NEW CARLISLE | Whether it was near misses or timing chip disqualifications, Chesterton has had more than its share of disappointments at the New Prairie Semistate.
There was no such misfortune Saturday for the Trojans, who earned a berth in the state finals with a fourth-place finish. Chesterton scored 172, five back of third-place Valparaiso. Portage (184) also advanced.
"We've been burned here a few times," Chesterton coach Brian Carden said. "The senior group was burned with the chip thing and it's been their goal since that time to have a chance to run at state.
"Losing's not fun, but you take something from each disappointment, each accomplishment, and learn from it."
Valpo got a big boost from freshman Syndye Nossbusch, its top finisher in 23rd. Classmate Ellie Joll ran with a stress fracture in her lower leg.
"She was phenomenal," Vikings coach Boomer Nellessen said. "We're still battling things. We talked all year about how we're young and nobody expected anything of us. Obviously, we just wanted to advance, keep going, so we'll take it."
When Portage freshman Kyra Ball crossed in 16th place, one spot from individual qualifying, her hope of running at state came down to the Indians' team finish.
"Oh my gosh, it was so exciting," Ball said. "I just wanted to run one more time, get the experience (of state). We knew we had the potential, but we had to work really hard for it."
Portage fielded an all-underclass lineup with only one runner, Paige Pizer, with state experience.
"It's a whole new team," Indians coach Jay White said. "If they hadn't put the time in, we'd be on the bus now. I couldn't be prouder."
Defending state champion Ashley Erba rolled to a record winning time of 17:06.9 that stood as the fastest mark in Indiana high school history for roughly an hour. Mishawaka's Anna Rohrer bested it by a few seconds at the New Haven Semistate.
"I knew I wasn't going to run a 17:06," laughed LaPorte's Elena Lancioni, who took fourth in 18:36.5. "I just let (Erba) do her thing. I knew who I needed to run with."
Taylor Austin of Griffith also qualified individually, crossing eighth in 19 minutes.
"It got to the point where I couldn't even see them," Austin said of the leaders. "My goal was to get top five, but I'm happy. I went out and ran the best I could, and I'm going back to state."