LAPORTE | As a junior last year, Elena Lancioni finished 16th in the IHSAA cross country state finals. She came back this year in her final fall race to place third.
She was determined all season to improve upon her previous state finish, and she did so with flying colors.
And even though Lancioni admits cross country is her favorite running sport, she has that same determination regarding this spring’s girls track campaign.
She was 11th in the 1,600 meters and 10th in the 3,200 at last year's state track meet. It’s time for Lancioni’s instincts to kick in, as she pushes to end her overall high school running career on top.
“I’m definitely driven to improve in the mile and two-mile at state,” she said.
That process began during indoor season when Lancioni placed fourth in the two-mile and contributed to a Slicers’ sixth-place effort in the distance medley relay during the indoor state meet.
But it’s not just about the distance events for Lancioni this season, at least during the regular season. Don’t be surprised to see the senior running in everything from the 400 up to the 3,200, as well as multiple relays.
“She’s going to run the 4-by-400 (relay), and we might throw in a 400 and 800 here and there,” said Tim Beres, who was the Slicers’ boys cross country coach in the fall (before resigning after the season) and is the distance coach for girls track. “It’s all about working on speed and getting plenty of miles.”
And setting more records. Lancioni doesn’t come across as a runner with an ego who wants to see her name on the leaderboard at the school’s new track facility at Kesling Park. In fact, she’s downright humble with her trademark grin and business-as-usual work ethic.
But Beres does want to see arguably the name of the best female runner in LaPorte history posted multiple times at the new complex.
“She’s already our record-holder in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200,” Beres said proudly. “And she’s well ahead of her time (in the 1,600 and 3,200) from last year.”
That’s a good sign, but don’t expect to see Lancioni competing in the two-mile run that much between now and the middle of May. The shorter races will get a higher priority early on, sort of like stretching out a baseball pitcher’s arm.
“We’ll try to pick and choose our battles,” Beres said. “The 3,200 is so taxing and we try to limit how many times she runs it. We’ll try to rest her body without unneeded stress on her legs.”
As for track being her secondary sport, it’s all about the team.
“There’s more team camaraderie in cross country,” she said. “I also like running outside (in the elements). There’s a little more strategy in track.”
That’s especially true with her two main races when the state tourney rolls around. As Beres put it, the 1,600 is more anaerobic, while the 3,200 is aerobic, like longer cross country races.
“I learned about the differences in running camps,” she said.
In the end, though, Lancioni just wants to be like Forrest Gump, who “just felt like running.”
“Whether it’s track or cross country, I just keep running some miles,” she said. “Only the surface is different.”