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Don't poke the bear: Motivated Raymond rolls to semistate title; Bakker a surprising second

NEW CARLISLE -- Nobody needed to give Cole Raymond any extra motivation for Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, but some message board experts did just the same.

"People were talking all week, (Kankakee Valley's Justin) Hoffman's going to give me a run for my money," the La Porte senior said. "I was like, I'm just going to go out here and dominate."

Fashioning the Slicers' new mostly white uniforms, Raymond blitzed the field in 15:46.8, a 35-second margin to Lowell's Jackson Bakker.

"It was my first time going all out," Raymond said. "I've waited all year to get after it now. I had a little more, but I didn't want to collapse at the end. I thought it would be around a 20-second win. I knew there was a shot I could do that, but I didn't think I could run 15:45 that comfortable. I was pressing, but I was not full on gas mode. I'm in that kind of fitness. I showed it today. I've been goal-oriented, team-oriented all year. Now it's the bigger races where I can break off and do something like I did."

Raymond was on the lead early and only challenged for about a kilometer by Bakker.

"He's a great kid. He ran really good. He had a great day. He wasn't afraid to go for it," Raymond said. "His coach (Jake Rakoczy) is awesome. He was always encouraging me last year. Our guys kind of peaked for today. There wasn't a lot of peaking for me. I kind of just stayed the same. (State) should be even more fresh. If I go 15:45 (there), I think that's a top five finish. That's been the goal all year."

Bakker raised both arms and let a yell as he neared the line. He, too, was fueled by some outside elements.

"I was looking at a bunch of rankings and everyone dropped me," he said. "I was supposed to get 11th, from most people, so coming in second, showing, hey, I'm better than you think I am. I came in with the mindset I had to repeat what I did last year, which was tenth place, or if I could better, even better for the team and myself. I knew Raymond and I were the top (runners) back. It's insane. I'm planning on going to PNW. (Crown Point's) Quinton Bock did the exact same thing last year. No one expected him to come in second. Coming in second place is amazing."

Bakker (16:21.5) put himself in striking position by shadowing Raymond as long as he could.

"The second mile, Raymond took off," Bakker said. "I knew I wouldn't be able to catch him. I sat back, waited for my opportunity and I took it. (Hanover Central's Ryan) York passed me. At sectionals, he did the exact same thing. In my mind, I've got to stick here. Hey, I'm in a good spot. If anything, that's top five. My signature, a lot of my teammates will tell you, is I start out really fast, cool down, then I'm able to pick it up again the last mile. I just had enough left in the tank that I kicked it in."

Valparaiso's Jimmy Dillabaugh was third in 16:23.3, followed closely by York and Rensselaer's Tristan Wuethrich.

"I had myself in a good spot," Dillabaugh said. "All the guys were cheering me on. I really love to see that. After I came out of the woods, I just tried to gradually pick it up. Right around the last turn, I was five or six."

Vikings coach Aaron Crague credited Dillabaugh for biding his time.

"This is a course you have to respect, the different elements," Crague said. "It's got a lot of character. It favors a patient approach with the snake, the gully, Agony Hill. It can really break up your rhythm in the middle. The big thing for him was timing. You hang around as long as you can and when you make your move, you've got to make it count. It's just going to be who springs first. It's anybody's game at that point. We challenged these guys, and (Dillabaugh)'s one that really embraced that challenge. He does everything we ask him to do, exactly the way we ask him. I couldn't ask for a better kid to coach. He's very coachable, a good leader."

York and teammate Bryce Noble (eighth) gave Hanover two individual qualifiers. They were joined by Kankakee Valley's Justin Hoffman (15th) and Zach Dunn of Merrillville. Dunn overcame COVID-19 during the season to make it to Terre Haute, edging New Prairie's Ethan Walden by less than a second for the last spot.



Cole Raymond, right, of La Porte, won Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, while Jackson Bakker of Lowell took second.


Hanover Central's Ryan York finished fourth at Saturday's

New Prairie Semistate, qualifying for state along with

teammate Bryce Noble (eighth).

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