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The last ride: Guerra primed for one final run at state

NEW CARLISLE -- For Lucas Guerra, it all comes down to one final run.

"The most important thing to remember is the job's not finished," the Highland senior said after breezing to his second New Prairie Semistate title Saturday morning. "I can't let the win go into next week. I have to get out there every day and do what I need to do so I'm ready to get out there. Everything has been building up to (state)."

The 2019 state runner-up prepped for next Saturday's hot early pace with a sizzling opening quarter-mile, essentially putting the race away before he had to take his initial turn.

"I was expecting a couple guys to come up with me. I know a couple said they wanted to chase me down," Guerra said. "The first 300, 400 (meters), the Valpo coach was saying they're 20 meters behind, I was like, already? I went out way too fast. At the end, it was really hurting. I have to make sure I get up there (at state). I don't want them to leave me behind, or I'll be playing catch-up the entire race."

Guerra hit the line in 15:36.7, a 3.5-second personal best over the prior week's run at Lemon Lake and a near five-second improvement from last year's semistate. Runner-up Quinton Bock of Crown Point, who rallied in the final 150 to take second, was over 40 seconds back in 16:09.4.

"I was mostly trying to chase the course record," Guerra said. "Conditions weren't the most favorable. I walked a little of the course (beforehand), and it wasn't bad, but the girls (race) tore it up. It was super muddy, snake pit. Once I knew I wasn't

Highland's Lucas Guerra won the New Prairie

Semistate for the second time Saturday.

going to get the record, I just eased into my pace. Then looking at the clock, it was, hey, I can get a PR, so I turned it on from there. Last week, I had a good time, this week, I had another one, so I can't complain. I wouldn't say I'm happy, more or less, not even satisfied. I just have to be ready to get out there (at state)."

Second to Lowell's Gabe Sanchez in Terre Haute last season, Guerra will meet back up with Izaiah Steury of Angola, the only runner to beat them this season when he broke the course record at the New Prairie Invitational.

"I have to really be aware of what other guys are going to do," Guerra said. "If someone makes a move, I've got to cover it. Nobody's going to be taking it out from the gun (and running away) like today. It'll come down to who has more at the end, who has what left, taking it home the last 400 meters. I know I have the wheels. I ran a 51, 400 in track as a sophomore. A state championship's on the line, so I'm going to bring my biggest kick. It's my last ever race, I'm going to lay it on the line, and the results should work out in my favor. The time doesn't matter if I come out in first place."

La Porte's Cole Raymond followed Bock in the third at 16:13.6, with Chesterton's Matthew Streeter fourth (16:15.8).

"(Brayden Curnutt of) Western came up, Streeter came up, I held them off, but (Bock) went flying by me," Raymond said. "Second, third really means nothing for the team. I've been running solo all year. I'm waiting for that one meet where I'll be chasing guys in front of me. I know I can sit on them and it will pay dividends. Racing with them will pull me through to the top. I just can't let them get away. You can't get out slow (at state) or you're going to have a tough time moving up. If I have a strong middle of the race, there's no reason I can't be up there. I looked forward to conference because it was a home meet, but I've been thinking about state since track was cancelled."

Other local individual qualifiers were Jackson Bakker (Lowell, 10th), Josh Baltes (New Prairie, 12th), Zach Dunn (Merrillville, 13th), Justin Van Prooyen (Illiana Christian, 14th) and Jon Jon Baxter Jr. (Griffith, 17th).

Sam Tullis (Culver Academy), Josh Baltes (New Prairie), Justin Van Prooyen (Illiana Christian) and Zach Dunn (Merrillville) all qualified for state in Saturday's New Prairie Semistate. Baltes lost his left shoe halfway through the race.

Van Prooyen becomes Illiana's first state qualifier in the school's debut year in the Indiana High School Athletic Association. Baxter advances for the second time, making it last season with an 11th at semistate. Baltes, part of a rich family legacy at New Prairie, made it last year with his team.

"The name's brought a little pressure, but it's good to keep that going, having a Baltes to make it to state," he said. "I just knew who I had there and I went with them. I knew where I had to be. Training was never a problem (this season). I just started to see who was there, who to follow, and I didn't know who everyone was early in the season. Once I had some breakthrough races, I was able to get some names, put them with faces, and that put me where I needed to be. Something finally clicked with my training."

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