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La Porte goes one-two; depth-charged Lake Central controls its home turf

ST. JOHN -- Competition.

Every good runner needs it and wants it.

"It's always good to win," Brenna Sobecki said. "It feels like a different race now that I'm up front. My freshman year, I was on JV. It's a big switch. It's just really exciting. It makes it so more fun. When you're winning, you have more confidence. Actually, I was expecting Chesterton to be here, then I saw they weren't here and I didn't see Kaylie (Politza) anywhere. It's always fun to learn against your competitors and get better from them."

With Valparaiso's Politza on a college visit to Wake Forest, the La Porte junior had Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invitational at Lake Central pretty much all to herself, reaching the line in 19 minutes, 39 seconds. The second piece of good news for the Slicers was the progression of freshman Lila Gillisse, who crossed next in 20:13.

"I'm so proud of her," Sobecki said. "It took me three years to get to where I am and she's already there. She's phenomenal. That's a big feat for a freshman, for anybody. I would be in my head more at practices if she wasn't there. It's so important to have her by my side in training. It's going to be exciting the next two years with both of us."

The two met three years ago when Gillisse was a sixth grader. After Sobecki went on to high school, she said she would come to practice every once in a while and run with Gillisse at Kesling, and just talk about how it's going.

"She really helps me in practice," said Gillisse, who ran a 5:55 mile in eighth grade. "She gives me someone to talk to when we're running. She tells me all about how to get faster. I'm trying to keep her in my eye sight in races to push me more. If I do, I know I'm not too far out of reach. I've always liked running. I've always liked the longer distance. For me, the longer, the better. I'm also a swimmer. They go well together. Swimming helps my running and running helps my swimming. I like 'em both, but I really like the team of cross country probably the best."

Sobecki, 22nd at last year's semistate, credits her progress to an epiphany of sorts that took place in track last spring. She had just been vaccinated for COVID-19, but wasn't two weeks out from her shot when she was contact traced. It initially appeared she wouldn't be able to run in the sectional, but the time frame was re-measured and she was good to go.

"It was a really big scare," Sobecki said. "I was like, they gave me a chance again. I have to prove I'm not just a runner, I'm a good runner. I'm meant to be in this place. It was a huge change in my mindset. I realized races aren't just something I can do every day. They can be taken away like that."

Despite the overbearing heat, Sobecki saw the race pace go out about 10 seconds faster in the first mile than a week earlier at Kesling.

"The girls started out really fast and I didn't want them in front of me, so I tried to make my gap as quick as possible to mess with their head a little bit," she said. "I've always had speed. When I was younger, I lived in Brown County. We'd run trails and I would get mad if wasn't in front. It's just a personality thing. I feel like I'm learning, the more experiences I have in racing."

The 14-year old Gillisse dropped 47 seconds off her time in the Bransford Classic.

"I'm hoping to drop more," she said. "I felt like the heat messed with me more last week. I knew it was going to be hot. The faster I can get it done with, the faster I can cool down. Everybody's going through the same thing."

La Porte finished third as a team, following Lake Central (29) and Valpo (70) with 78.

"I think Lila, one week of maturity, she just said, that girl beat me last week and I really wanted to beat her. It's that simple in her mind," Slicers coach Corbin Slater said. "It's just trying to keep that mindset the best they can. Brenna and Cole (Raymond) really set the tone for both sides. They're bulldogs. They're tough. They don't put up with much. It's nice to have that leadership. I kind of send them what they need to do and they do it."

L.C. dominated its meet with six runners in the top nine, led by Addison Roth (20:22). Taylor Kosiek was fifth, Nikki Vollrath sixth, Sydney Churilla seventh, Mackenzie Smith eighth and Carly Davis ninth.

"It's your home meet," Indians coach Morgan Kleinaman said. "You want to come out and do whatever you can to win it. We talked a lot this week about just being strong that third mile. Watching the race last week, OK, that's what we need to work on. We were kind of forgetting what the end of the race looks like. That was our big talk this week -- just go after it, be competitive. That pack made huge moves. The last time they passed me, that huge Valpo chunk was in front of them. The next time they came around, they were all in front of Valpo. Talking afterwards, they said, once one of us went, the rest went with her. They raced really well."


Brenna Sobecki of La Porte won Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invite at Lake Central. The Indians' Addison Roth helped her team take first with a third-place finish.


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