CROWN POINT | After it accepted its fifth straight sectional trophy, the Crown Point girls cross country team lined up for pictures in front of family and friends.
As they were posing for one photo after another, a voice from the team suggested her teammates: "Look at Laicee."
It wasn't the only time all eyes were Crown Point senior Laicee Pierce on Tuesday afternoon. She won her fourth consecutive sectional championship in a course, meet and personal record 18 minutes, 57 seconds at Lemon Lake Park, 19 seconds faster than second-place Celena Guerrero of Hobart. Pierce is the latest four-time winner, the last was Celeste Susnis from Kankakee Valley from 1986-89.
"That's always a plus. My (PR) time before then was like a 19:01," Pierce said. "It's always nice to PR at your home course. It's exciting to go under 19 minutes.
"It was a good, solid run. It was really hot, so the heat was a factor."
Guerrero was on Pierce's heels for the first mile -- literally. At one point Guerrero clipped the back of Pierce's spikes by running so close, but as the course led them into the woods Pierce heard the crowd yell how close Guerrero was and she broke away.
With less than half-a-mile left, Pierce held a 15-second lead and finished even stronger.
"I was just starting to run out of gas and I didn't want to die out," Guerrero said. "I've raced her probably like four times and she beat me every time. But I came in pretty close to her the last times so I thought I had a chance but I knew it was going to be pretty tough."
Crown Point's Lauren McCarroll finished third and was the second of five Bulldogs to place in the top nine, as C.P.'s 26 points marked a 66-point win over second-pace Lowell. Merrillville was third with 96, Andrean fourth with 100 and West Side finished fifth with 113 points.
The top five boys and girls teams and the top 15 individuals from each race advanced to run in the Crown Point Regional on Saturday at Lemon Lake Park.
McCarroll's time of 19:36 was 20 seconds behind Guerrero but 30 seconds faster than fourth place Rebecca Conley of Andrean.
"Overall I don't think it was my best race but I think the team as a whole did really well," McCarroll said. "Third, I'm content with it. I'm always hoping to do better and improve myself. The only complaint I had today was that my gap was a bit bigger than I expected or wanted it to be."
For as impressive as the girls' streak is, the Crown Point boys added to its own legacy Tuesday, winning their fourth straight and 10th in the last 11 years. The Bulldogs did it without placing anyone in the Top 3.
"It was a great accomplishment by the kids," Crown Point boys coach Keith Iddings said. "They've been targeting the posteason all year to try to run their best. We knew we were going to have some early tough competition from Merrillville and Andrean."
Merrillville's Dylan Harrison claimed back-to-back sectional titles with a kick in the final 1,000 meters and a sprint to the finish in 16:33.
"It feels great to repeat and win sectionals once again," Harrison said. "I started off at a pretty nice pace and picked it up when I needed to."
Crown Point won the boys team title with 45 points, nine ahead of Andrean and 23 ahead of Merrillville. Hobart was fourth with 99 and Lowell fifth with 110.
Andrean's Blaine Wolf finished 11 seconds behind Harrison and a second in front of third place Jacob Caddick, but was more disappointed that the 59ers couldn't hold off the Bulldogs.
"Realistically, I wasn't planning on beating Harrison because he's made a name for himself," Wolf said. "As a team we tried to have our two guys in front and our three guys in back and our back pack got away from each other. We were planning to win but we came up a little short."