CROWN POINT | Patty Begley saw the motivation for Saturday's regional meet in Crown Point's trophy case.
The coach took her team, fresh off a sectional title Tuesday, to see what was missing from the school's recent cross country accolades. Amid the conference and sectional hardware was a void. Crown Point hadn't won a team reginoal championship since 1997, before most of this year's team had started kindergarten.
After Begley did her part, the Bulldogs' seniors stopped the team midway through its training run for a runners-only meeting and stressed the importance of the next 3.1 miles.
Then, while senior Laicee Pierce went out and won her first regional championship in 19 minutes, 15 seconds and paved the way for Crown Point to claim the team crown with 33 points, ahead of second-place Lake Central's 46, Crown Point junior Lauren McCarroll battled Lake Central's Shelby Carroll for second place. Their duel took them through the woods where elbows were exchanged, McCarroll said, as they jockeyed for position. During the final mile, McCarroll and Carroll traded second and third place until McCarroll took off with 200 meters left to give the Bulldogs the the two finishers and five of the first 13.
"I gave it everything," said McCarroll, who was second in 19:18. "It was like that the whole time. I knew that if I saved it for the finish I'd be able to get her. I just tried to stay calm and controlled and keep in my head what I knew I can do and then at the finish just gave it everything and pulled it off.
"You have to have a very strong mental game when you're running because if you get defeated, that's it."
Carroll just didn't have anything left when McCaroll pulled away near the finish.
"It was nice to have someone to run with but it was always a constant battle," Carroll said of McCarroll. "She'd throw in a surge and then I'd throw in a surge, back and forth the whole race.
"I just wanted to make sure she didn't get too far in front of me. If she passes me, I'll let her stay in front of me to set the pace but I dont want to let her get too far ahead so she doesn't go."
If the boys finish looked familiar, don't rub your eyes.
Just as he did in the sectional, Merrillville senior Dylan Harrison started his kick at the 2.5-mile mark and sprinted the final 1,000 meters to finish in 16:33 -- the exact same time as in sectionals -- and win his second consecutive regional crown. Munster won the team title with 75 points, ahead of Crown Point's 83, Hobart's 98, Andrean's 103 and Lowell's 106.
Highland's Jacob Baranowski, who finished second 19 seconds behind, couldn't keep up with Harrison, who takes off at the instruction of his coach Mike Hoffman. Harrison has worked for two years on his endurance to be able to spring for that distance.
"There's no time or room to let up," Harrison said. "If I let up that gives him an opportunity to cover that and try to catch up and gain some ground on me. Once I make my move I need to withhold it and withstand it."
Baranowski planned on Harrison making a kick and was waiting for it.
"I was ready for it mostly but when he took off, I went with him but he just kept going," Baranowski said. "It's pretty hard. He's got really good leg speed."