NEW PRAIRIE — It’s been a whirlwind few months for Lindsay Moskalick where anything has seemed possible, but even Saturday might have been enough to give the Chesterton girls cross country coach a brief pause.
The Trojans had four runners place in the top-10 of Saturday’s IHSAA New Prairie girls cross-country regional and Chesterton held off sectional winner Valparaiso by seven points as both schools advanced to next week’s semistate along with Wheeler, Portage and LaPorte.
As the results were being announced, Moskalick took personal inventory of a season that began with Chesterton having a different coach and Moskalick being on the sidelines. When coach Maggie Wolgamot left the area after her husband, Valparaiso University assistant baseball coach Ben Wolgamot, took a job at Western Kentucky, Moskalick was asked to take over at her alma mater.
“I was at Crown Point for nine years and I always wanted to come back to Chesterton, but I wasn’t anticipating that Maggie was going to leave,” Moskalick said. “When she left (in late August) after the season started, (Chesterton athletic director Garry) Nallenweg asked me if I’d coach the girls. The idea was I’d coach track eventually, but I was thrilled to take over the program. Chesterton has always been special to me.”
Moskalick took over a team filled with talent, headed up by Saturday’s regional winner Shelby Bullock (18:49.6), along with strong depth at every class level. The Trojans had a runner from each class finish in the top 16 on Saturday.
“I knew this team had the potential from the moment I took over,” Moskalick said. “I told them that they could do this, they just needed to believe they could get to this point.”
Chesterton freshman Bailey Ranta (19:00.9) delivered a strong race with a fourth-place finish on Saturday while sophomore Nalani Malackowski (19:47.9) took eighth place. Senior Kara Krol (19:48.1) gave Chesterton its fourth top-9 finisher as the Trojans displayed their depth.
“I’m really proud of our two-through-five runners,” Moskalick said. “They all really stepped up and pushed themselves today, but there’s still room for everyone to improve. These girls are still learning and this is just the start of the really fun part of the season.”
Valparaiso falls short in bid to repeat last week’s win
The Vikings captured last week’s sectional title at New Prairie, holding off Chesterton by 18 points. With the tables being flipped on Saturday, it led to several Valparaiso runners looking distraught after the race, even before the final results were announced. Second-place finisher Ava Gilliana was quick to pick up her teammates, spending time giving pep talks to several of them following the race.
“There were some emotions after the race,” Gilliana said. “I just wanted to be there for everyone. We know what we need to do. We need to close the gaps in front of each person. We advanced and we’ll come back strong next week.”
Valparaiso coach Boomer Nellessen wasn’t surprised when he saw Gilliana comforting her teammates after the race, but he was also happy that his younger runners were affected after the second-place finish.
“Ava has been a great leader for us all year and I like to see that emotion at the end,” Nellessen said. “We’ve had a lot of talks with the girls and it comes down to are we going to let this race define what we do in the next two weeks, or are we going to define what we do in the next two weeks.”
Weather doesn’t impact Bullock, Gilliana
Cross country runners spend much of their training runs in the summer and their early competitions in the fall running under the heat of a blazing-hot sun. Just when the biggest races of the year show up on the calendar, the temperature begins to drop, much like it did on Saturday with the racetime temperature hovering around 50 degrees.
Bullock, who held off Gilliana by 6.1 seconds to win Saturday’s race, paid attention to the weather throughout the week, but didn’t do much to adjust heading into the meet.
“I don’t mind when the temperature drops,” Bullock said. “I like warm weather better, but it’s something that we all have to deal with.”
Gilliana, who crossed the finish line in 18:55.7, had a clear message for her team when they began discussing the weather on Saturday morning.
“You just can’t focus on the weather,” Gilliana said. “We’re big on controlling the controllables and the weather is something that we can’t control.