and Mark Casanova, who paced and pushed Lopez during workouts.
“It was truly amazing,” first-year Oilers coach Allison Buell said. “And most of all of those kids are still practicing until CiCi finishes. They are truly a team.”
Under the old rules, Lopez’s season would have ended with her 11th-place finish (21:12) at the Gavit Sectional. She was 20th overall in 21:01 at the Crown Point Regional last Saturday and now has a shot of getting out of today's New Prairie Semistate.
“This is the only chance I have, so I have to just go for it,” Lopez said. “Even though I’m going to be in pain, I have to fight through it no matter what. It’s not an easy course. There are hills. Every runner is going to be in pain going up those hills.”
The fact that Lopez is charging toward the front of the pack late in the season is fitting, given that she often sits in the 40s or 50s in terms of place after the first mile of every 5K she runs. She picks off runners after that, like she did last Saturday in her first run at Lemon Lake County Park.
“She gets stronger and stronger,” Buell said. “That is amazing to me. She has not had one bad race this year. She is consistent. I never had to worry about her. I knew she'd be in the lead pack at the end.”
Lopez was sixth at the Andrean, Gavit and Highland invites and third at the Greater South Shore Conference meet. Her time of 20:47 at Highland was a personal best.
The humble senior is only in her third year of cross country. She has played basketball since seventh grade, and she was a second team Times All-Area pick a year ago after leading the area in steals.
“Coach (Kevin) Moynihan was like, ‘You’re a good runner, why not join cross country?’ and I thought, ‘OK, it’s not that hard,’” Lopez said. “Then after the first practice I said, ‘My God, what did I get into?’
“I worked for it, and at the end I proved to everyone that what you work for, you can accomplish.”
When: 10:30 a.m. today.
Where: New Prairie High School.
Advancement: Top six teams and the top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the state finals Nov. 2 in Terre Haute.
Participating teams: (Boys) Chesterton, Crown Point, Frankfort, Hobart, Kokomo, Lafayette Jefferson, Lake Central, LaPorte, Lowell, McCutcheon, Munster, New Prairie, Portage, Rochester, Twin Lakes, Valparaiso, Warsaw, Western, West Lafayette, Winamac. (Girls) Chesterton, Clinton Central, Crown Point, Eastern (Greentown) Harrison (West Lafayette), Hebron, Hobart, Lake Central, LaPorte, Munster, New Prairie, Portage, Rochester, Seeger, Twin Lakes, Valparaiso, Warsaw, Western, West Lafayette, Winamac.
Favorites: West Lafayette boys and girls. Darkhorses: Valparaiso boys and Portage girls.
Defending champions: Valparaiso boys and West Lafayette girls.
Runners to watch: (Boys) Bishop Noll -- Sal Cordova; Chesterton -- Mitch Wilborn; Crown Point -- Tyler Gray, Ryan Kepshire, Jacob Langbehn; Hobart -- Brent Dunn, John Petroskey; Kankakee Valley -- Travis Conley; Lafayette Jefferson -- Cayce Griffin; Lake Central -- Tyler Kramer-Stephens, Zach Hupp, Casey Garvey; LaPorte -- Anthony Didion, Sam Miller, Braden Griffin; Lowell -- Brian Blaylock, Luke Rudzinski; Michigan City -- Gavin Gresham; Morgan Township -- Ben Savage; Munster -- Ryan Kritzer, Tommy Bolanowski. Theo Burgwald, Scott Farley; South Central -- Bryan Flannery; Valparaiso -- Ari Coulopoulos, Andrew Jankowski, Danny Dalton, Corey Alfredson, Kevin Hickey; West Lafayette -- Cooper Williams, Jake Cohen, Evan Johnson, Dominic Patascil; Wheeler -- Joel O'Shea.
