NEW CARLISLE | For Valparaiso, it wasn't a case of if, rather a case of how many at Saturday's New Prairie Regional.
The Vikings boys fell just shy of the meet mark for lowest score with 28, which was about the only thing they didn't accomplish in defending their title.
"We thought, well, if a couple guys run a little faster, maybe we can get the record," Valpo coach Mike Prow said. "We didn't want to kill ourselves, but we wanted to run a little faster than (the sectional) to get a feel for what the semistate's going to be like. We had a really good threesome. We'd like the guys in the back to be a little closer with the front, but at least they were running together. That's helps no matter where you are."
Valpo put its whole lineup in the top 13, led by winner Peyton Reed, who followed Tuesday's sectional victory with a meet-record time of 15:37.
"If we run like that, we can beat anybody in the state," Reed said. "There's no doubt."
Reed answered a strong surge by teammate Ari Coulopoulos up 'Agony Hill' to seize the lead on his way to a 5.2-second victory over Morgan Township's Alec Kostelnik. Coulopoulos (15:47.4) took third, just ahead of LaPorte's Anthony Didion.
"It's great having a teammate push you," Reed said. "Ari's back where he should be. I knew Alec had a good kick, so I went really hard the middle of the last mile."
"Peyton's got a lot to prove," Prow said. "He hasn't performed spectacular in post-season races, whether it's cross or track. Getting fourth at DAC really set him off."
Kostelnik's 15:42.3 finish was a personal best, though he was hoping to be a little faster.
"I can't complain about that," he said. "My plan was to stay with the Valpo guys, no matter what the pace was, and it worked perfect because they were right next to us (at the start). Peyton and Ari went pretty hard up the hill. I fell behind and from there on, I was just trying to make up ground."
Teammate Ben Savage (eighth) also advanced, though the Cherokees came up short as a team, taking sixth. Portage, Chesterton and Wheeler also qualified for semistate, the Bearcats making it for the first time since 1998. Boone Grove's Jon Hogg took the 15th and final individual position for the second straight race.
On the girls side, Chesterton claimed its first regional championship in seven years, 50-68 over Valpo, which had won the last six titles.
"I know Valpo's a little banged up, but we’ll take it," Trojans coach Brian Carden said. "A regional title is a regional title. The girls were so pumped up afterward. We know that as long as we run close to (Valpo), we've got a good shot to advance. We ran well as a team and we finished well. We're hoping this will be a good springboard to (semistate)."
Valpo ran without No. 2-3 runner Ellie Joll (foot).
"You can't take anything away from Chesterton whatsoever," Vikings coach Boomer Nellessen said, "but it's all about advancing, especially with a team this young. The rest will come."
LaPorte's Elena Lancioni ran to a 15-second victory over South Central's Kyleigh Werner.
"I felt a lot better than (the sectional)," Lancioni said. "(Semistate)'s going to be a lot harder, so I tried to go out and practice the pace I'm going to have to run next (Saturday)."
Werner, a sophomore racing in her first regional, posted an 18:52.
"It's weird coming here a second time this year," she said. "It's hard to imagine running with all the big schools (at semistate) and how crazy that'll be. You don’t want to assume anything, have something go wrong and disappoint yourself. It feels like home running here. It's nice knowing the course by heart."
Wheeler's Kelly O'Shea placed fifth and Kankakee Valley's Michelle Kent seventh. LaPorte, New Prairie and Portage also earned semistate slots.