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  • Writer's picturepeters1119

Look, ma, no shades: La Porte's Raymond finishes sixth at state finals; Slicers top local contingent

TERRE HAUTE -- Look, ma, no shades.

Cole Raymond ditched the sunglasses that became part of his identity this season at the start of Saturday's state finals meet.

"It started raining and it was getting in my eyes, so I just said, screw it, and took them off," the La Porte senior said. "It's been a while for sure. No arm sleeves or anything, just good old racing."

Minus the accessory swag, Raymond still raced like Raymond, enjoying his best finish in three trips to the Lavern Gibson Championship Course by crossing the line in sixth place.

"Super happy," Raymond said. "I came in ranked 12th and 18th in two polls, so I'm pretty pumped about it. I led at the 2K and I wasn't pressing, too. I was just trying to go. I was in 10th at the 4K and caught three guys. I'm going to be honest, I didn't know it was there. Everyone was screaming at me and what we've been talking about, I'm running for more than myself. I ran proud to wear the La Porte uniform, proud to wear the neon. That final 400 was for La Porte. My freshman year, I know Mitchell Gits had a great kick, so I guess it's just La Porte guys having kicks."

Raymond hit the timing mat in 15:49.2, holding off Carmel's Charlie Shuman and Jack Moore of Northridge.

"I'm not surprised by him leading at the 2K. That's just who he is," LP coach Corbin Slater said. "We've talked about that impulsive, intuitive nature. He makes a decision and he sticks with it. When he does that, it seems to work out. He allows those adrenaline boosts to take him in a positive way. At a K, I was kind of worried, he started looking back. I said guys are going to come back and he caught three in the last K. He said that helped refocus him. There's always at the end of a race, a big pack, and there's going to be people who fall off. He had that last boost of energy."

Slater spoke to Raymond beforehand and senses a different air than previous state meets

"It's funny because at state track, when he got fourth in the (1,600), I remember asking him if he was nervous and he said, no, not at all," Slater said. "Honestly, it was probably the least nervous he's ever been and he was the same way coming into this race, just confidence that if he put himself in position, he was going to stay in position. The last couple years, he kind of got overwhelmed by the experience. All season, state was all that mattered from an individual standpoint. Everything else was team, team, team, team, team. I told him this week he can be as selfish as he needs to be."

From the outside looking in, Raymond may seem like he's drawing attention to himself at times, but teammates and coaches say that's not who he is. He exudes a vibe that rubs some the wrong way, though it was his edge that helped the rest of the Slicers push themselves to higher levels.

"He's just different than any other person I've ever coached," Slater said. "I've had to adapt to his approach, increase my energy for him, take on a different persona as a coach even to fuel him a little more. In a lot of ways, we're kind of a yin and yang. I try to keep the calm, he brings the energy. I could not be more proud of him. We said five to 10 all season. It's a great way to go out."

Raymond's finish was the best among area runners with teammate Jay Pillai next, just finishing all-state honors in 27th at 16:19.1.

"I had no idea until the 400," Pillai said. "I heard, you're top 30. I just went. I don't how I did it. I still have no idea. I knew I had to get out. I hung with Cole, then dropped back a little bit so I didn't get out too fast. At the K, I was top 30, top 40. I did not let anyone pass me. My mentality was just have fun. No expectations. I was ranked to get 80th. I was way up there."

Brayden Sobecki, Mason Tulacz and Tyler Troy completed the top five for La Porte, which took 14th (350) as a team.

"I think (Pillai) was (rated as high as 80-something," Slater said. "I told him 40 to 60 and you'll be comfortable in that position. He was comfortable the whole race. He just hawked and hawked and hawked and hawked. I love it. He's a tough kid. He likes to compete. He's never been afraid to take chances. I'm proud of everyone, one to seven, who they are, what they've become this season. It's been pretty fun to watch."

Capping his prep career with a medal in a race he shared with his teammates, Raymond couldn't realistically ask for a better ending.

