ST. JOHN | It was supposed to be awesome. A train ride to downtown Chicago on a Saturday, dinner with your high school friends at a swanky grill and some shopping on the Magnificent Mile.
Again, the plan was for this to be great. It wasn't. At all.
Lake Central's girls cross country team had big plans Oct. 1. The Indians were hosting the Duneland Athletic Conference meet. L.C. was 6-1 in league dual meets.
Then, after the gun pop started the race, screeching breaks could be heard on U.S. 41. Lake Central finished fifth at the conference meet.
"It wasn't as fun as it could've been," L.C. senior Shelby Carroll said of the trip to the Windy City.
"I was shocked and very disappointed," sophomore teammate Tatiana Lazic said.
"I was shocked, too," freshman Megan Zajac said of the DAC meltdown.
But the young team still had a week and a half to find itself. Coach Amy Nimetz watched her team shift to another gear the week after the DAC meet. A more icy stare was in the Indians' eyes as they regrouped for the sectional at Gavit.
"They didn't do as well as they should've," Nimetz said. "But they had a weekend to reflect. I told them it wasn't too late. The girls stepped it up at practice and got ready."
A win at the Gavit Sectional was great, as Carroll (2), Lazic (3), Zajac (4) and Tara Zlotkowski (6) all finished in the top six. A revenge win at the Crown Point Regional over the Bulldogs was next.
Five L.C. runners finished in the top 14 as L.C. won the regional crown.
There was no trip scheduled to Chicago last Saturday, but a similar occurrence took place. Lake Central finished sixth at the New Prairie Semistate. Enough to advance to today's state championship in Terre Haute.
But not good enough to make anyone in blue happy. Can anyone say Wake-Up Call No. 2?
"In a big race like that with that much talent we needed to run in packs," Nimetz said. "We started to get away from that. We have some young kids. They panicked a little and didn't know where they were at.
"At state we want to do better than we did last year (17th). And the girls are learning that every runner counts."
Shelby Carroll finished eighth at New Prairie. As a freshman she was on L.C.'s team that finished second at state. This is her fourth trip to state, which is saying something.
But she knows this is her final high school race.
"I definitely want to finish in the top 25," said Carroll, who was 54th in last year's race. "If I can do that, I will know that I finished my career being as good as I can be."
And a nice, joyful trip to Chicago could be waiting in celebration.