(Girls) Chesterton -- Lindsey Nielsen; Crown Point -- Amber Wallace, Kristen Collins, Alexis Carpenter, Jill Zimmerman; Eastern -- Carly Jones, Avery Ewing; Hebron -- Payton Schatz; Hanover Central -- Lindsey Kolanowski; Hobart -- Celena Guerrero, Mindy Whidden, Marina Ahner; Lake Central -- Sarah Hunsley, Megan Zajac, Jade Tambir; LaPorte -- Elena Lancioni, Kailee Schoof, Alyssa Gerick; Lowell -- Sarah Weiser; Munster -- Brittany Barajas, Rebecca Karnezis; New Prairie -- Rachel Thompson, Kelsey Tyler; Northwestern -- Taryn Thor; Portage -- Kyra Ball, Paige Pizer, Rebecca Timm, Haley Orshonsky; Rochester -- Anna Bearss; South Central -- Kyleigh Werner; Twin Lakes -- Madeline Lilly; Valparaiso -- Alison Mundell; Michaela Gazdich; Warsaw -- Hannah Dawson; West Central -- Mickayla Wenzel; West Lafayette -- Lauren Johnson, Kristen Johnson, Rachel Bales, Delaney Barber; Wheeler -- Kelly O'Shea.
Fast facts: Boys race is first, and the girls race follows. Warsaw's Ellis Coon (fifth) is the top returning boys finisher, followed by Coulopoulos (sixth) and Didion (ninth). Lancioni (fourth) is the top returning girls finisher, followed by Lilly (fifth) and Bearss (sixth).
NEW CARLISLE | It was a measure of revenge that had been mostly unspoken leading up to Saturday morning.
After losing to LaPorte by one point in the Duneland Conference meet and again to the Slicers by one point at the sectional, the Portage girls cross country team ran away with a 20-point win at the New Prairie Regional. It was the Indians’ first regional title since 1988.
“We didn’t talk a lot about that; I mean, the two one-pointers (losses to LaPorte) are tough, but we just kind of focused on ourselves and made sure we were ready to go (Saturday),” Portage coach Jay White said. “We talked about not having won a regional since 1988, we probably talked about that more and there’s a lot of people – coaches, runners – who’ve been involved with the program that are a part of this, too.”
LaPorte senior Elena Lancioni won the individual title for the second year in a row, posting a time of 18:30.6, but Portage placed seven runners among the top 21 finishers to win the team title 45 to 65. LaPorte was denied its first-ever regional title.
Valparaiso (73), host New Prairie (86) and Chesterton (107) rounded out the top five teams which advance to next weekend’s semistate, which is also at New Prairie.
“I was just went out to try to make sure I can get a couple of fast races left,” Lancioni said. “I’ve only got two races left and those will be important races to run fast at so I didn’t want to run a slow race and not be ready for next weekend.”
Lancioni crossed the finish line exactly 40 seconds ahead of the second-place runner.
In the boys race, LaPorte senior Anthony Didion gave the Slicers a sweep of the individual titles, running away from Valparaiso senior Ari Coulopoulos to pick up a 4.2-second win.
“I knew (Coulopoulos) had it in him; once he took the lead at the one-mile mark, I was ready to respond,” Didion said. “From track season, I knew I had that extra gear. I just hadn’t had to use it in cross country yet. You know once you’re close, even if you’re dead the crowd is going to pull you through it.”
Didion led LaPorte to a second-place finish with 52 points. Valparaiso placed seven runners in the top 22 to win their fourth consecutive team title with 35 points.
Portage (114), Chesterton (119) and host New Prairie (125) rounded out the top five teams advancing to next weekend’s New Prairie semi-state race.
“It means that the guys care about tradition,” Valparaiso coach Mike Prow said of winning a fourth consecutive regional title in what was supposed to have been a down year for the Vikings. “It doesn’t matter who’s in there running, it’s about winning and that’s what we come here to do.
"The pace is going to be a little quicker next week. People aren’t going to just sit behind us, so next week we want to be ready to run a little bit faster at the start, establish ourselves and have the same kind of race we had (Saturday).”
CENTER TWP. | It was a crowded field at Saturday’s Crown Point Regional, but Munster junior Ryan Kritzer still emerged to take individual honors in the boys race on a sunny but crisp morning.
Kritzer finished in 16 minutes, 6 seconds and held off C.P.’s Tyler Gray by eight seconds, while Lowell’s Brian Blaylock was third in 16:21. Teammate Tom Bolanwoski took fourth in 16:25 to help propel the Mustangs to the team title.
“It’s always a nice confidence booster to have a teammate up there with you, knowing that he can help if it need be,” Kritzer said.