"I was more of a me guy. I don't know if that was more just reputation," he said. "This year, I was all for the team. I was team-oriented all year. I wanted to win meets. These guys bought in and I love it. I'm so proud of these guys. They worked their butts off. They deserve it more than me."

La Porte's Cole Raymond, left, finished sixth in the state finals meet Saturday. The Slicers were the top local team in the field, placing 14th.

Valparaiso followed LP in 15th at 379.

"I'd give us a 'B,' Vikings coach Aaron Crague said. "It wasn't our best day, it wasn't our worst day. Whenever you come to the state meet, it's always a learning curve. None of those guys have run here other than the State Preview. That's different. Yeah, you get to run the course and think about how you want to approach pacing and things, but not in field of such quality. It's a crowd. It can be difficult to find room to maneuver through to thread that needle. Getting that experience was invaluable, I think. "

Freshman Mason Nobles (67th) led the Vikings with Jimmy Dillabaugh 81st and Joel Bryant 90th.

"The three freshmen in the top seven most of the year have done great things," Crague said. They changed the game for us. I hope they take the lessons they learned and will able to build off that to provide a springboard for future success. I'm happy (Bryant) got a chance to run here. He's been a real team player."

Bryant was the only senior in the lineup for Valpo and the only runner who was on the state roster in 2019.

"It means a lot. Last year, we didn't qualify and just coming down here with a lot of underclassmen and being only returning state runner, it's definitely a great experience for future years," he said. "It was definitely a different experience than any other races I've run so far. It's a little cold. You've got sun, you've got rain, you've got clouds, you can feel (the mud). You've got everything. Even in semistate, there's plenty of room after a K to do whatever you wanted to. That's not the case. It's the best of everything, the best in the entire state. It's a much better way to end it."

Crown Point (482) placed 20th, led by Weston Hulen (101st).

"The boys ran really well considering the conditions," Bulldogs coach Erik Forehand said. "We talked about coming in ranked 24th but that we felt like we could get as high as 20th, not trying to do anything heroic and just going out and competing. We also did not want to use the state meet as a race that we were just happy to be in, that we wanted to show up and compete at the highest level we have all season."

Crown Point's Nathan Murphy and Luke Neir of Warsaw sprint to the finish of Saturday's state finals meet.

Chesterton scored 489 to finish 21st, with Cole Dolson 106th and Jackson Tuck 110th.

"We wanted top 17, 18," Dolson said. "We wanted to beat last year."

Morgan Township was 22nd (500) in its state meet debut with Owen Thomas 79th, Ty Ivanyo 114th and Josh Kutkiewicz 125th.

"The top three got out strong," Cherokees coach Bob Witt said. "We weren't just happy to come down here. For these guys, it's a learning experience. We've got a bunch of juniors who have some talent, so hopefully this gives them a good taste of what they can do next year if they want to work that hard. With all the hoopla they went through, I was a little leery. We tried to keep them dialed in, but let them have some fun, enjoy it. It's a reward. They loved it, a 1A school lining up with Carmel and all those other big schools. When the announcer introduces us as the first time, the kids thought that was pretty awesome."

Merrillville's Zach Dunn (42nd) was the only other local runner in the top 50.

Morgan Township's Ty Ivanyo, left, approaches the finish of Saturday's state championship meet. The Cherokees were their school's first boys teams to advance to the finals.

* Crague was among those recognized for the silver anniversary of the 1997 state meet, where the Lake Central graduate placed seventh.

"I got a letter in the mail a couple months ago, what's this from the hall of fame?" Crague said. "It's funny how 25 years goes by. Where's the time go? I never would've thought 25 years ago, standing up there in Bloomington, that I would be coaching my own team. It's crazy. The sport has been very, very good to me. It's opened a lot of doors for me, educationally, chances to go to races at places, meet people I never would have thought. Hopefully, I've been able to share the passion with the next generation, teach them, bring them along."

The only person with a team of runners present, Crague received a loud ovation from the Vikings.

"They were probably trying to get me to hurry up so we can go get food," he said. "It was cool. They were going to honor the 75 (years). You're talking in your 90s. Fifty years from now, hopefully I'll be able to come back."

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