TERRE HAUTE | A sport doesn't have to have a ball involved to be a game of inches.
It was for Elena Lancioni at Saturday's state cross country finals, where the LaPorte junior came up an eyelash short of winning a medal (top 15), placing 16th, a scant 0.03 short of the podium in 18:35.9.
"I wanted that medal," said Lancioni, who was 21st last year. "I was hearing 15th, 16th. I passed two people, then two people passed back. I was hoping, hoping, hoping."
Lancioni ran near Griffith's Taylor Austin much of the race with Austin coming in 22nd (18:48.9), two spots better than her junior finish.
"I'm glad I got all-state again," Austin said. "I wish I could've done better, but I've still got the all-star race in November. I got out really good. I kind of got stuck a little bit in the middle. I still kept trying to move up. The wind was tough, especially up the inclines. My hips were sore, but I kept trying to keep the same pace the whole race."
Carmel (66 points) ran away from the field for its third straight title. It was a modest showing for the region's three teams, with Valparaiso (15th, 405) heading the local contingent.
"It's experience," Vikings coach Boomer Nellessen said. "They packed up and they thought they were in good position, but they didn't at all. They didn't get out well. We can talk until we're blue in the face, but those are things they've got to learn on their own. You get down here, it's a different ball game, no matter how hard you try to keep it normal."
Aurora Bonner (79th) was the first runner across for Valpo, which raced three freshmen.
"As coaches, you have different expectations," Nellessen said. "Tradition dictates that. You have to keep it in line with how young they are. Whatever happens, happens, you learn from it, hit re-set and look forward to track and next year."
Led by Haley Cushway (90th), Chesterton followed Valpo closely in 16th at 407.
"It's a good end to the year," Trojans coach Brian Carden said. "We projected top 15. I thought they performed as well and in some cases better than they have the last three weeks. I told them they were up against not only the best runners in the state but some who are nationally-ranked."
Portage, which didn't have a senior in its lineup, placed 21st (455). Freshman Kyra Ball was 74th with Paige Pizer (101st) running her best time in three state meet appearances.
"They did a nice job with no experience," coach Jay White said. "They handled themselves well. Our goal was just to run as well as they can and see what happens. I'm really proud of them. They got a taste. Now they know what it's all about. There's a lot to build on for next year. The future's looking good for us."
Five runners bested the meet record of 18:05.6, set last year by Warsaw's Ashley Erba. In what amounted to a match race, Anna Rohrer of Mishawaka pulled away from the defending champion in the final kilometer to win in 17:13.2.