Smashing tiles: Valparaiso, Stock pace local runners at girls cross country state finals
TERRE HAUTE -- For Cheyanne Stock and Valparaiso, Saturday's state finals meet was all about smashing tiles.
The Vikings have a summer routine of marking ceramic tiles with season goals and if they reach them, they get to break them with a hammer.
"I've never gotten to break one before," Stock said. "I'm happy I get to break two this year."
The Valparaiso senior had tiles that read 'stay healthy' and 'top 25,' both of which she accomplished with her 14th-place finish.
"It was super emotional because I was injured the beginning of this season," Stock said. "I wasn't running for a solid two months. I was doing all the cross training, lifting, to maintain what I had. I came back and I felt great, just being cautious, knowing my mileage, and it all worked out. It was definitely stressful coming into this post-season. I knew how bad I wanted it and it was my last shot to do it. I did all the training. I was like, OK, I've just got to let it go."
Stock, who missed last year's race with a stress fracture, came in 35th as a sophomore in her second run on the Lavern Gibson Championship Course.
"I'm so proud of you. You earned that," Vikings coach John Arredondo told Stock during an emotional post-race huge. It's been a rough road for you. You did exactly what you were supposed to do and you shocked everybody. I said you would come down here and do something special and you did it. I said, if she runs smart, she gets a medal."
With her time of 18:22.7, Stock cut nearly 16 seconds off her personal best.
"I did not expect a PR here, to be so close to the 17s," she said. "I was predicted like 25th. I feel like I'm putting in a lot of hard work, whatever I get is whatever I get. I was happy. All my post-season races, I stay behind like four girls, then I just kicked it the last 500 meters, like, let's do it. This race, I wish I didn't kick as soon as I did so I could've maintained 13th, but I can't say I'm upset with my time."
A patient approach proved to be the right choice for Stock, who estimated being 50th at 1K and 25th at two miles.
"I was really confused," she said. "People kept saying I was in 20th and they'd say someone behind me was 19th, then people in front of me would say I was 15th. At that point, I was like, OK, I don't know what place I'm in, just keep pushing. I felt really good. Once I started picking up, I was like, why am I still behind people? I want to be uncomfortable with my last race with the team. I wanted to put it all out there. There was no reason to leave anything out, even if I faint at the end. I know everybody put in what they had left."
Valparaiso's Cheyanne Stock finished 14th in Saturday's state finals meet, leading local runners. The Vikings were also the area's top team, placing seventh.
Stock's finish led Valparaiso to a seventh-place team showing, Arredondo's best as head coach, with 248 points.
We knew it would have to be a total team effort," he said. "Our basic goal was to finish in the top 10. We thought if we ran a perfect race, we could get fifth or sixth. That said, we knew there were other teams in our same boat. We really believed we could be five-six to 15th. At the end of the day, you want your athletes smiling because they know they did the best they could. We had that and that made it a success. They'll tell you, I'm hard on them, but I'm an emotional person. I couldn't be happier. Our post-season run was awesome. I am so proud of them and my coaches, coach Mac and coach Heather."
After Stock, Valpo had Grace Thomas in 50th and Elizabeth Ehrhardt 60th. Brooke Byvoets (121st), Annika Anderson (122nd) and Liv Hatch (124th) were separated by 1.4 seconds, with Meredith Isley (178th) also running a personal best.
"Elizabeth had a great bounceback race," Arredondo said. "We had a bit of a gap but Liv, Brooke and Annika all came in together. That's what you want. We knew our depth was one of our strengths. I told them to go out in control because this course tends to go out fast, not to freak out in the first K. You just have to be smart where you make your moves. After you get past the 2K, that's where the uphill starts. It's a lot like parts of Sunset (Hill), which we benefit from. Don't be heroes, just go out and do the best you can. I thought we ran well. That's all I ask."
The Vikings led the local contingent of teams, which also included Morgan Township (19th, 429), Lake Central (21st, 510) and Crown Point (24th, 526).
"Obviously, we were just excited to be here," Cherokees coach Joel Davis said. "I was hoping we could go up a spot, but I'm happy with it. Hopefully we represented ourselves well. I think some of them are disappointed a little. Time-wise, it wasn't bad. It's a tougher course, there's no question about it. Three to four K is pretty much uphill. When you see this crowd, you're like, there must be something important going on. They worked hard, they did a fantastic job. That's all I can ask of them. It was fun."
With all seven runners returning, the bar for next season will be higher.
"Because it's a young group, we're excited for them to have the experience," Davis said. "Hopefully they'll go, we want to do that again next year. Those kids (Morgan grads Klaire Lemmons and Emma Rakowski) have been the forerunners, they've set the example for what we do and how we do it. The goal once was, let's do well in the PCC, then it just builds. We'll just try and get a little better every year in some way. That means next year we shoot for the top 15."
Morgan's Peyton Bucher finished 25th in 18:51.9, the third-fastest freshman in the field.
"It was so open, you could see how much you had left," Bucher said. "You could see how much you had left. That could be mentally defeating or motivating. It was a lot of competition to push me to get the time that I got. I liked it. My goal was to pass whoever was in front of me. That next group was pretty far ahead of me."
Though it was the Cherokees' state debut, most of the team had run the course before at middle school, albeit at 1.8 miles.
"It definitely felt a lot longer," Bucher said. "High school's so different than middle school. It's exciting being the first team to get here and doing as well as we did. We wanted to compete, for sure, and we did."
Morgan Township freshman Peyton Bucher (middle) took 25th in Saturday's state meet.
New Prairie's Lilly Zelasko was the only other area runner in the top 25, placing 21st. Zelasko was ninth as a junior. Hobart freshman Cassie Cohen was 40th, followed by La Porte's Lila Gillisse.
"It's not exactly where I wanted to place, but that's OK," Gillisse said. "I got caught in the pack too much, so it was hard to get out. Once I got out, they were too far away. I was thinking I needed to be more on the right side, but I should have been more on the left side, so I could have gotten up to the front easier. I kind of got squished in and I couldn't get around."
Ella Olthof of Illiana Christian (66th) and Dana Abbring of Morgan (89th) were the only other area runners in the top 100.
Hobart's Cassie Cohen and La Porte's Lila Gillisse came in 40th and 41st, respectively, in the state finals meet Saturday.
Valparaiso's Grace Thomas placed 50th in the state finals meet Saturday, helping the Vikings take seventh as a team.