NEW CARLISLE | When Abby Getautas came up gimpy on the first hill at Saturday's New Prairie Invitational, Hebron coach Mike DeFries figured the Hawks' chance to repeat as Class A champions were dealt a costly blow.
"She was pointing, 'I hurt it, I hurt it,'" DeFries said. "I thought, 'Man, we're in trouble."
As it turned out, DeFries was happy to be wrong. Boosted by big performances from Lexie Schatz, Liz Fox and Jordan Keehn, the Hawks defended their title, topping Winamac, 87-116.
"People stepped up, and that's exactly what you have to have," DeFries said. "Lexi ran her best race, Jordan was fantastic and Liz was great. They picked up the slack."
Hebron was paced by Payton Schatz in fifth (20:35.2).
"My legs were a little tired, but I pushed through," said Schatz, who had a goal of finishing in the top five. "I'm really proud of our team. This is the beginning of the big meets and then October is champion's season. We're really trying to improve and see what Hebron's girls can do. I definitely think we can pull some stuff off."
Individual honors also went to the Porter County Conference with South Central's Kyleigh Werner coming in at 19 minutes, 53.8 seconds, good for a 20-second victory.
"(Running alone) is something you definitely need to learn with experience," Werner said. "I just think of bigger names and imagine them being there in the race with me. This is a good preview. It's my favorite course. I love how you have to go low and build back up. It was a little moist, but I'm glad I had the first race, so I was able to run on fresh ground."
In the AAA race, LaPorte's Elena Lancioni rallied in the last mile to not only overtake, but pull away from Penn's Maddie Woods, hitting the line with a time of 18:09.7. Woods had beaten Lancioni by over 40 seconds at an early-season race in Michigan.
"I'm pretty excited for myself," said Lancioni, who had won most every invitational she's been in except for New Prairie. "One of my goals was to win a big invitational and I accomplished that. It was windy, so I hung back. I didn't want to let (Woods) get too far ahead, just be close enough where I could stay in contact."
The Kingsmen were team champions with 93 points. LaPorte (137) edged Portage, which packed six runners between 22nd and 35th, by a point.
"We've got two freshmen (Rebecca Timm and Madison Allen) and a sophomore (Haley Orshonsky) running their first varsity races and they're running tough," said Indians coach Jay White, who was without one of his top runners, Kyra Ball. "We've got good depth. They're gaining confidence every time they step on the race course. I'm very encouraged for down the road."