NEW CARLISLE | It's called having your cake and eating it, too.
LaPorte's Elena Lancioni not only won Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, she led the second-place Slicers to their first state berth since 1999.
"I've been third or fourth all my years; I really wanted to get the win," Lancioni said. "It's great to follow in the footsteps of Waverly Neer, Ashley Erba, Bobbie Burgess. This is my 12th time racing here. I know what I'm doing. The title's just a reward for my hard work. I've gone to the starting line at state by myself for three years, so to be able to do it with my team means the most."
Lancioni posted a six-second victory over West Lafayette's Lauren Johnson, crossing in 18:11.3. The Red Devils ran away with team honors, matching the meet record score, (32) while the Slicers topped Portage for second, 116-126. Lake Central (179) advanced to state in fourth.
"This is what we've been going for the whole way," said coach John Dearing, who contacted runners from the '99 team to provide inspirational support. "It's always been the goal. We were looking for our 3-4-5 to try to run with Portage and they hung tight."
Portage's balance was the key for the Indians again with five girls in the top 34, led by freshman Becca Timm (24th).
"It's exactly what they've done all season," coach Jay White said. "The Portage way. It's really a close group, They stayed together. They ran together. They've been interchangeable all year. We came into the season with high expectations and it's gone very well. We've improved and we've been lucky to stay healthy."
L.C. returns to Terre Haute after not making it last year. Megan Zajac and freshman Sarah Hunsley went 21st and 23rd, respectively.
"Lake Central had been going for a while and not going last year was on a lot of their minds," coach Ann Downey said. "It was a dogfight. The girls had to perform and they did. It's been a wonderful ride this year. It wasn't just talk. They gave validity to the talk. They showed up all summer."
Hobart's Celena Guerrero took eighth, making it individually along with teammate Mindy Whidden (12th).
"We have an advantage. Most people don't have the opportunity to tun with a teammate, to push them the entire race," Guerrero said.
Guerrero qualified for state as a freshman, finishing 20th, but three stress fractures conspired against her chances as a sophomore and junior.
"I'm really grateful to be able to do it again, to go down for one last hurrah in cross," she said.
South Central's Kyleigh Werner was also among the individual qualifiers, finishing 16th.
"The past couple years, it's been my goal and it hasn't happened, so to be able to finally make it, it means a lot," Werner said. "I really ran a controlled race the first half. That was my main goal. Last year I was in shock. I couldn't believe what was going on. I was pretty excited about my kick at the end."
Valparaiso's string of state berths came to an end with an eighth-place finish, though Michaela Gazdich and Alison Mundell advanced individually.
"Injuries make you re-evaluate your goals," coach Boomer Nellessen said. "We've been trying to play catch-up all year. The girls did everything they could. That's all you can ask for."