NEW CARLISLE -- Sore legs and light competition had Karina James tempering her expectations for Saturday's New Prairie Invitational.
"I had no intentions of running as well as I did," the Lowell junior said, almost apologetically, after knocking out an 18:09.7 to run away with the Class AAA Division. "That's so exciting. I always like to get out quicker, but I honestly didn't go out with a game plan other than to try to run one of the fastest times on the course today. I didn't think I was doing nearly as good as I was. Coach (Scott) Coil, right before, said, I know you're going to go out fast, just take the second mile back to a tempo and see whatever you have left in the tank. That stuck with me through the race, and I just used that."
James crossed 39 seconds ahead of runner-up Lillian Zelasko of host New Prairie and her time was 30 seconds better than AAAA winner Bailey Ranta of Chesterton.
"I knew I was in the second division," James said. "I knew there was going to be talent, just not as much variety. I knew there could be someone with me, I just didn't know how long. I just went out by feel. It's the point of the season where training's at its peak. My legs will be kind of heavy the next couple weeks until we start tapering. It's one of my most sore weeks, which is normal. I went out and felt mile by mile. I didn't feel my best, so I slowed down by Agony (Hill), and it ended up being in my favor."
It was the second New Prairie Invite win for James, who took the AAA race last season, when the field included all of the region's top teams. The addition of a
Lowell's Karina James rolled to the Class 3A
title at Saturday's New Prairie Invitational with
a time of 18:09.7
fourth class, made to limit the size of the fields, left James and the Red Devils in AAA. The temperature was also about 30 degrees cooler.
"The weather couldn't be more perfect," she said. "I was warm when I started. I ad so many layers on. It's always good to run a solid time when by yourself. That shows what you can do when you have someone with you. That's exciting."
Better Late Than Never
A misunderstanding on the bus schedule forced Chesterton to improvise for transportation.
The Trojans were supposed to start boarding at 5 a.m., but someone else thought it was 5:50.
"It was, well, we're just going to have to go," Ranta said. "We got here late."
When coach Lindsey Moskalick was given the OK for the girls to drive themselves, they hopped in a group of five cars and made the impromptu trip.
"Luckily, it's a quick drive over," she said.
All was well that ended well for Ranta, who navigated the early-morning dew and 41-degree temperature at start in 18:39.9, over 23 seconds ahead of Valpo's Kaylie Politza in her debut with the Vikings.
"I was really looking forward to running against her," Ranta said. "I just had to break her at some point in the race. We had to have a mask on in the car. I was in the middle of the three. At some point, I was like, I wish I was in the bus right now, but it was kind of good. Actually, it felt like practice because we were all in cars. Everything happens for a reason. We had a rough morning, but this went so much better.
It all added up to an outpouring of emotion after the race for Ranta, who was touched by having former teammate Ashley Craycraft there to watch the Trojans run.
"She's my role model. I try to be like her," Ranta said. "I really needed this race. I had a really good day. I kept staying positive, focusing on what I need to accomplish, not let my mind get the best of me, keep pushing through, never stop. I like (early races). I had a long-sleeve (shirt) on, but I decided to take it off. I usually don't do that. At first and (the) middle (of the race), my arms got kind of cold, but I didn't let that stop me. I just had to think, keep going, you're almost there, picture myself at which mark I'm at, as I kept moving."
In the end, Ranta quashed the hype of a match-up with Politza.
"I heard a lot of good things about her," Politza said. "She's an awesome competitor. It was great to be able to push with her for the first two miles. She took off after Agony Hill. I'm looking forward to the next race against her."
Adelaide Young Brust of South Central has a few items on her senior check list. One of them was winning her division at New Prairie.
She marked that box Saturday, capturing the Class A in 20:08.6.
"I was second last year, it's senior year, I really wanted to finish it up nicely," Young Brust said. "Everything this year is up in the air. Every step I take, it's, OK, this might be the last time I do this, at least as a high schooler. Cross country has given me so much the last four years, I'm really just soaking it all in and having so much fun. I haven't approached (college) through the lens of being an athlete. The thing with running, it's a lifelong sport. You don't need a team, equipment, you can just go out and do it. Coach (Isaac Bules) always says, I don't care about your 5K time, I care about that half-marathon you're going to run when you're 27."
Young Brust's best time was a sub-20 in last year's semistate. Saturday's clocking was a season and invite best.
"I've always gone with the strategy, stay with them, stay with them, then try to go," she said. "Really this year, it's a much happier race if it's OK, just go. Normally I'm in Vermont for the summer, working, but the camp was closed this year, so I was able to be here and train more. Hopefully, (my time) can keep coming down. I'm playing the long game. Hopefully I'll still have a month left. I'm still building mileage, so my legs aren't exactly fresh but I'm getting stronger. I'm in a big training block."
Which brings Young Brust back to her check list.
"More anything, I'd like to experience
Adelaide Young Brust of South Central won
the Class A race at Saturday at New Prairie.
state," she said. "I've always been a huge procrastinator. I work best under pressure, when I leave it to the last minute, and I guess this is no exception. Well, if I'm going to do it, I've got to do it now."
No Hailey, no problem
Wheeler didn't have top runner Hailey Orosz due to a lower back tightness and with the state-aspiring Bearcats unable to run up in class, she sat out. Even so, Wheeler, which was also minus its sixth runner, Dottie Heuring, thumped the AA field with 55 points, well ahead of runner-up Winamac (132).
"Everybody going through the same thing -- a little banged up, tired," coach Louie Guillen said. "It's the middle of the season. We didn't have a June, some didn't have July, we get right into August, we're racing, and now everybody a little behind. You try to fit so much in a small amount of time, it's hard. We've never won New Prairie. I don't care if it's in A, AA, AAA, AAAA, it's a big deal. We put it out that way, prove you're the best team here, make history. We said we were looking for five, six, seven to step up and they did. It was great."
Emma Hellwege took third in 19:48.6 with freshmen Lucca Oakley and Elise Byers and sophomore Emily Enright crossing in succession, seven, eight and nine.
"I went to their conference (meet) last year, Luka and Elise," Hellwege said. "You could see, if they grew a little bit, they'd be up where we are. It's really encouraging. It definitely helps motivate me. We just have to keep going at the rate we're going."
Without Orosz and the first two runners well ahead, Hellwege found herself largely in no man's land.
"She's definitely a bigger push," Hellwege said. "I don't look into the other girls who are running. I'm not able to focus on my race. I just give it my all. I was expecting to lead the way and obviously I wasn't that. They passed me in the beginning and I didn't want to go back and forth the rest of this meet, (unless) I have something extra at the end. Obviously, this race is hard. The past two years, when I go into the woods, my arm would go numb, O don't know why. I was going to use an arm sleeve, but when I'm in the sun, I'll be sweating, so I won't need it. I probably should've put it on. It's so weird, I shake out my arms, but I don't want to off put my stride. I just try to push it away."
Morgan Township topped Faith Christian for the team title in Class A.