Kritzer said he made his move around the 2-mile mark on the 3.1-mile tree-lined course at Lemon Lake County Park.
“When it was time to go," he said, "I just went, held onto it and it ended up working out."
Munster coach Aaron Brown said it was a total team effort to dethrone host C.P. and come away with the team title for the first time in four years. The Mustangs edged the Bulldogs 49-52.
“All five of them did the job they were supposed to today and ran well, much better than they did at sectionals,” he said. “I was real happy with that.”
Lake Central was third with 72 points, followed by Lowell and Hobart. The top five teams and the top 10 individuals not on an advancing team qualified for next Saturday’s New Prairie Semistate.
Hobart’s Celena Guerrero cruised to the individual title in the girls race finishing in 19:18, while teammate Mindy Whidden was 13 seconds behind in second.
“It was perfect running conditions,” Guerrero said. “I knew it (would be) me and Mindy, and I was expecting a girl from Crown Point (Kayla McGurk) – but I don’t think she ran (Saturday) – and the two girls from L.C.
“I was kind of planning on just going out and try and attack, and at halfway into the race, seeing what I had left and try to break away.”
Guerrero also made her move with a mile left to secure the win.
“I was kind of planning on just going out and try and attack, and at halfway into the race, seeing what I had left and try to break away.”
Guerrero also made her move with a mile left to secure the win.
L.C.’s Sarah Hunsley placed third, and teammate Megan Zajac was fourth to help lead the well-oiled L.C. machine to its third straight title and ninth in the past 10 years.
“We all just stay together,” Hunsley said. “We all run together at practice, and we all push each other. We all know how to stay together during our races.”
L.C. coach Anny Downey breathed a sigh of relief when her charges won with 53 points, five points ahead of runner-up C.P. Jade Tazbir was seventh in scoring, Jennifer Crague15th and Joule Tazbir 24th.
“The kids came through,” Downey said. “They stepped it up. It’s about places; it’s not about your times. The kids had to be in certain spots, and they worked on getting in those spots.”
Hobart also scored 53, but C.P. got second on the sixth score tiebreaker. Munster and Hebron also advanced.
Downey admitted they caught a break when C.P.’s top runner McGurk couldn’t run due to an injury.
“If McGurk ran, than you’re not talking to me,” she said.
New Prairie Regional
When: 10 a.m. (boys), 10:45 (girls) today.
Where: New Prairie High School.
Advancement: The top five teams and the top 10 individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the Oct. 26 New Prairie Semistate.
Participating schools: (Boys) Chesterton, Kankakee Valley, LaCrosse, LaPorte, Morgan Township, New Prairie, North Newton, Portage, Rensselaer, Valparaiso. (Girls) Chesterton, Kankakee Valley, LaPorte, New Prairie, North Judson, North Newton, Portage, Rensselaer, Valparaiso, West Central.
Favorites: LaPorte girls, Valparaiso boys.
Darkhorses: Portage girls, LaPorte boys.
Runners to watch: (Boys) Boone Grove -- Jon Hogg; Chesterton -- Kevin Kenney, Mitch Wilborn; Kankakee Valley -- Travis Conley, Bryce Gawronski; Kouts -- Mike Ferrell; LaCrosse -- Nate Rhodes; LaPorte -- Anthony Didion, Sam Miller, Braden Griffin; Michigan City -- Gavin Gresham; Morgan Township -- Ben Savage, Logan Redmon; New Prairie -- David Kampf; North Newton -- Leo Espino; Portage -- Nick Heimberg; South Central -- Bryan Flannery; Valparaiso -- Andrew Jankowski, Ari Coulopoulos, Kevin Hickey, Daniel Dalton, Corey Alfredson; Wheeler -- Joel O'Shea. (Girls) Chesterton -- Lindsey Nielsen; Kankakee Valley -- Alison Rockley, Kaylin Orsburn; LaPorte -- Elena Lancioni, Kailee Schoof, Kristin Cave; Morgan Township -- Hailey Haveck; New Prairie -- Rachel Thompson, Kelsey Tyler, Hope Myroup; Portage -- Kyra Ball, Paige Pizer, Rebecca Timm; Rensselaer -- Riley Hickman; South Central -- Kyleigh Werner; Valparaiso -- Alison Mundell, Michaela Gazdich, Aurora Bonner; West Central -- Micayla Wenzel; Wheeler -- Kelly O'Shea.
