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Home course advantage: La Porte's Raymond, Sobecki win Jack Bransford Classic

La PORTE -- Success in cross country for Brenna Sobecki is largely determined between her ears.

"I have the physical ability," the La Porte junior said. "I've really been working on my mindset this summer, reading a lot of books about improving my mentality, keeping it where I wanted it."

Sobecki used Saturday's Jack Bransford Classic at a sweaty Kesling Park to show she's made strides, both figuratively and literally, running to a 30-second victory with a winning time of 19 minutes, 48.39 seconds.

"I usually start out fast," Sobecki said. "My goal to take charge from the beginning and see what happened. It's our first race, it doesn't really matter; just go out there and see what I had. One Lake Central girl was trying to push the pace the first 250, but I didn't want anyone to get ahead of me. I took the race out fast, I was expecting to slow down a little bit. I was getting a pretty bad cramp. I have never gotten that. I was alone the majority of the race. Kudos to Lila (Gillisse). She was by my side for quite a bit."

With Ella Bensz (32nd at state) graduated, Sobecki is the Slicers' clear No. 1, followed by Gillisse, a promising freshman who took third (21:00.49) in her first high school race.

"I always try to set their mindsets straight," Sobecki said. "When we get up to the line, they get very nervous. I'm like, hey girls, this is for fun, we could be in quarantine and this could be taken away. This is a privilege we get to do this. I try to keep that mindset for the team as much as I can."

Addison Roth was runner-up in 20:18.27 for team champion Lake Central.

"From the gun, she just went for it," La Porte coach Corbin Slater said of Sobecki. "She raced like a beast. She's just a tough cookie."

The overall race was decidedly blue and red with a dozen Lake Central (eight) and Crown Point (four) runners in the top 16. The Indians scored 37, the Bulldogs 46.

"We had a tough week," Indians coach Morgan Kleinaman said. "We went up in mileage. We were inside two days due to lightning delays. We had to alter those workouts. We haven't really been used to that (heat). It was a little more humid than last week for sure."

Sydney Churilla (fifth), Isabelle Martisek (ninth), Mackenzie Smith (10th), Rachel Narjes (11th), Carly Davis (13th), Taylor Kosiek (15th) and Krista Kulacz (16th) were separated by just 40 seconds.

"Addi looked great the whole race. She just kept making that gap bigger and bigger behind her, trying to catch Brenna," Kleinaman said. "Sydney had another great race. I feel like (Smith)'s settling in now, getting the groove of high school racing. She looked great. It's a big change from middle school. With her being the only freshman on varsity, there's no one else brand new who's not been here, figuring it out together, but the girls have really welcomed her into that varsity pack."

C.P. closed its gap with Lake Central from their first meeting with Eli Pycraft fourth, Caitlyn Deriwinski sixth and Destiny Lopez seventh.

In the boys race, La Porte senior Cole Raymond defended his title, clocking 16:31.11, to pace the Slicers to their first team championship in his career and and their first at the Bransford since 2016, Slater estimated.

"Crown Point's one of the favorites to win the semistate and we beat 'em pretty good," said Raymond, who wore sunglasses in the race. "It's all about the team for me this year. I already have a somewhat good individual resume. Certain races, I'll go all out, let it rip, but I'm going to put all my focus on our guys. My biggest goal was to pace our guys. It's the same guys, a lot of them just put in the hard work. They just took the next step in training. Last year, our two here was 29th. We're really solid. We're training. We're running hard. We were talking, none of us felt our best, and we can run like that. I'm excited."

La Porte's win was a surprise in and of itself, but the margin (33-76) was even more of a head turner.

"You just never know. Some kids could've been contact traced," Slater said. "You could tell our guys were fit. I didn't know how that would translate to the course yet, but I'm not 100 percent surprised. Last year, we got embarrassed in our own meet. We said we can't let than happen again. It's all the same group. It's 16 guys that want to be there full-time. It's a fun group right now. They feed off each other's energy. There's a lot of great leadership, both the guys and the girls. I feel like I'm not even having to do much. They're kind of self-led."

Jay Pallai took third, just in front of Brayden Sobecki (fourth), with Stevie Klimczak 10th and Mason Tulacz 15th.

"I was impressed with the maturity of their race strategy," Slater said. "They raced smart. They raced strong. A lot of them were complaining about sore legs. You want to see them do something like that with fatigue on their legs. It got hotter throughout the race. Cole was just really smooth the first mile-and-a-half. I told him, after that, now you can start racing. He's just so strong and consistent. He didn't get pressed that hard."

Raymond checked in 10 seconds ahead of Morgan Township's Owen Thomas, whose Cherokees (79) were a close third behind C.P.

"I wanted to go like two mile, then I kind of audibled, waited go at like the 4K," Raymond said. "Two weeks down in Lafayette, I'll start to bring it there, kind of regroup a little, get ready for New Prairie, then be ready to go when it matters. I wasn't even there half the time this summer because I had a long track season. I took a while off. They took a whole new jump this summer. They were like five weeks ahead of me. July 10 was my first day. I'm in pretty good shape, just not in elite shape. Once I get rolling, I'll be a lot better."

At Hebron, Lowell's Karina James ran with the Dave Walker Invite with Kankakee Valley's Justin Hoffman capturing the top spot in the boys race. Harrison (West Lafayette) took both team titles, followed by Lowell.

At Oxbow Park in Elkhart, Chesterton's girls won the 9/10 and 11/12 divisions. New Prairie's Lillian Zelasko registered an impressive victory, timing 18:52.73, 46 seconds ahead of the Trojans; Bailey Ranta. Penn and Chesterton went one-two in both boys races. The Trojans' Cole Dolson was fourth in the 11/12 division and Evan O'Connor took third in the 9/10 field.

Brenna Sobecki and Cole Raymond of La Porte won the individual titles in Saturday's Jack Bransford Classic at Kesling Park. The Slicers boys were also the team champions.

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