VALPARAISO | Future IUPUI roommates Alec Kostelnik and Peyton Reed stole the show Friday night during the 3,200-meter run at the Valparaiso Regional.
Reed, a Valparaiso senior, established a lead early in the race. That's his style, but it had cost him the past two years, when he fell to eighth in 2012 and 15th his sophomore year as the No. 2 seed.
Coupled with a fifth-place finish at the sectional level as a freshman -- the top four advance to regional -- Reed has endured his share of heartache during the state tournament series.
Kostelnik was patient and caught Reed with a 61-second final lap on his way to defending his regional title in 9:23.21. Reed was second in 9:28.2, while Lowell senior Kyle Eller captured the final spot in 9:33.2 to earn a return trip to Friday's state meet in Bloomington.
"I knew I had to go out hard, and then I threw in a surge on the fifth and sixth laps," said Reed, who will continue his running career along with Kostelnik and twin brother Xavier Reed at IUPUI for head coach Chuck Koeppen, a Valpo High School Hall of Famer. "This feels amazing.
"I think I'll cry more this time because I'm going compared to when I didn't make it."
Reed said he could see Kostelnik closing on him by glancing at the video scoreboard on the north end of Viking Field.
Kostelnik will aim to improve on last year's ninth-place finish at state. He'll enter as the ninth seed, but he ran a 9:10 a few weeks ago at a meet in Louisville. The top seed in the 3,200 is Barr Reeve senior Connor Sorrells, the state cross country champion, in 9:08.34.
"I was focusing on the last 800, because at state that is what it is going to come down to," Kostelnik said.
Stack it up: Hobart senior Nick Stack will make his first state-meet appearance after winning the pole vault at 15 feet, 3 inches. He missed all three attempts at 16, barely falling short on his final effort.
"We were ready for it," Stack said. "I should have got on the bigger pole, but I was definitely ready for it."
He failed to advance from regional as a junior and was injured as a sophomore. He'll be the No. 2 seed behind Jared Schipper of Fort Wayne Dwenger who cleared 16 at his regional.
"I passed on a height when I shouldn't have," Stack said of last year. "I took all that anger from last year and applied it to this year. It definitely paid off. It was tough watching (state) last year."
List of champions: Double winners Gelen Robinson of Lake Central (discus, shot put), Anthony Didion of LaPorte (800, 1,600) and Bowman Academy's Marsalis Gibson (110 high hurdles, 300 low hurdles) will lead a considerable region contingent to Bloomington.
Other individual winners included Portage senior Jeron Blake (100), West Side senior Jonvae Johnson (200), Chesterton junior Archie Sullivan (400), E.C. Central senior Kenneth Lloyd (high jump) and South Central senior Isaiah Thomas (long jump).
Callback controversy: Delaying the meet to Friday due to Thursday's poor weather conditions created a stir throughout the state. Valpo was the only one of eight regionals to postpone due to cold, windy and rainy conditions.
The top three finishers in each event at all regionals automatically advance to state, along with those who hit a state-meet standard in their event. If there aren't enough qualifiers to equal 27 per event, those with the next-best regional times receive callbacks.
Athletes at Valpo had an advantage in that they knew how they had to perform Friday to qualify. As it turns out, there will be 13 callbacks from the Valpo Regional out of 38 throughout the state, according to an unofficial list on indianarunner.com.
The list includes all three callbacks in the 1,600 - Crown Point senior Tom Cierniak, Valpo senior Xavier Reed and LaPorte senior Nathan Gerick - and two teams in each of the three relays. The region will be especially well-represented in the 3,200 relay as Chesterton and Crown Point qualified for the top two seeds with Portage, Valparaiso and Hobart all in the fast heat of top nine qualifiers.
"It is what it is," Chesterton coach TR Harlan said. "The only thing you can do is show up to run when they tell you to show up to run.
"None of us did anything (regarding time) that we hadn't done before."