Fast facts: Valparaiso is the defending boys champion and has won three titles in a row. Coulopoulos (third) is the highest returning boys runner. The top five girls finishers return, led by Lancioni. Chesterton is defending girls champion. LaPorte has never won a girls regional.
Crown Point Regional
When: 11 a.m. today (boys), 11:30 (girls)
Where: Lemon Lake County Park.
Advancement: The top 10 individuals from non-advancing teams and the first five qualifying teams from each regional shall advance to the New Prairie Semistate Oct. 26.
Participating schools: Andrean (girls), Bishop Noll (boys), Calumet (boys), Crown Point (boys and girls), E.C. Central (girls), Griffith (girls), Hanover Central (girls), Hebron (boys and girls), Highland (boys and girls), Hobart (boys and girls), Lake Central (boys and girls), Lowell (boys), Merrillville (boys), Munster (boys and girls),
Favorites: Crown Point boys, Lake Central girls.
Darkhorses: Munster boys, Crown Point girls.
Runners to watch: (Boys) Bishop Noll -- Sal Cordova; Calumet -- Andrew Huff; Crown Point -- Tyler Gray, Ryan Kepshire, Jacob Langbehn, Matthew Mosak; Gavit -- Zach Schreiber; Hebron -- Scott Crawley, Erik Brebner; Highland -- Michael Kristy, Dylan Liniewicz; Hobart -- Brent Dunn, John Petroskey, Collin Allen, Alek Seeley; Lake Central -- Zach Hupp, Tyler Kramer-Stephens, Casey Garvey, Kameron Konopasek; Lowell -- Brian Blaylock, Ethan Huseman; Merrillville -- Conor Hill; Munster -- Ryan Kritzer, Tom Bolanowski, Scott Farley, Jimmy Murphy. (Girls) Andrean -- Kellyn Vale; Crown Point -- Kayla McGurk, Jill Zimmerman, Lyndie Pierce; Hanover Central -- Lindsey Kolanowski, Olivia Umlauf; Hebron -- Payton Schatz, Abigail Getautas, Sarah Benjamin; Highland -- Reilly Panozzo, Clarissa Magley; Hobart -- Celena Guerrero, Mindy Whidden, Marina Ahner; Lake Central -- Sarah Hunsley, Megan Zajac, Jade Tazbir, Sydney Vandersteeg, Jennifer Crague; Lowell -- Sarah Wieser; Merrillville -- Tamera Julkes; Munster -- Emily McNicholas, Rebecca Karnezis, Mallory Grim; Whiting -- Citlali Lopez.
Fast facts: Crown Point’s boys are the defending champs. Lake Central’s girls have won the last two, eight of the last nine and 13 overall regional titles.
-- compiled by Jim Peters and Paul Trembacki
LIBERTY TWP. | Valparaiso's boys won the Chesterton Sectional for the fourth year in a row Tuesday.
For Vikings senior Andrew Jankowski, the others didn't compare to this one.
"The last three years, I've been right on the edge of the top seven," Jankowski said. "I've been waiting for my chance to prove myself and I finally did. It feels great to carry on the streak, to keep the Valpo legacy going."
Jankowski, one of four seniors who had not run in a sectional before, crossed third on the slippery Sunset Hill Farm course to lead five Vikings in the top 10. Valpo scored 32 points, 40 ahead of runner-up LaPorte.
"I wanted it so bad for those guys," Valpo coach Mike Prow said. "They've been disrespected across the state, not necessarily around here. It's a bunch of no names, besides Ari (Coulopoulos), and they've come in and done everything we've asked.
"I'm really happy for 'AJ.' He's been in the shadows so long and he's had a breakout year. They packed up beautifully."
In a replay of the Duneland Athletic Conference girls race, LaPorte nipped Portage by a point, 59-60, claiming its first sectional title since 1998. Valpo, which had won the last three sectionals, was third at 69.
