CHESTERTON — Throughout Saturday's Chesterton Relays, one theme continued popping up on the boys side.
More often than not, the Trojans took first. As one onlooker commented, there's a reason the meet is called the Chesterton Relays — and it's not just the location. Chesterton's boys won seven events, while senior J.P. Osafo was named Most Valuable Relay Athlete.
Osafo and Dimitri Nicholson helped power the Trojans to victories in the 400-meter relay, 800 relay and sprint medley, as Chesterton swept the sprint relays.
“J.P. had a great day today,” Chesterton boys coach Bryan Nallenweg said. “(Osafo and Nicholson) blew away the field in the 4-by-200, and in the 4-by-400. J.P. runs a sub-52-second split, the first time all season he has run it. It's why he won MVP today.”
The Trojans' distance runners weren't bad, either. The relay team of Matthew Streeter, Matthew Van Kley, Will Shook and Kenny Erow lapped Michigan City, North Newton and West Side en route to a dominant victory in the 3,200 and finished nearly 37 seconds ahead of second-place West Lafayette.
The runners themselves weren't overly impressed. The team came up seven seconds short of the 8-minute, 20-second time goal assistant coach Tim Ray gave them before the meet.
“We're in a good spot,” Streeter said. “We've got a lot of room to improve to make it to state, but we've got a lot of time to improve.”
Crown Point girls fight through injuries
Ranked 20th in the state and tops among Region girls teams by the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches, Crown Point got a test with No. 5 West Lafayette in attendance.
Crown Point took the 400 relay despite two Bulldogs running through minor injuries. Junior Aliyah Harrell has been dealing with shin splints and junior Savannah White with quadriceps tightness, so coach Allison Florek had them focus on just one event on Saturday.
Nonetheless, White finished strong to lift Crown Point over Lowell by 1.23 seconds. White said she's more of a 200-meter runner — she advanced to state in the 200 last year — but credited the Bulldogs' smooth handoffs with making up for that.
“The amount of teamwork our 4-by-100 team has, it's such a tight bond between all of us girls that we get along so well,” White said.
Florek said Crown Point's sprinting depth will allow her to try various options in the 400 relay this season, but Saturday's relay group already improved its time from earlier in the week. White said she should be ready for the 200 for Tuesday's meet at Merrillville, and Harrell said her shins are already improving.
“They're both really strong athletes,” Florek said. “Both of them are very competitive as far as their mindset goes, and they don't like to lose. I know they pushed through some pain today, but hopefully we can come back feeling better on Tuesday.”
Krol finishes strong for Chesterton girls
Chesterton staffers urged on Kara Krol from the press box as the senior rounded the final turn, attempting to hold off a surge from Crown Point's Maddie Russin, the reigning 800 state champion.
Krol's teammates bunched together at the finish line, mere feet from her lane, and leaped in the air as she pulled out the win.
Chesterton raced against Russin and the Bulldogs on Tuesday, with Krol running the third leg in a Crown Point win. With the vocal support from her teammates to match a nice advantage the Trojans earned through the first three legs, Krol helped flip the result.
“It was painful, but hearing my teammates and knowing how well they did on their laps, I knew I had to fight as hard as I could,” Krol said. “If it's like 10 seconds or less, (Russin) can close it really easily, so the fact that they gave me such a big lead helped me a lot.”
Chesterton girls coach Lindsay Moskalick said Krol can realistically run the 800 in 2:22, which she did on Saturday. In the Trojans' second outdoor meet, Krol appeared in mid-season form.
“With Crown Point coming in at the end on that back stretch, she did exactly what she needed to do, closing it out,” Moskalick said. “The girls are doing a good job and having fun, and that's the main thing.”
Michigan City's Wozniak a field natural
Michigan City assistant coach Adam Goebel had tried to recruit Justin Wozniak for years. He's glad his efforts finally paid off.
Wozniak, an all-area tight end and defensive end for the Wolves' football team, picked up track and field partway through the 2018 season. Less than a year later, he already owns the school record in the discus throw and is about two feet off from qualifying for state in shot put, as well, according to Goebel.
It started during Wozniak's freshman year, when Goebel, who primarily works with Michigan City's field athletes, began his pitch. Wozniak was still playing baseball, so he was occupied during the spring sports season. Still, whenever Goebel saw Wozniak in the hallway, he'd tell him to come out for track and field.
“I never really considered it,” Wozniak said. “I stopped playing baseball my sophomore year, and coach was still trying to get me in. … I decided to give it a try since I wasn't playing baseball anymore, and I turned out to be really good at it.”
Wozniak was named Most Valuable Athlete for Saturday's field events after winning the discus throw of 165-8, over 23 feet better than the competition. He also placed fourth in shot put. Wozniak said that while football strengthened his lower body, his work as an outfielder on the baseball field helped more for the discus throw.
That athletic background translated quickly. Wozniak said he consistently improved by 10 feet every meet last year before breaking the school record at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet at season's end.
Western's Tyler Gilbert won the 2018 discus throw state title with a 177-foot, 3-inch effort, and Wozniak isn't far off that. His best toss came last week at Culver Academies: 173 feet, 2 inches.
“He probably could've been a four-sport athlete if he really wanted to,” Goebel said. “In the past, I've had a couple of throwers where I could see it in practice and it would never go over to the meet. With Justin, the meet is where he shines.”