Second to one: Highland's Guerra is runner-up in state meet once again
TERRE HAUTE -- Some days, even a runner's best isn't good enough.
As Lucas Guerra considered what he may not have done in his second-place finish at Saturday's state championship, the Highland senior was offered the suggestion that maybe it was just a case of crediting Angola's Izaiah Steury.
"I would say regret but I know that was my best effort all year," Guerra said. "Obviously, I wanted to come out and go for the win, but it didn't happen in my favor. Izaiah's a really good guy. He has a bright future. He's made huge improvements. He was running good. He definitely deserved to win, too. He could've just had a better day. It's not like he just showed up today. I ran a race I never have before. I'm so used to taking it from the gun. It was the most strategic race of my life."
In the end, Guerra positioned himself the way he wanted to, being within striking distance of Steury as they hit the final straightaway. He just couldn't get it done as Steury pulled away to win in 15:23.7. Guerra followed at 15:34.4.
"It was definitely a different race than we had at New Prairie," he said. "I was not going too fast at the start. Will (Clark) and Kole (Mathison) burnt themselves out chasing after him. I felt my best chance was to beat him at the end. There wasn't really another way I would have rather done it. That was the smartest way to do it. The last kilometer, I started gaining ground, I just couldn't finish it off. A bunch of people from town came to watch me. It really motivated me coming around that corner. I literally said to myself, I want this, I started picking it up. I realized I hit the wall and I couldn't pick it up any more."
Highland coach Rob Lukowski called the race Guerra's 'best of his high school career, without a doubt.'
"Izaiah's a phenomenal athlete," Lukowski said. "Lucas has never backed down from jumping on the train, no matter how fast it's going, sometimes, to his detriment. In the past, it hasn't been that important because you've always got next year. We went through a lot of race film, and thought that if he sat off the hot pace and was still within three, four seconds of the lead the majority of race, he had the wheels to make the connection in the final kilometer. If he's in the conversation, he can turn it over better than anybody. It just didn't work out that way. You could see him really powering down the hill, trying to close on him and every time, it was like Steury knew."
Afterward, Guerra was torn on his feelings, coming up short of his goal versus the cherished experiences of his prep career.
Lucas Guerra of Highland took second in the
state meet for the second consecutive year.
"Crossing the line I was just thankful for such a successful four years of high school running," he said. "I told myself, this is it, four years coming down to this last 15-minute race. Four years just happened so fast. It's gone by so quick. I'm blessed that I am able to continue with a collegiate career, thankful I have teammates and family all out there supporting me. Two years in a row being second, it sucks, but a lot of people would kill to be in that situation. It's definitely sad. It's unfortunate the way things turned out. Obviously, (my dad) would have wanted me to win but God has a different plan for me, maybe a national title. I would take that over a state title."
Guerra became a popular figure in the Region not just for his ability but for the humble way he carries himself, and was appreciative of the support.
"All season long, people are rooting for their respective teams," he said. "Then the Region and New Prairie (Semistate) families come together and support each other here. At the hotel, eating dinner, tons of Region families came up to wish me the best of luck. I had messages on Twitter, Instagram. Just having that tight-knit family in the Region, to have it be on display here with Karina (James) winning and me getting second, that's awesome. A lot of people don't expect us to ever be up there for title contention."
Lukowski got a bit misty at the thought of what Guerra's meant to him.
"There are so many highlights that stand out," Lukowski said. "The majority that are the most memorable are not races, but things he said, things he did. I'll never forget, his sophomore year, he qualified for the Distance Medley relay and the two-mile in the NSR (indoor state) meet. He called me up the next might, 10 o'clock, just like him to phone at an inappropriate time, and he said, hey, I know you're going to tell me no, but I have to say it, I want to scratch the two-mile and focus on the relay. If I go fresh into that, I can help the three other guys come with me. That's more important to me. I said, I absolutely love you for saying it, but I'm not going to let you do it."
As it turned out...
"The kid was 100 percent right," Lukowski said. "I wish I could take that one back. (After the regional), he posted on Instagram, I'd give it all up for a chance to run with my team one more time. He'll slow down in practice so he can run with the guys."
Guerra will return to Terre Haute in a couple weeks for the NXR Midwest Regional.
"It's not as big as a state titles, but I'm excited to come back and give it another shot," he said. "I've just got to look past it. I still have another season to go. I have to make sure I stay motivated."