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  • Writer's picturepeters1119

Guerra, C.P. open boys cross country season strong

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

CEDAR LAKE -- No pain is worse than the pain of regret.

The phrase, or some variation of it, has been printed on the back of many a cross country t-shirt over the years, and has never been more apropos than in 2020, when sports are no sure thing.

"The way we think on our team is, what can I do today to make myself better tomorrow?" Highland's Lucas Guerra said. "We can't look at October too much. We'll worry about it when October comes. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. This could be our only race. You've got to go out and give it everything you have. That's what happened with some of the guys last year with not having a track season. They didn't know semistate in cross country would end up being their last race. That's helped with the older guys, sharing that wisdom with the other guys on the team."

The 2019 state runner-up opened his senior season with a 35-second victory in Saturday's Crown Point Invitational, checking in at 16:07.27 at a sultry Lemon Lake County Park. After not getting to have his junior year of track, there is a sense of having to make up for lost time, but given the uncertain nature of the present, he's not going to look too far ahead.

"I think we handled it pretty well," Guerra said. "Track season was the worst part. It's getting better. We had a really good what would have been the end of the track season. We were able to get some time trials in, do some races on our own, and we're just building off of it. The summer, we started a little earlier, doing all our miles on our own. We were suspended two weeks, but the team was really good about putting in work on their own, communicating with our coach. We're blessed to have a coach who works with us pretty easily. We don't want to get ourselves down, just take everything day by day."

Guerra had hoped to compete in at least one national meet, but with all of those being cancelled, his high school meet results will have to suffice.

"It definitely impacted my recruiting process a lot," he said. "I talked to a couple Pac 12 schools. Out in California, they were able to get some summer races in. The schools give you a standard they want to have. I can't run that standard with no track season. A lot of Big East, ACC, Big Ten schools, they understand what's going on. They weren't even able to have their own seasons, so I don't expect them to have campus visits. I just have to do what I can back in my home state. I had to re-work how I train, but there's a lot of competition in the state, plenty of good guys up here, so I'm not too worried."

The race included the new health and safety protocols which, for runners, included doing run-outs before coming to the start line and wearing masks up until just before the start.

"Props to Crown Point. They put on a really well-structured meet. Everyone obeyed the rules," Guerra said. "Health is the most important thing right now. Our team's got its own rules, mandates, and we follow them. I would say we're one of the most safe sports. It's just us taking extra precautions, which are going to help us be able to continue."

Runners await the starter's OK to remove their masks prior to Saturday's Crown Point Invitational at Lemon Lake County Park. (Photo by Jim Peters)

While the masks aren't ideal on a hot day, Guerra considers it a small sacrifice to have the chance to run. In addition to the concerns about physical well being during the pandemic, mental health is becoming a much more significant issue.

"This is what I love doing," Guerra said. "I don't know what I would be doing if I wasn't doing this. Communicating is the biggest thing. One thing coach (Rob Lukowski) is really good at is talking to all of us on an individual level, making sure we're all good to go on a daily basis. If something is troubling one person on the team, it's troubling the whole team. One person's problem is everybody's problem. Faith is definitely a huge thing for me, knowing I have someone watching over me, making sure I stay healthy. Whatever happens, it's part of God's plan. There have been way worse things in history than this. We could have a lot more people sick. There could be no school, no cross country. As long as we go through it, we'll be OK."

Crown Point (41) won the team title, putting five in the top 14, with Lake Central (76) second, just ahead of Harrison (79).

"We talked about the heat, how you're going to win the race in the first mile," Bulldogs coach Erik Forehand said. "Let the race come to you, keep yourself in position to be able to make your move after you cross the 2K mark. Most of the boys did a really good job with that. I was really proud of some of the younger guys, how they executed, being their first 5K race. To see them train pretty relentlessly, all the way back to the end of last season, it's awesome to see them finally get to show how they've been working. The regional meet is so far out, we don't know if we'll make it, so this is potentially the seniors' last race on their home course. You don't want to finish the race and say you left something out there. You want to finish saying you did everything they could."

Cole Simmons, Anthony Saberniak and Quinton Bock topped C.P.

"I was surprised to see some of the freshmen come in and step up the way they did in a race that right now is long, adding in the heat and humidity," Forehand said. "It shows the leadership on our team with the seniors, how they're doing a great job helping everybody out, keeping everybody informed on how we do things around here. The heat affects each individual differently. Some run well in the heat, some don't. A few guys were a little frustrated with themselves, but the fact we had others step up, they can all rest easy, say, hey, we learned something, we'll apply this next time, or we did this well and we'll keep doing it. I was really impressed overall. I knew we were going to be pretty tough team to beat, that what we want to be. So far, so good."

Forehand was also happy to see fans heed the restrictions on access to the course.

"The spectators were awesome," he said. "That was our biggest concern, if people would still come on the course. They stayed back behind the ropes. On top of that, it looked like they were distancing pretty well outside the ropes. I think it made a tremendous difference in the race. That made things a lot less stressful. There's an area where people like to congregate when the kids warm up, so we'll probably do it next year as well. You can still see the race from over there."

Lucas Guerra of Highland won Saturday's Crown Point Invitational at Lemon Lake County Park in a time of 16:07.27. The Trojans senior was the state runner-up in 2019.

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