NEW CARLISLE | There's strength in numbers in all sports, but maybe none more than cross country.
Valparaiso's boys showed it in Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, piling all seven runners into the top 30 to emphatically defend its title. The Vikings posted 57 points to runner-up LaPorte's 140.
"The guys really executed the game plan," coach Mike Prow said. "When you stick to it and make it work, good things should happen."
Ari Coulopoulos finished fourth, followed closely by Ahmad Aljobeh. Peyton Reed placed 13th.
"Ari was furious he didn't get the chance to compete with (LaPorte's) Mitch (Hubner), but once he sees the team results, that's the bottom line," Prow said. "When they do their own thing, we have a lot worse results. We wanted to keep the pack together. We didn't want to push the pace."
Hubner blasted to a 4:44 opening mile and made it hold up. He crossed first in 15:34, 10 ticks in front of Morgan Township's Alec Kostelnik.
"I almost got a PR running the whole race by myself," Hubner said. "Mentally, I knew he was catching me. I was already far enough ahead, I would've looked like an idiot if he catches me. At that point, I took off. It hurt really bad, but everybody feels that."
Kostelnik fought off the lingering effects of a sinus infection to become Morgan's first state qualifier in the sport.
"I didn't know how I'd do, being sick," Kostelnik said. "I was 20 seconds faster (than regionals), but I felt the same, like I was just floating along. It's good to know hard work does pay off. I'm pumped for (state)."
Wheeler's Kyle Nurse also advanced individually, taking 14th thanks to a strong second half to his race.
"I always rely on my kick a lot," Nurse said. "I knew at the 3K, I had to start making my move. I wasn't sure what place I was in, so I started turning it on just in case. I'm pretty happy."
Chesterton's third-place finish was way more than coach Tim Ray could've imagined a month or so ago.
"For us, this was our state meet," Ray said. "The kids just kept working hard to get better. I'm so happy for them. We'll walk to the (starting) line (at state) with smiles on our faces."
The Trojans were paced by Tyler Rusboldt, who picked off several foes in the last stretch to claim third.
"I saw everybody there with 200 (meters) left and I just tried to get as many as I could," Rusboldt said. "My competitive nature took over."
On the girls side, Valpo withstood a nervous wait at the awards ceremony regarding timing chip numbers before accepting runner-up honors. West Lafayette edged the Vikings, 66-70.
"We were right there with a good team and not every girl had their best race, so that's good for us," coach Karen DeVries said. "It's something to look at for (state). Winning's always nice, but this could actually be a good thing. Maybe it will shake them up a little bit."
LaPorte's Elena Lancioni nipped Katelyn DeVries for third, 18:39.3 to 18:39.5. Bobbie Burgess of West Lafayette won in 18:22.
"I knew it would go out slow and I didn't want to push the pace," Lancioni said. "I made my move on the hill like I wanted to. I knew I was with a lot of good sprinters so I tried to pick it up and put a little more gap in between us. I knew Katelyn was right behind me."