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Four in the chairs: Chesterton boys surge to New Prairie Semistate title; Valpo's Dillabaugh wins

NEW CARLISLE -- Somewhat lost in the shuffle of Valparaiso's success this season, Chesterton has run a little bit under the radar.

Not that Trojans coach Tim Ray has ever minded that.

"Butting heads against them all the time, it can discourage you," Ray said. "We lose by seven at conference, nine at sectional. You just have to worry about what you can do."

Close runners-up to the Vikings in the Duneland Conference and New Prairie Sectional meets, the Trojans flipped the script at Saturday's New Prairie Semistate, placing four runners in the top 20 to take the title with 91 points to Valpo's 127.

"We had four in the chairs at sectional. That was our goal. We said four in the chair," Ray said. "If we did that, we knew the outlook would be good. We just ran solid. We ran what we did all year long. Crazy things can happen in this race. That's the calmness we preach. You've done this how many races? OK, relax. When you're just very consistent all year, there's a great comfort knowing when you step to the line that you don't have to do anything you haven't already done. If it goes out fast, don't worry. Stay within your comfort zone."


Valparaiso's Jimmy Dillabaugh leads a pack of runners during Saturday's New Prairie Semistate. Also shown are La Porte's Jay Pillai, Munster's Ralph Brown III and Chesterton's Evan O'Connor and Jackson Tuck. Photo by Susan Anglin


The variable in the race turned out to be Valpo having No. 2 Mason Nobles unable to finish, markedly raising the Vikings' score, considering he was the regional runner-up. Brady Cavanaugh was their second finisher, crossing in 30th.

"Losing Mason had a huge impact on our team points," Valpo coach Aaron Crague said. "It's tough to say how it would have gone had he finished, and I don't want to take anything away from Chesterton. Their guys ran great and got the job done. You can always count on them to perform well at semistate."

Nobles had been sick for a few weeks in September, but had run well the last two weeks and had no issues in practice during the week.

"I'm guessing he was dehydrated," Crague said.

Nobles reportedly began to labor about midway through the race and according to Crague, he eventually went to the ground along the tree line heading toward the home stretch. Crague stayed with Nobles until after the race and his parents arrived.

"I don't know what happened to him," Valpo's Jimmy Dillabaugh, the race winner, said, noticing that Nobles didn't finish.

Chesterton had Jackson Tuck and Evan O'Connor finish five-six with Josh Tuck 14th and Bobby Berger 16th.

"They had an unbelievable summer," Ray said. "You go to that first race and they ran a certain time, they start believing. You've just got to have confidence you can race with guys."

The Trojans had to replace Trevor Arlington with freshman Ray Hundt after Arlington, their usual No. 5, got sick.

"We got on the bus, I handed out the five jerseys and said, are you ready to go?" Ray said. "(Arlington) said, ehh. He was throwing up yesterday. I said, go ahead and warm up and we'll see how you do. He said, I can't do this. I think it got them a little uneasy before we sent them out. It magnifies everything. Our five and six, I pulled them aside, I said, the first four are going to do what they've done all year, so you just run within yourself. Instead of worrying about the time you're going to run, go ahead and start picking off people as many as you can."

Dillabaugh crossed in 16:07.8, about five seconds in front of West Lafayette's Elijah Stenberg.

"That was the goal coming in here, get that No. 1 point for the team," Dillabaugh said. "It was kind of a slow race, time wise. I don't know if it was the heat. The wins was a factor in the back stretch. This has been my motivation since I got third here last year. Every workout the past year, I've been kind of making a movie in my mind about this race, so it feels really good to come out here and get the win. It's been a goal of mine to win this. I'm speechless tight now. My bigger goal is to get top 20 at state."

La Porte's Jay Pillai tracked Dillabaugh for a while and Griffith's Joey LaPatra made a strong move coming off Agony Hill to seize the lead into the fourth kilometer.

"No one was really making a move," Dillabaugh said. "Pillai was just riding my shoulder. (LaPatra) put on a pretty big gap. That was a big surprise. I was like, all right, let's go."

LaPatra wound up fourth in 16:19.3, following Hanover Central's Ryan York (16:12.5).

"The race didn't go out as planned for me at all," York said. "I thought I'd be toward the front, and I was toward the back of the front pack at the start. I could've went out a little faster. I was able to fight back. I used the hill and past that to my advantage. I was really feeling it after the two-mile, so I lengthened my stride and tried to pick people off as much as I could with a mile left. It went pretty well. I haven't done that much this year because I've been toward the front, but that's always in my head that I know I can pretty much get anybody during a race. Just stay with group, not let them get too far ahead. I knew I had time."

York's aiming for a top 25 finish at state.

"I'm going to work hard and get it done," he said. "Just go out and run fast with the competition."

Lake Central, with just one senior in the lineup, claimed third in the team standings at 159 with less than 30 seconds separating the Indians' top five from Drew McGrath to Roger Ochoa, their usual seventh man.

"It's nervous time every time," LC coach Jeff Rhody said. "We ran OK. Coaches always think they can run better. I'm really proud of the kids. The top four ran lights out as far as staying together, 14, 15 seconds (apart). That's been our template. They've worked hard all season. They deserve to be on that podium. They followed the plan. Times weren't very fast. I asked them, what did you see on the clock when you went through? I was like, oh my God, 17?! We've been in the 16s. Relative to everyone else, we were OK. Roger really stepped up. He was huge, and our sixth and seventh were right there, too."

La Porte withstood a contested disqualification of scoring runner Stevie Klimczak to top Crown Point, 187-197, for sixth, ending the Bulldogs' string of team trips to state at nine. Klimczak was tagged for impeding a runner that officials ruled he pushed at the finish line. Slicers coaches contended video shows Klimczak was inadvertently tripped by another runner, causing the collision.

"I'm shaking still," LP coach Corbin Slater said. "It's tough, for it to happen like it did there. I'm short for words. It was an unfortunate call. We'll leave it at that. With or without the DQ, we weren't winning. Whether it's third or sixth, we're (moving) on, so I'm really proud of our guys. We told them there was a DQ, so it was up in the air. No one's to blame. We said, we've got to stay poised, keep our heads up. No matter what, I'm proud of the way we fought. We get to see another day. Survive and advance."

Additional individual qualifiers from the Region included Crown Point, Weston Hulen, Munster's Ralph Brown III, Portage's Shane Conroy and Highland's Jalen Strietelmeier.


Brayden Sobecki of La Porte finished eighth in the New Prairie Semistate on Saturday.

Photo by Susan Anglin


Munster's Ralph Brown III (11th) and Portage's Shane Conroy (12th) qualified for state in Saturday's New Prairie Semistate.

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