A different mindset: Portage boys, Conroy win Lake Central's Skorupa Invitational
ST. JOHN -- It's only been a couple races, so Tom Erickson isn't making any reservations for Terre Haute just yet, but the Portage boys cross country coach likes what he's seeing so far.
"There's been a mindset," Erickson said. "We've got guys across the board who show up every day, want to do their job, work for one another. They're living the running lifestyle. We had a lot of positives in track that people didn't see. Guys have kind of grown into the sport. They're starting to figure out what it means to compete at this level. These guys have bought into the fact, if they do the work, commit to being accountable and responsible to one another, things will have a better chance of going their direction. Everyone's on the same page right now."
Behind sophomore winner Shane Conroy (16:28), the Indians claimed the team title at Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invitational, topping host Lake Central, 57-62.
"It's early," Erickson said. "There's a lot of good teams here. It's a good place to be. It's good for their mental and emotional state, feeling the vibe of running up front."
Conroy's comfortable with it, his time of 16:28 giving him his second win in as many races.
"There's a different mindset," Conroy said, echoing Erickson. "My dad ran in high school (T.F. South). I used to watch videos of him growing up. Ever since then, I've gone out to the front. If anybody comes up to push me, I just go with them. It's just a competitiveness I have. I came here just wanting to stay with (Brayden) Sobecki and try to out-kick him."
La Porte's Sobecki finished third (16:42), behind Highland's Jalen Strietelmeier (16:35). Portage put three in the top 10 with Noah Bosstel (eighth, 16:58) and Chase Reyes (10th, 17:06). Ethan Miller came in 15th (17:20) and Josh Bosstel 23rd (17:47).
"Our five-six came in together," Erickson said. "We're just trying to put some pieces together. It's always nice to go and get your face in there and compete. I try not to give a bunch of instruction to the kids before the race. I don't want their brains to be marbles."
Lake Central, minus its No. 3 (Riley Petrovich), was led by Austin Wojcik (fourth, 16:46). Kaden Smith (ninth, 17:06). Ben Perschon (14th, 17:16), Drew McGrath (17th, 17:28) and Evan Smith (18th, 17:29) completed its top five.
"The guys ran really well, we've been on a pretty good streak," Lake Central coach Jeff Rhody said. "You never run a perfect meet. You always have a little from column A and a little from column B. Portage has a nice, young group. It's good to see my alma mater re-emerging. I'm happy for Tommy. They ran really well. Three of us (Erickson, Valpo girls coach John Arredondo and I) ran for Portage, ran for Bill Wilke. We're all friends, but we're all competitive. The better the conference is, the harder it pushes everybody."
Other top 10 runners were Weston Hulen of Crown Point (fifth, 16:47), La Porte's Jay Pillai (sixth, 16:53), the defending champion who was running his first race, and Morgan Township's Ty Ivanyo (seventh, 16:56).
Chesterton, which won its invitational the prior Saturday, raced without top runner Jackson Tuck and its top four did a tempo run, finishing 30th-33rd to place sixth as a team.
Shane Conroy of Portage won Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invitational at Lake Central, helping the Indians to the team title.
Jalen Strietelmeier of Highland was runner-up in Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invitational at Lake Central.