NEW CARLISLE -- In cross country, sometimes it's about how you start, but it's always about how you finish.
Valparaiso found itself lagging as late as the 3K mark in Saturday's New Prairie Invitational, but the Vikings rallied to pull out a tight four-team chase in the Class AAA race, 121-123, over Penn, with East Noble (142) third and Franklin Central (144) fourth.
"I think we were a little flat," Valpo coach John Arredondo said. "We had to figure it out. We did not get out like we wanted to. I'm OK with that. You give the best you can give today, that's all I can ask. These are learning races. Coming out of the woods, we were not in a good spot. The girls were a bit down, I was yelling, we've got to work to do. They listened. They worked harder the second half. It shows their fight."
Cheyanne Stock led Valpo in fifth (19:04.4) with Grace Thomas 15th and Elizabeth Ehrhardt 25th. Liv Hatch (36th) and Anika Anderson (40th) also scored.
"Cheyanne ran really well," Arredondo said. "She's finding her stride. It's just her second race. She felt good. She told me she even had more in the tank. Looking down the road, she's in a really good spot."
* Illiana Christian has gone from the new kid, small school feel good story in recent years to a regular name atop the leaderboard of races. It continued to make its presence felt at New Prairie, where the boys edged Rensselaer 131-132 for the boys title after the girls finished third at 120, behind Western (96) and Angola (113).
"It's good for the program," coach Jorge Ramos said. "Trying to build a team not easy. It was a good day to go at it, let's try to do our best, and the ball rolled our way. Good for them. They work hard. We'll take it in stride. There's a lot of great teams, great coaches in the area. We're ramping up for the post-season. There's not a lot of time left to get ready."
The trio of Fritz Olthof (11th), the sole senior in the lineup, Jarvis Mickles (12th)
Valparaiso Cheyanne Stock (fifth) led the
Vikings to the AAA title at New Prairie.
and Nolan Bouwman (15th) led the Vikings.
"It's a good, young group," Ramos said. "They all have a level of learning how to race, pulling together. You don't know what the effects of training are going to be. It wasn't our sharpest day, but it was a group effort and it came down to passing people at the end, getting it done. Ultimately it depends on if they would execute."
* JoJo LaPatra of Griffith rolled to a decisive win in the same race, clocking a personal-best 16:14.7. Northwest Crossroads Conference rival Jalen Strietelmeier of Highland (16:42.2) was second.
"I've been thinking about the race all week, it's good to go out and do what I wanted to do," LaPatra said. "I was running strong. Jalem was with me most of the race, then I opened. it up going into the forest. There were a few guys missing. (Hanover's) Ryan York moved up. I still went out and ran it as it is. I don't think anybody would complain with where I'm at. I've gotten so much better. Things are really looking good. I'm hoping this is the year. I just need to peak at the right time."
La Patra credits Panthers coach Shannon Scheidel for setting his path to success.
"She does a great job. She's really helped me get out what I need," he said. "She's coached state runners before. She knows what it takes."
A Avery Olthof placed 11th in the AA race to
help Illiana Christian finish third as a team at the New Prairie Invitational.
JoJo La Patra of Griffith won the New Prairie Invitational Class AA race.