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Just out of reach: Valpo's Dillabaugh misses state medal by one place; Chesterton leads local teams

TERRE HAUTE -- It's an age old question in sports. Is it worse to lose by a little or lose by a lot?

For Jimmy Dillabaugh, the answer after Saturday's state cross country finals was a little.

"By far," the Valparaiso senior said.

The top 20 finishers earn a medal, while the next five are named all-state by the coaches association, which proved to be a small consolation to Dillabaugh, who placed 21st in 15:51.1, just over a second short of the awards podium at the Lavern Gibson Championship Course.

"I was right there," he said. "I'm happy with my result, but I didn't reach my goal. It's unfortunate. A lot of the guys who got top 20, I had beaten all season."

As Dillabaugh turned for home, a roughly quarter-mile straightaway to the finish line, he was about 14th, but when he reached down for something extra, it just wasn't there.

"It was all physical at that point," he said. "That's the sport. That happens. I learned from last year. I went out way too slow and it cost me. I switched that up. I got out a lot faster. This year, I had gotten used to leading races. Throughout my career, I'd never been that guy. I kind of know how to race from behind. I got myself in good position and just let the train pull me along until the last 300, 400 meters."

Jimmy Dillabaugh of Valparaiso finished 21st in the state finals meet.

Just back of Dillabaugh in 23rd at 15:54.8, Hanover Central's Ryan York was happier with his result.

"My goal was all-state," he said. "I got that. Based off the results and predictions, it was a stretch for that to happen. It was a great race. Truthfully, I didn't really have a plan. I was assuming I was like 40th, the first K. Since I know what it's like here, I just kept trying to pick people off, make moves around people, latch on to people I knew further ahead of me; all right, I know that guy, I need to get up to them. It worked out well for me."

Ryan York of Hanover Central came in 23rd at the state meet.

Other top 50 finishers from the area were Griffith's Joey LaPatra (31st), Valparaiso's Mason Nobles (32nd), Munster's Ralph Brown III (39th) and Chesterton's Jackson Tuck (46th) and Evan O'Connor (49th).

"Jimmy had a great run," Vikings coach Aaron Crague said. "He was in the mid-teens for a good while. He got out smart, moved his way up a little bit. State is so good, it's so deep, so many guys come in so close together. You blink and three, four guys get around you. Mason ran well also. He'd gotten to the mid-20s at one point and had a chance to get all-state as well. This course doesn't play any favorites. It's always a challenge to run well here. The middle stretch can be a game changer for a lot of people. You work through that all right, you have a chance at doing OK. We talked about it all year long, hanging on with lead pack, giving yourself a chance."

Chesterton led local teams in ninth place with 304 points.

"We were solid like we have been all year," Trojans coach Tim Ray said. "Our fifth man was Tyler Herzog and he had a 15-second PR. Our four did what they have done all year -- ran with confidence and a little chip on their shoulder as we were picked to finish 16th. This senior class won two semistates and finished the best we have at state since 2009. I couldn't be prouder of them."

Roster attrition took its toll on Valparaiso, which wound up 13th (352).

"We were hoping to be top 10," Crague said. "One thing we struggled with all year was our health. It really came back to get us. Sammy Sienkowski and Tommy Krueger didn't run. We tried to get (Sienkowski) rested, healthy, but he struggled last week, and we weren't sure he was there yet. We ran Zeke (Bloom), who ran well at the sectional and regional, but he collapsed and didn't finish. There comes a point, time just runs out and have to do what you can do. I hoped if the front runners did the front running and the pack packed, it would give us a chance, but the pack broke up a little bit. The score can run up in a hurry."

La Porte (19th, 444) and Lake Central (21st, 465) rounded out the local contingent.

"It was very hard to gauge what success was," Slicers coach Corbin Slater said. "You're trying to keep a count on everybody, the teams were trying to battle in the back. It just seems to go so quick. Before you know it, you blink and it's over. I even told the guys when we looked at where we ranked in the state, we've got to run our race and run within ourselves. Overall, I am very proud of their attitudes and efforts throughout the season. They kept the faith all season and never lost sight of the plan."

Valparaiso's Mason Nobles (32nd) and Joey LaPatra of Griffith (31st) finish side by side at the state finals meet.

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