"Unbelievable," Slicers coach John Dearing said. "We knew it would be tight. We've been on the right side so far. Portage goes out fast and runs strong as a pack. It's intimidating.
"We keep trying to get our fourth and fifth to stay in the pack with them. This is pretty special for the girls. They're making history here."
Portage put seven in the top 21, but couldn't quite overcome the 1-3 finish of Elena Lancioni and Kailee Schoof -- again.
"We're right there, so close," Indians coach Jay White said. "I don't think we ran great and we were still one point off. I felt good about (conference). I don't feel as good about this one. We'll recharge for a couple days and get back after it in the regional."
Lancioni repeated as champion, making it around in 18:44, 13 seconds in front of New Prairie's Rachel Thompson.
"I had to slow down a lot around the corners and going down the hill," she said. "I knew I wasn't going to run a spectacular time, but it was just good to get a race in after having a week off. I was anxious to run again. (The rain) makes it a fun cross country meet."
Fellow Slicer Anthony Didion, the runner-up last year, topped the boys field in 16:02, 19 ticks faster than New Prairie's David Kampf.
"I literally walked around the turn," Didion said. "I knew it wasn't going to be a fast day, but everybody had to deal with it. I was just going to go with (the leaders) for a mile and then see what the race would give from there.
"I've won so many races, I'm happier to see how far the team has come, from fifth last year to second. None of them have been to the state meet and I just want to get them there."
Michigan City's boys took advantage of the new individual qualifying format. The Wolves finished sixth, but had six runners advance as part of the top 10 that didn't make it to the New Prairie Regional as a team.
South Central's Kyleigh Werner and Wheeler's Joel O'Shea topped those lists, placing sixth and eighth, respectively.
HAMMOND | Squirrels darted in the background, geese honked in the distance and dogs scratched and sniffed along the course.
Then an animal won the girls race at the Gavit Sectional Tuesday at Riverside Park.
Undefeated in sixth, seventh and eighth grade at Kahler Middle School, Lake Central freshman phenom Sarah Hunsley, described by her coach as “an animal,” took a few races to acclimate herself to competition at the varsity level and in the Duneland Athletic Conference.
Now that it’s the postseason, Hunsley is ready for new courses and new accomplishments, such as her individual championship, which contributed to her team’s 10th consecutive and 20th overall championship, Tuesday.
Hunsley pushed through rain to win in 19:52.
“Going against all of these kids that are so much older than me, it’s like overwhelming, but once you know what you’re doing and how you are with your team, it’s easier to break the nerves,” Hunsley said.
“I’m very proud of my team, and our goal is to get to state because we didn’t go last year. We’re mentally tough enough to go to state.”
The first L.C. freshman to win the sectional since Megan Plenus in 2006, Hunsley credited runner-up and team leader Megan Zajac for pushing her throughout the season in practice and in Tuesday’s race, though Zajac was 22 seconds back in second.
The Indians had seven of the top 10 runners, including Jade Tazbir (third) and Sydney Vandersteeg (fourth), to dominate the meet.
“They did a great job,” L.C. coach Ann Downey said. "We ran as a team. They practiced hard. The kids are definitely a tight group of girls. Everyone is pulling for each other. They had a job to do, and they all went out and did their job.”
Lake Central almost swept the sectional in both genders, but Munster’s boys, led by a 1-2 finish, held off the Indians 30-33 for the ninth sectional title in school history and second in a row.
“It doesn’t matter what the two teams are like coming in, they’ll always give you a good challenge,” Munster coach Aaron Brown said. “L.C. took the bull by the horns -- or the Mustangs by the reins, I guess we could say -- and controlled that whole race.
"If we run the same race and Lake Central runs the same race on Saturday, we won’t beat them.”
Ryan Kritzer, last year’s runner-up, beat teammate Tom Bolanowski, last year’s champ, for the individual title, coming home in 16:12. Mustangs Scott Farley, Jimmy Murphy and Theo Burgwald were eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively, ahead of a trio of Indians who were 12th through 14th.
Kritzer passed race leader Sal Cordova of Bishop Noll near the 2,000-meter mark.
“I’ve been feeling really good this whole year and haven’t had any setbacks,” Kritzer said. “I’ve just been able to keep working hard all season, and now it’s paying off in the postseason.”
