LAPORTE | Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference Championship marked the first time LaPorte played host to the meet, and the Slicers made the most of the occasion at Kesling Park.
On the heels of Anthony Didion's win, Elena Lancioni claimed her record third race, to lead her team to its first DAC title with a one-point victory over Portage (48-49).
"At the beginning of the season, we never thought we would win the conference meet, so it's like a bonus on our way to state," Lancioni said. "To know we're the best in the conference, when my freshman year, we finished second to last, I'm really glad for our team."
Portage crowded six runners into the top 14, but the 1-3 finish of Lancioni and Kailee Schoof was just enough for the Slicers, who were also undefeated in DAC duals, to hang on.
"It seems like we were losing all the little battles at the end, but we won the war," LaPorte coach John Dearing said. "This group of seniors are the ones I started with, and we weren't very good. This means so much to them. We've gotten gradually better, we've had some other girls come in, and it's just all come together. For us to win it on our home course makes it even more special. You couldn't have written it any better. Just incredible."
If that wasn't enough, Lancioni's time of 18:38.2 broke her own course record. Crown Point's Kayla McGurk was 27 seconds back in second.
"I've never run a great time on the course," Lancioni said.
Didion pulled away from Crown Point's Tyler Gray to win in 16:03.2, three ticks ahead of Valpo's Ari Coulopoulos, who took second for the second year in a row after winning as a sophomore.
"I'm glad I could come out and win on my home course the last time I ever race here," Didion said. "Honestly, I was aiming for a lot faster time, but the air quality really got to me after a mile. I was on pace, then my lungs started imploding. This just wasn't the day to do it, but this will get me stronger for that day."
Valparaiso's boys rolled to a fourth straight title, the longest string since Portage's run of five between 1995-99. The Vikings put six in the first 17 finishers.
"First of all, I'm really proud of the seniors," Valpo coach Mike Prow said. "Whether it's back to back-to-back-to-back, it's the first time for most of them. Everybody says each team is different and they had a lot to prove. It's a small field. It's easy to see where everybody is. Everybody was gunning for us and they fended off all the challenges."
The Vikings posted 40 points, with Crown Point, which placed ahead of them at the Culver Academies Invitational, second at 59.
"It was a good, little wake-up," Prow said. "They bought into the team aspect of it. We continued with our 'Together as One' (theme). We don't have the depth we had last year by any means. We don't have a big margin for error, but they're running a great pace, establishing themselves, and it's a strategy that will hopefully continue. It's nice to have your teammates right around you."