ST. JOHN -- In cross country, sweat equity is the dividends that runners reap in races from the investments they've made in practice.
For Chesterton's Catherine White, a productive spring and summer have vaulted the junior from the reserve ranks to the No. 2 spot on one of the area's top teams.
"During the whole quarantine, I guess I had a lot of time on my hands, so I put the time into my running," White said after finishing second to teammate Bailey Ranta in Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invitational at Lake Central. "There wasn't really much else to do. The more time I invested in it, I was seeing results, and I wanted to do better. My sister (Rebecca, a 2018 Chesterton graduate) was on varsity, we're competitive, so we always want to try to get ahead of each other. It made me really want to get on varsity."
It's been a rapid progression for White, the Trojans' 15th runner last season. She didn't do cross country until high school and was a sprinter/high jumper in middle school track.
"I was right on the bubble for varsity last year, so this year, I've got to do it," White said. "The coaches are wonderful. I love them and the team so much. Everyone is so supportive. They had a plan for us. We just have to trust the plan and follow it. It's been a lot of fun, to see what I can do, and just the fact we get to have a season. I'm just kind of doing my thing. If I start to feel nervous, I just tell myself, it's just a race, it's not life or death."
Coach Lindsay Moskalick noticed White during the winter, though she didn't have the chance to see the results as COVID-19 wiped out the track season.
"She was really starting to come on, so we were bummed we didn't have a season," Moskalick said. "She was hungry, she had been training hard. When we went on our COVID break, she continued to train and followed the training when we started in May. After her sophomore year, she just decided she wanted to be good. She really just emerged as a really solid No. 2 with each race, She's going to get more confidence in herself. She's so driven, it's going to be fun to watch what she does this season. She definitely has some talent and the work ethic."
Her improvement is also a lift to Ranta, the Trojans front-runner who hit the line in 19:04. White was a tick under 20 minutes.
"I really like that she's with me now," Ranta said. "Catherine's been working hard this summer. She's a good No. 2 for us. God forbid anything happens to me, I have a good backup. She's been a good leader as well, helping out the team a lot. I was asking her, what made you want to step it up? She said, I just want to work myself harder. She maybe wants to run in college, too."
Ranta, running a cross country race at L.C. for the first time, had no trouble navigating the layout.
"It was just the one hill on the back, it wasn't anything I couldn't adapt to," she said. "I knew it was going to be flat. You just open your stride more.
I just tried to follow coach's plan, do what she had me do. She had me break away at a certain point."
Despite the one-two finish, the host Indians edged Chesterton 41-43 for the title, a bump for L.C. given the absence of No. 2 runner Taylor Kosiek.
"We had a lot of talks after last week, what we need to do, what we need to improve on," Indians coach Morgan Kleinaman said. "We also talked about stepping up to make up for (Kosiek). Like the first weekend, we had to go out and show who we are. The home course was obviously a big pride thing. I was so pleased with all of them without having Taylor."
L.C. ran on the revamped spread for the first time Thursday, when changes were finalized to move the finish to the stadium, where fans were allowed to watch.
"It was brand new to everyone," Kleinaman said. "We talked about how it's different than the normal course. We talked about taking advantage of going down the incline, going 10,
Catherine White of Chesterton finished
second in Saturday's Rudy Skorupa
Invitational at Lake Central.
15 hard steps afterward. We said getting out was huge. The trails are very narrow. We wanted to be in a good position from the start. If we didn't get it, we'd have to make up for it when we came back out here where it opened up. The varsity said they actually liked the course a lot. They love going up the 'beast' (the hill) instead of down it and using the incline to go down. I told the girls we have to (pass) people back there."
Natalie Kransky paced L.C. in third, just behind White. Rachel Narjes was sixth and Abigail Martisek ninth, freshman Addison Roth 11th and Carly Davis 12th.
"They have been so interchangeable," Kleinaman said. "Coming into the season, we assumed (Kransky) would be No. 1 since she was No. 2 most of last season. We told her, you've got to go out and show you're that No. 1 runner, be competitive with the other No. 1s from other schools. She hung with them. We've always had such a good pack, we've always wanted that top runner to get those low points and the pack keeps close distance to them. Just go out and compete. That was some of our downfall last week. We didn't compete. The DAC schools have a healthy competition. We knew going into the season how close it was going to be. Normally, we don't see Chesterton until Lowell. It's nice to see them early."
Despite the narrow loss, Moskalick was glad to be in the meet since Chesterton was originally scheduled to be off.
L.C. made up its ground on Chesterton's four and five, which were 14th and 21st, respectively.
"Ciara (Bonner) and Alyssa (Dunlap) are
brand new," Moskalick said. "Each race, they're going to get better and better. I think they learned, OK, we need to get out a little more aggressively. They're going to learn how important each race, how important each person is. Even six, seven, they are as important as everyone else. They can help all of our scores."
Bree Gentry of Chesterton holds off Lake Central's Rachel Narjes for fifth place in Saturday's Rudy Skorupa Invitational at L.C.
At Wheeler, the host Bearcats won their fourth Greater South Shore Conference title in a row, narrowly missing a perfect score in registering a total of 17. Hanover was runner-up with 40. Hailey Orosz broke her own course record again, shaving 17 seconds off her prior top time there by finishing in 19:01.82. Emma Hellwege was second (19:14.67) and Lucca Okeley third (20:57.95). Maddie Kartz of Hanover briefly disrupted the Wheeler pack, placing fourth, but Elise Byers and Emily Enright followed across the line for the Bearcats.