HAMMOND | With two pairs of sisters, including a set of twins, the Lake Central girls cross country team takes the sisterhood theme and runs with it.
“We’re a family,” sophomore Megan Zajac said.
When you’re up front in a major early-season invitational, the family that runs together wins together.
Boosted by a 3-4 finish from Zajac and sophomore newcomer Josie Polaski, the Indians easily outran Duneland Athletic Conference rival Portage to accrue 26 points and repeat as the AA Division (large school) champ at Saturday’s Gavit Invitational at Dowling Park.
Hebron’s girls used five top-11 finishers to dominate the A Division race.
“I thought we ran well early as a pack,” L.C. coach Ann Downey said. “It’s nice to see seven or eight kids for that first mile in a pack.”
All five of the Indians’ scorers were in the top 10, with Sarah Hudi, Zoe Carroll and Jade Tazbir finishing 7-8-9.
Two non-scorers, Bella Giovane and Alexa Klapowski, were 12th and 13th, respectively, among the 11-school field.
“We have depth, which is very nice,” Zajac said. “We’re just running along and pushing each other.
“(Teammates) will encourage you and keep you up there.”
Zajac, who had two older sisters run for L.C., gradually pulled ahead over the final kilometer of the 5,000-meter race to beat Polaski by 13 seconds, 24 seconds behind winner Becca Conley of Andrean.
Andrean didn’t place as a team, but Conley was happy to be at the race, which the team did not run last year. She controlled the pace with only Hobart’s Celena Guerrero in her rearview.
“The heat was definitely a factor in my time,” Conley said. “It felt good to finally get back into my mode of running.”
Conley’s main rival for local supremacy, Griffith’s Taylor Austin, won the A Division race in 20:42. She had contemplated running with the bigger schools.
“We wanted to see how we did overall as a team because we have a lot of new girls,” Austin said.
The senior has new shoes with orthotics, but she removed the heel pads because of foot pain and suffered with some hip pain.
“You just have to push yourself and say you can do it, you’re almost done,” Austin said.
The Panthers finished fifth, while Hebron’s championship was its third straight in the A Divison. After Kelly O’Shea and Alex Mendoza went 2-3 for Wheeler, the Hawks poured in with Lexie Schatz (4), Emily DeFries (5), Abby Getautas (7), Payton Schatz (10) and Liz Fox (11) charging to dominate the field of 15.