Lake Central’s Zach Hupp came in ahead of Cordova for third and was joined by fellow super-sophomores Tyler Kramer-Stephens, Casey Garvey and Kameron Konopasek.
RENSSELAER | After Morgan Township’s Ben Savage toured the wet and windy course in 16 minutes and 29 seconds at Tuesday’s Rensselaer Sectional to win the boys title, he received well wishes from fans and foes alike.
“Nice run, Ben,” and “Way to go, Ben,” were relayed by many.
Kankakee Valley’s Travis Conley, who finished just 3 seconds behind, is also an admirer.
“I’ve known him since my freshman year,” said Conley, a senior. “We’re really good friends, and we’ve trained together before.”
Savage wasn’t bothered by the adverse conditions.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I liked it a lot and was looking forward to it. The first couple miles was a little slow.”
Conley said they were able to pick up the pace for the final mile.
“I started sticking with him as much I could,” he said.
The top five teams and the top 10 individuals not on an advancing team advanced to Saturday’s New Prairie Semistate.
Conley’s teammates finished in fourth, eighth, ninth and 12th pace to give the Kougars the team title with 35 points, topping LaCrosse’s 77. Morgan was third with 78 points.
“It was a good win,” K.V. coach Tim Adams said. “At least in my era, that eclipses our best mark in terms of scoring, team average time, and probably all around performance.”
North Newton and Rensselaer also advanced.
K.V.’s Allison Rockley finished third to pace the Kougars, who put their top five runners among the top 15.
“The weather wasn’t good, but I stuck to it,” she said.
Rensselaer sophomore Riley Hickman was runner-up to West Central’s Mickayla Wenzel (19:22) for individual honors.
“I was just trying to keep my eyes on her,” said Hickman, who finished in 20:17.
The K.V. girls won their second straight title and fourth since 2008, finishing with 44 points. West Central was second with 59 and Rensselaer was third with 66. North Newton placed fifth to advance.
“I’m very happy with it,” K.V. coach Lane Lewallen said. “You assume nothing. West Central and Rensselaer ran great. They should be extremely proud of their girls.
“I’m proud of mine, putting all the top five scorers in the top 15 is strong in this weather, and I’m pleased with our performance.”
CENTER TWP. | Brian Blaylock had an advantage on a wet and rainy day at the Crown Point sectional Tuesday at Lemon Lake Park.
"It's fun (to run in the rain)," the Lowell runner said. "Nobody likes to race in the rain, so it's such an advantage if you like to and I don't mind it."
Blaylock finished first, individually, with a time of 16:16. His goal was to run under 16:15, but he was happy with his finish considering sloppy, course conditions.
Host Crown Point won both the boys and girls team trophies.
The Bulldogs had five runners finish in the top eight boys. The girls squad had five in the top 10 to win Crown Point's eighth consecutive sectional championship.
C.P.'s Tyler Gray was neck and neck with Blaylock until the winner made his move at about the two-mile mark. It was a little earlier than Blaylock planned and Gray expected.
"It kind of threw me off a little bit, but it was great on his part," Gray said. "It was a good race and Saturday (in the regional) should be even better."
Hobart's Celena Guerrero defended her individual title on the girls side. She posted a winning time of 19:30 despite what is either a stress fracture or "really bad tendonitis," she said.
Guerrero runs in meets, but hasn't practiced in three weeks. She rides the eliptical "aqua-jogs" in the pool, instead.
"I tried running earlier this week but I stopped because it hurt. And I've been taking anti-inflammatories and it's gotten better," Guerrero said. "It wasn't excruciating (during the race), so hopefully it's just tendonitis."
Guerrero's teammate Mindy Whidden finished second, 25 seconds later.
"We knew Kayla (McGurk) would probably be our biggest competition and she was from C.P.," Guerrero said. "So, we really wanted to try to sneak in there and finish 1, 2."
The other girls team advancing were Hobart, Hebron, Andrean and Hanover Central. On the boys side, Hobart, Lowell, Hebron and Merrillville will move on.
Blaylock had the only official time in the boys race. The timing mechanism got wet and failed to record times. A backup stop watch hadn't had its memory cleared before the race. The order of finish was accurate.
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