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Politza finds her stride; wins NP Sectional

NEW CARLISLE -- Just do it.

John Arredondo's strategy for Kaylie Politza was a simple, yet effective one, straight out of a Nike commercial.

"She's struggled mentally a little bit coming here (from Lemont, Illinois) with all the changes," the Valparaiso coach said. "Just running. That was the thing. She looked really relaxed."

Politza turned the good vibes into her first win over Chesterton's Bailey Ranta, hitting the line in 18 minutes, 37.6 seconds, 14 clocks in front of New Prairie's Lilly Zelasko in Saturday's New Prairie Sectional. Ranta was third in 19:11.3.

"Normally, I'm not the greatest at making moves during a race," Politza said. "I'm really trying to keep my mind clear. It was really helpful going into the woods. I try to just focus on what's ahead of me, getting to the finish line as fast as I can."

The course's Agony Hill was Politza's undoing in her first visit to New Prairie last month, but took a more judicious approach this time, and it made a big difference.

"The first time, I pushed it up the hill too hard," she said. "I learned from that and I didn't kick it up the hill as hard. I was able to save my legs for that straightaway. I really excited with the way I finished because I didn't feel like I was dying. I think I was able to kick it in pretty good, which kind of surprised me. Normally, if I run a race like I did, I wouldn't be able to finish that hard."

Temperatures pushing into the 70s sapped a lot of sectional runners, but Politza actually preferred the spike in warmth. That and the push from Ranta both gave her a lift.

"I find that I get really tight when it's cold," Politza said. "It was a really nice change. (Ranta)'s been so good to race with. She's such a great competitor. She's an awesome runner. We were side by side and it was so awesome. It pushed me so much. I got so determined."

Arredondo hopes the win will be a nice bump for Politza as the post-season gets

Valpo's Kaylie Politza won Saturday's New

Prairie Sectional.


"I keep telling her, be patient, trust the process," he said. "We talked about using little different race tactics, trying something different, and it paid off for her. She came out of the woods, she looked strong. I just told her to maintain, put yourself in position where if it comes down to a kick, there are going to be very few who can catch her. She's a 2:13, 800 (meters) kid. She's got the wheels. To beat Bailey and Lilly -- she's been running really well -- it's nice victory. It's really nice to see her persevere."

Chesterton, which ended a 22-year Duneland Athletic Conference drought last week, did the same with the sectional, edging the Vikings 57-65.

"It was kind of a common theme. Coming off conference with that high, making sure we maintain that want-to, that desire to perform your best," Trojans coach Lindsay Moskalick said. "Overall, we got the job done. Five in the top 20 was kind of what we were hoping for. We had interchanging, but that just shows a good team. Someone sees someone having an off day, they know they have to move up and close the gap to help the team as a whole."

Besides Ranta, Bree Gentry took eighth (20:16.3) and Catherine White tenth (20:28.9).

"Alyssa (Dunlap) moved up nicely," Moskalick said. "Bree stepped up into a good No. 2 spot. Catherine bounced back from last week, like we expected her to. Kaylie just had a better race than Bailey. I think this showed Bailey, OK, I have to go in ready to race. She's going to bounce back. This will be fuel for the fire. I told the girls sometimes it's the bad races that make you want to get better. She had an off day. It happens."

Ranta looks to shake it off in the Chesterton Regional at Sunset Hill.

"I had a phenomenal race last Saturday and I just didn't really prepare myself as well as I did last Saturday," she said. "My body's just tired from training. I can't let this race get to me. I need it to make make work harder on my goals for the season. I have to use it as a lesson, get mad at it and hope to win at regionals."

Politza was backed by Cheyanne Stock (sixth, 19:48.2) and Grace Thomas (15th, 20:39.7) for Valpo.

"Cheyanne ran a real tough race. She was a little banged up this week. Grace rolled her ankle a little bit," Arredondo said. "Things happen. It wasn't our best effort. At the same time, you've got to beat who you run against. It's hard for me to be

Lilly Zelasko of New Prairie was the runner-up

in the New Prairie Sectional on Saturday.

upset. It appears we're right there. We'll keep plugging away and see what happens."

The remaining three teams to advance were Wheeler (75), La Porte (102) and Portage (104). La Porte's Ella Bensz finished fourth.

"I was actually thinking like five through eight so I did better," Bensz said. "Right from the beginning, I took on the Wheeler girl (Emma Hellwege) and I just stuck behind her the whole way until I knew I could take her at the very end. I saw (Ranta) in front of me and I was like, oh, I'm right up there with them, I better go. I was surprised by that."

New Prairie didn't make it as a team, but had six girls advance as individual qualifiers, led by Zelasko.

"It was pretty awesome," she said. "The rankings had me up there and my goal was to go out there and do better, and it worked. I just held on to those first two girls and tried to go hard the last mile."

South Central's Adelaide Young Brust (12th) annd Boone Grove's Kyra Flesvig (16th) topped the remaining runners move on. La Porte's Ella Bensz took fourth in

Saturday's New Prairie Sectional.

"There are always bad days," Young Brust said. "Better now than a couple weeks from now. Training's been good. It's been a hard week. I was just tired. My quads felt dead. Once you start slowing down, it's hard to get back going."

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