LOWELL | When Airrica Harper and Arielle Borders hung up the phone Monday night, they had arrived at a resolution.
“We said, ‘Whatever happens on the track, happens on the track,’” Harper, a Merrillville senior, said. “I didn’t want to race my best friend, but she pushed me hard to do my best, and I pushed her.”
The seniors from Merrillville and Lew Wallace turned in two of the most electric races at Tuesday night’s Lowell girls track sectional, but it was Harper who came from behind her best friend and offseason training partner from the Hornets to win both the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
“It was like, ‘Oh no, it’s now or never, do or die,’” Harper said after repeating as the champ of the 100 and 200.
Despite Harper’s big night, which included a win with the 400 relay 0.15 seconds off last year’s sectional record, Merrillville was unable to budge itself from a second consecutive runner-up performance to team champ Lake Central, which won the meet title 161-131 over its DAC rival.
The Indians extended their state record to 22 consecutive sectional titles. The difference was a 1-2-3 finish in the pole vault that netted L.C. 24 team points.
This was the second year of Lake Central participating in a sectional south of U.S. 30 following a realignment last year. Their previous 20 sectional wins came at the Highland Sectional, and its various alternating host sites.
“It was more comfortable this year, because we knew the layout and the people here,” L.C. coach Ron Fredrick said. “It was more enjoyable for us. The important thing is we kept the streak alive, and that’s something that is our goal every year.”
L.C.’s individual champs were Parriss Bettis (100 hurdles), Katie Brown (pole vault, on a tiebreaker) and Kaitlyn Moricz (long jump). The 3,200 relay and 1,600 relay teams won as well.
“I’m definitely where I want to be,” said Moricz, who was third in the state in the long jump in 2012 and was runner-up in Tuesday’s pole vault, as well as a member of the runner-up 400 relay team.
Lake Central state qualifier in high jump Riley Wayco was the runner-up to Merrillville freshman Alivia Ash, but Wayco is coming off a stress fracture in her plant leg, a malady discovered in March.
“It’s been very hard on her physically and emotionally,” Fredrick said.
Hobart’s Mindy Whidden won the 400, and Crown Point’s Kayla McGurk won the 800, events both girls made it to state in last year.
Griffith’s Taylor Austin won the mile and two-mile races.
“I feel pretty good,” Austin said. “I’m a little nervous for regionals with everyone else. I’m trying to make my way back to state, and I’m going to give it all I’ve got since it’s my last year.”
Lowell had a nice night with Tori Nida finishing runner-up in the 100 hurdles and then breaking a sectional record while winning the 300 hurdles. Teammate Nicole Kiszenia won the shot put and took third in the discus, where Hanover Central’s Kayla York won.
“It’s been a lot hard work in practice and a lot of focusing on the 300s, and it all came together,” Nida said.