MERRILLVILLE | Lake Central Coach Ron Fredrick's Duneland Athletic Conference streak is still alive.
By two points.
The Indians won their fifth consecutive DAC track and field championship on Tuesday at Merrillville, defeating the host Pirates by a final score of 145-143.
"We have not lost in the conference since 2007," Fredrick said. "We take great pleasure in that. We talk about that. We talk about extending the streak. We came into the season, we came into this meet with the attitude that we are the champions until someone takes that crown away from us.
Fredrick's squad was led by first place finishes in five of the 16 events. His team won the 1,600 meter relay, 200 meter dash, 400 meter dash, high jump and long jump.
It took a victory in the last track competition, the 1,600 meter relay, to secure the team's championship, as Merrillville finished in fourth, only gaining five points, while the Indians picked up 10 for their win.
Fredrick credits freshman Megan Zajac for that win, saying "that's why we won the event."
Zajac also won the 400 meter dash for Lake Central, setting a new conference record in the process. Her 57.90 finish bested a 1988 record of 58.20 set by Nikki Modrak.
"It's sort of like the Grand Canyon: Very few things live up to all the hype. Megan Zajac has lived up to the hype," Fredrick said. "I've been hearing about her for about five years from her older sisters and her parents."
Fredrick said that right now, the rule limiting an athlete to only four competitions is preventing him for showcasing all of Zajac's strengths.
"What we are seeing her is only a partial view of her talent," Fredrick said. "We don't have enough events. She's our No. 2 long jumper, she would be our No. 3 high jumper, she would probably be our No. 2 3,200 person, she would be our No. 1 800 person. We just don't have enough events for her."
Meanwhile, Merrillville Coach Jeff Fairbairn is pleased with his team's effort against the reigning champions, despite coming up just short.
"We knew it was going to be a fight," Fairbairn said. "We ran pretty well for our kids. We had some kids step up, so that's what we wanted."
The teams will meet next week at sectionals. Between now and then, Fairbairn hopes his team can gain enough confidence to push it over its two-point deficit.
"It's intimidating to go against a team that's been that good for so long. We just need to keep building the confidence," Fairbairn said. "We're going to have an interesting practice tomorrow because I really felt that we could've gotten those two points from somewhere. I really do."
As all the other teams left the track, Fredrick and his team took a team picture with everyone holding up five fingers, signifying their consecutive wins streak. It's a source of pride for Fredrick.
"That's really good," Fredrick said. "It's a streak we want to keep alive."