CHESTERTON | At 5-foot-10, Merrillville's Airrica Harper towers over most of her competition.
"We get on the line, and they're looking at me, like, 'Man, she's tall,'" Harper said. "It's a huge advantage. One of my strides is two or three of everyone else's."
Harper stood tall at Tuesday's Chesterton Regional, winning the 100- and 200-meter dashes in respective times of 12.26 and 25.36.
"I knew the competition would be tough with (Wallace's Arielle) Borders and (Kankakee Valley's Leanna) Mulloy," Harper said. "(Mulloy) got me in the 100 last year. I knew she would get out well. I just had to focus on my lane and give it my all. I don't want to sound cocky, but I wanted to get first in everything I was in."
She almost did, but Kaitlyn Moricz rallied Lake Central's 400 relay to a narrow victory over the Pirates, 48.88 to 48.98. The teams have met four times with each winning twice.
"That was amazing. It felt so good," said Moricz, who also won the long jump with a leap of 17 feet, 11 inches. "We've been going back and forth (with Merrillville). It's been a battle. We've worked on our handoffs really hard, and once we got those down, everything else has gone nice and smoothly."
Despite winning just two events and not having 400 standout Kaitlyn Moricz at full strength, the Indians won their fourth regional in five years, 81.33-70.5, over the Pirates.
"We're like the Celtics and Lakers in the 80s, Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali, Alydar to Affirmed," L.C. coach Ron Frederick said. "You judge yourself by your competition, the challenges that you accept, and Merrillville pushed us to our limit, and beyond. They made us do everything we did and more. This has been our most satisfying season. I keep saying, we're a team, this year, particularly."
Valparaiso's Katelyn DeVries joined Harper as a double winner in individual events. DeVries posted a 5:12.19 to take the 1,600, then made a huge comeback in the last 200 to nip LaPorte's Elena Lancioni in a photo finish in the 3,200, 11:15.13 to 11:15.15.
"The last lap, I kind of let her go," DeVries said. "I didn't know how tired I'd be, so I didn't want to waste any energy. Then, nothing hurt, I got my eyes on her, and I went."
The two chatted at length afterward, not knowing officially who had won until it was announced.
"It happens all the time," Lancioni said. "We both know how each other races. She's a fast sprinter. I know she's going to sprint at the end. We're both just happy that we made it. We've only got one race left."