NEW CARLISLE | It was a measure of revenge that had been mostly unspoken leading up to Saturday morning.
After losing to LaPorte by one point in the Duneland Conference meet and again to the Slicers by one point at the sectional, the Portage girls cross country team ran away with a 20-point win at the New Prairie Regional. It was the Indians’ first regional title since 1988.
“We didn’t talk a lot about that; I mean, the two one-pointers (losses to LaPorte) are tough, but we just kind of focused on ourselves and made sure we were ready to go (Saturday),” Portage coach Jay White said. “We talked about not having won a regional since 1988, we probably talked about that more and there’s a lot of people – coaches, runners – who’ve been involved with the program that are a part of this, too.”
LaPorte senior Elena Lancioni won the individual title for the second year in a row, posting a time of 18:30.6, but Portage placed seven runners among the top 21 finishers to win the team title 45 to 65. LaPorte was denied its first-ever regional title.
Valparaiso (73), host New Prairie (86) and Chesterton (107) rounded out the top five teams which advance to next weekend’s semistate, which is also at New Prairie.
“I was just went out to try to make sure I can get a couple of fast races left,” Lancioni said. “I’ve only got two races left and those will be important races to run fast at so I didn’t want to run a slow race and not be ready for next weekend.”
Lancioni crossed the finish line exactly 40 seconds ahead of the second-place runner.
In the boys race, LaPorte senior Anthony Didion gave the Slicers a sweep of the individual titles, running away from Valparaiso senior Ari Coulopoulos to pick up a 4.2-second win.
“I knew (Coulopoulos) had it in him; once he took the lead at the one-mile mark, I was ready to respond,” Didion said. “From track season, I knew I had that extra gear. I just hadn’t had to use it in cross country yet. You know once you’re close, even if you’re dead the crowd is going to pull you through it.”
Didion led LaPorte to a second-place finish with 52 points. Valparaiso placed seven runners in the top 22 to win their fourth consecutive team title with 35 points.
Portage (114), Chesterton (119) and host New Prairie (125) rounded out the top five teams advancing to next weekend’s New Prairie semi-state race.
“It means that the guys care about tradition,” Valparaiso coach Mike Prow said of winning a fourth consecutive regional title in what was supposed to have been a down year for the Vikings. “It doesn’t matter who’s in there running, it’s about winning and that’s what we come here to do.
"The pace is going to be a little quicker next week. People aren’t going to just sit behind us, so next week we want to be ready to run a little bit faster at the start, establish ourselves and have the same kind of race we had (Saturday).”