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Chesterton girls stay in front; Wheeler advances to its first state meet

NEW CARLISLE -- The last time Chesterton won a girls cross country semistate, coach Lindsay Moskalick (then Hattendorf) and assistant Nicole Hartford were still in grade school and assistant Natalie Krause was a freshman.

Their current team members weren't even a glimmer in their parents' eyes.

Yes, it's been a long time since 1995. Who remembers Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise' being a No. 1 song?

"What we've been talking about with each meet is re-writing history for Chesterton," Moskalick said. "We started that with conference. That's been our focus, not so much what happened last year, but what we want to accomplish this year from previous years."

Just the same, last year played a part in Saturday's 33-point win (110-143 over runner-up Valpo), the sting of being the last school called before the six state qualifiers remaining.

"We've been preparing for this from a year ago," Moskalick said. "The goal was to come back here and do the best that we can."

Bailey Ranta, the race runner-up, described last year as 'the worst experience ever,' wearing some of the responsibility for the near miss with her 11th-place finish.

"I felt so bad," Ranta said. "If I had been up there, something could have happened and we might've made it as a team. I felt so bad for the seniors. They were such good leaders. I had such a special bond with Ashley Craycraft. It was horrible for us to go through."

Bree Gentry was the only other Trojan in the lineup to have run in the 2019 semistate, and she didn't leave any better taste in her mouth than Ranta.

"I was definitely remembering that feeling. It was a huge motivation for

Chesterton's Bailey Ranta finished second in

Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, helping the

Trojans claim the team title.

today," said Gentry, who checked in 20th (19:46.6). "I helped get me through. I felt like I let the team down. I wanted to go out and show I can do it. I had to stay mentally strong, and I did a pretty good job of that, focusing on people who were ahead of me, getting as many as I could."

Catherine White (27th, 20:04.9) and Ciara Bonner (29th, 20:06.4) followed, with Liz Hibshman 54th (20:31.2).

"This meet is difficult to keep track of where people are," Moskalick said. "We wanted to see how many we could get into the top 30 ish, top 40. We had a nice pack. I'd be interested to see our spread between two and five. We didn't have big gaps. We got out good and raced hard."

After running individually last season, Ranta's excited to have the whole squad going this time around.

"Our team bond is really special," she said.

Valpo was paced by Kaylie Politza (third, 18:44.4) and was buoyed by the return of Cheyanne Stock (seventh, 19:01.7).

"We were really happy with how we raced," Vikings coach John Arredondo said. "We’ve really been struggling the last few weeks with injuries. We still have to get healthier this week. That said, it was really nice to see Cheyanne bounce back. She had a tremendous race. Obviously, Kaylie was great again. Those two really carried the load for us. Angela Coulopoulos, our No. 3 (39th), was a big surprise. She’s a freshman so she’s learning as she goes but to see her run so well was really great. She’s had an up-and-down season, so it was really cool to see her have such an up race when we really needed her. To be runner-up today after a pretty disappointing regional, we were happy."

Lake Central (159) held true to form with a balanced finish. Rachel Narjes led the Indians in 23rd (19:55.4) with Abby Martisek 25th and Natalie Kransky 30th.

"The pack is huge for us all the time," LC coach Morgan Kleinaman said. "There was only one in between Rachel and Abby. We're always pushing for a frontrunner to get that pack to go with them and Rachel was that girl. Abby had some big moves and Carly Davis had a big last K. We're super thankful even to be running at this point when in June and July, the season was very questionable to happen. It's been a great post-season so far. We're hoping for top 15 at state. Our goal is to go out with a bang in the last meet of the season."

Warsaw (162) and Culver Academies (172)

Valparaiso's Kaylie Politza helped the Vikings

to a runner-up finish in Saturday's New Prairie Semistate by placing third.

were third and fourth, respectively, with Wheeler (190) edging West Lafayette by a point for the final state berth. It's the Bearcats' first time advancing.

"It feels good to know even a small school can still make waves," coach Ben Kosal said. "We love being the underdog, but we expected to make it. We came in thinking we were going to make some big ripples in the water. We've got the talent, hard-working girls."

Wheeler didn't make it easy though. After Hailey Orosz (18th), Emma Hellwege (51st) fell off her recent pace, but was well-bunched with Lucca Okeley 46th, Elise Byers 53rd and Emily Enright 57th.

"We didn't have a particularly good race, but that happens in cross country," Kosal said. "You always wish everybody would do their best every race, but that's not how it works. You push each other, help each other, and tell them it's not the end of the world. 'The Three Amigas,' Lucca, Elise and Emily, came through, they're the reason we're going to state."

Orosz, a three-time individual qualifier, will cap her career by competing as part of a team. Coincidentally, she would not have advanced this time without the team.

"The small schools look at us and think they can do it, too," assistant coach Louie Guillen said.

"They see us as a beacon," Kosal said.

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