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Small school, big dream: South Central eyes a run at a rare regional berth

NEW CARLISLE -- Winning's always nice. It's even better when it's not even part of the race plan, as it wasn't for Hanover Central's Ryan York in Saturday's New Prairie Invitational.

"I wasn't looking to win. I was going for time. I originally wanted to PR," York said after taking the Class AA title. "I thought the race was going to out a little faster. Previous races, I've started out slower, like 30s or 40s, and work my way up. I changed it up, I went out with the front pack and tried to make moves. I knew who was going to be in the first group, that should be around there. I came through the mile in like fifth and kept slowly making my way up. Right before two miles, I saw I could go and I went. I tried to step on it. I just focus on what's in front of me."

York finished in 16:38.3, 10 seconds faster than last year's semistate, where he finished 31st.

"State's the goal," he said.

The time turned out to be the third-best of the day among local runners. La Porte's Cole Raymond, the AAA runner-up, logged a 16:27.3, followed by Justin Hoffman of Kankakee Valley (16:29.8).

Raymond was leading the race as he entered the woods, but was overtaken by Northridge's Jake Moore, who blazed to a 15:58.6.

"When he hit it, he hit it, he went right by me," Raymond said. "When we turned the corner, he just hit the gas. I stayed in contact, then the 3K, he just turned a whole new gear and just dropped me."

Setting the early pace wasn't Raymond's intent, but when it opened up, he just went with it and nobody joined him. I thought there would be more of a (Penn's Mariano) Retzloff presence, but the defending champ was not in the picture.

"I just did it anyway," he said. "I had a five-second lead. I felt like, I might as well. There's nothing to lose. I expected people to come with me and they didn't. I was 4:37 at the mile. I was cookin'. It's OK. Right now really doesn't matter. It's going to be a great October 30th. We've got it on our calendar."

Northridge (106) separated itself from the field, with Warsaw (152) edging Valparaiso (153) and La Porte (153), followed by Class a move-up Morgan Township (160) and Chesterton (174).

"I told our guys it was probably a 'B,' Slicers coach Corbin Slater said. "If we walk away with a 'B,' that will get us to state. We were going to have to be perfect to beat teams like Northridge and Valpo, and you can't get perfect all the time."

Lowell, back in AA after a long period in AAA, found the surroundings to its liking, coasting to the team title at 108, well ahead of runner-up Illiana Christian (184).

"It was a good overall effort," Red Devils coach Jake Rakoczy said. "No one was lightning fast. The same crew last year, we had three kids maybe under 18:45. It was rough. To come out and run as well as they did, I'm real happy for them. It's nice to walk out with a trophy."

Jackson Bakker was runner-up (16:49.8) with Ben Keeton 19th and Leanthony Coleman-Lark 20th.

"I feel like they the clicked re-set button and moved everyone enrollment-wise," Rakoczy said. "We needed to be in 2A. We raced in 2A about 10 years ago. We needed it then and we were a hot mess last year. The pandemic hit and if we have 25 guys here, 20 of them said they didn't see the point in running during the shutdown. This team is so much better than last year. There's a different vibe. We were just a team throwing the football around, happy to be here. It's a close-knit group of upperclassmen and they're really nice to the young guys. I'm cautiously optimistic for the rest of the season."

Unheralded South Central won its first New Prairie title, edging Rossville, 128-132, in Class A.

"It was definitely an idea that it could happen," runner-up Kolten Becker said. "We just wanted to try our best and see what we could do. We didn't know what ranking we would be coming in. We knew Hebron had a very strong Hebron team. It was just compete against them the best we can. We've had some strong individual performances. It was just putting all the pieces together."

Zak Kimmel followed Becker (17:24.2) in fourth with Jimmy Ward 26th.

"It's just fun to watch those guys. I think there's even more they haven't tapped into," Satellites coach Isaac Bules said. "We were kind of on the cusp last year, but we had no seniors, so there was no leadership there. Now there are eight. Kolten kind of put this team together. In sixth grade, there were a couple of them, and he kept recruiting his buddies. That's why we have such a large group of seniors. Most of them came in seventh and eighth, then Alex (Newburn) in ninth because he went to Wanatah."

S.C. hasn't had a boys team advance to the regional in and while the task won't be easy, it's at least a topic of conversation.

"This is the kind of stuff movies are made of," Bules said. "Nobody wants to watch the movie about the big school winning. That's the difficulty of being at a small school. We're in a tough sectional, tough regional and tough semistate. If we're going to get out of sectional, we need to have five guys in the 17s. Some years, you don't quite need that. There might be a window. We're also peaking with this group. It's ours to grab or at least try. We want them to have that feeling all the way through the season, that there's a purpose and they can do it."

The Satellites' top pair both placed top 25 at state in their eighth grade years and have been targeting this season.

"We've both told coach, my senior year, we're going to do our best to make us the (next) South Central team to make it out of sectionals," Becker said. "It's finally coming into the picture frame that everybody's starting to click that hey, we've finally got a chance."



Hanover Central's Ryan York won the Class AA race and La Porte's Cole Raymond was the AAA runner-up in Saturday's New Prairie Invitational.







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