'Stock' up: Duneland Conference title run could be the start of a big post-season for Valpo senior
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP -- For Cheyanne Stock, half the battle has been getting to the start line.
"Her history of injuries, we figured out the last year-and-a-half what we need to do to stay sharp and healthy," Valparaiso coach John Arredondo said.
"We just need to keep her healthy."
As the post-season begins Saturday, the Vikings senior looks every bit of it, blazing to the Duneland Conference Championship title in 18:41.6 at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
"With the past I've had, I want to make this the best year I've had," Stock said. "It's mostly a lot of recovery stuff after runs, ice baths and rolling out. I take supplements a lot more. I watch my diet, get my sleep. I just take a lot more precautions. I want to be able to reach a high potential for college."
Stock seemed to be on her way last season when she suffered a stress fracture in her shin at the semistate and did not finish the race, then watched as her team ran at state the following week. Hip issues ensured over the summer and Stock took time off, not racing until Sept. 10 at Ben Davis. She finished fifth in her second race back at the New Prairie Invitational.
"I had to run for (post-season) eligibility," she said. "I'm dealing with everything still, so I'm taking care of myself. Now I couldn't be happier racing. I'm super excited. Grace (Thomas) and I want to put it all in this year and give everything we have."
Thomas, the sectional runner-up in 19:11, and Stock didn't attend the same middle school -- Stock at Ben Franklin and Thomas at St. Paul -- but became rivals and friends through cross country as both developed into top runners.
"Cheyanne was awesome, Grace was awesome," Arredondo said. "I said before how I had Logan (Ferngren), Ava (Gilliana), Kaylie (Politza). If she can be healthy, (Stock)'s got the same potential. We're still really good without her, but we're a different team with her. Then to have Grace there, it's really a tribute to their hard work. With Grace specifically, this journey started at (the Rudy) Skorupa (Invitational). She finished not far behind Brenna (Sobecki). I think that was her first inkling, oh my God, I could have a great senior season. The cool part is it's my first group that I've coached all four years."
The time was Stock's personal best, knocking about 20 seconds off her prior top time, run at New Prairie as a sophomore. Sobecki, the defending champion from La Porte, was a distant third (19:38.8)
"I'm happy to finally break it," Stock said of her PR. "I had expectations, place-wise. I didn't expect the time. I knew what my team and I were capable of because of all the training we've done. I know we all felt really good coming into it. I had high expectations for myself and I wanted to achieve them. That's what drove me the whole race, to make everyone proud of me. It's a huge award for me."
Valpo won the meet with 36 points, comfortably ahead of Lake Central (63). The Vikings put all seven runners in the first 18 with Elizabeth Ehrhardt eighth, Brooke Byvoets 12th, Aninka Anderson 13th, Liv Hatch 14th and Meredith Isley 18th.
"I told the girls this week I thought we could come out and run well. I'm a little surprised at how well we ran," Arredondo said. "As a coach, that always makes you nervous. The course is in great condition. The temperature is just right. A couple of our girls struggled. After the race, they said, coach, I hurt. That's fine. Maybe that's a good sign that we all didn't run well. As far as against the field, I couldn't be prouder. My goal was to have as many of them be all-conference as possible."
Cheyanne Stock and Grace Thomas of Valparaiso finished one-two in Saturday's Duneland Conference Championship meet at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. The Vikings also claimed the team title.
The Valpo boys held off Chesterton, 52-59, behind winner Jimmy Dillabaugh (15:53.9). Lake Central (82) and La Porte (89) were next.
"52's pretty good. I was hoping we could be in the 40s," Vikings coach Aaron Crague said. "One of our goals is to try to win the position battles. We didn't quite execute that. It's a team dynamic, but it's also individual. If you have an area that's a little weak, you hope you can pick it up somewhere else. It's not our best day but we'll take the result. Every time we have a chance to compete for the win, we're always pleased with that."
Dillabaugh continued to roll with a 12-second margin from runner-up Jackson Tuck of Chesterton.
"It's the first time I've won a conference title. I'm really happy about that. It definitely feels good," Dillabaugh said. "Just beat the guys at your position and the time will take care of itself. Nothing ever goes according to script, but overall it was a really good race. We always try to bring our 'A' game here. Really all that matters is the last week of the season, semistate to state. We haven't tapered. It's not time for that yet. We're still training at maximum capacity. We've had quite a few sicknesses."
Crague credited Dillabaugh for running a smart race.
"He executed very well, he ran very strong," Crague said. "He was out in a good position early on but not over his head. This is a course that rewards a little patience. If you;re not careful, it can come back and bite you the second 2K. He was able to pull away nicely over the last 2K. He's very hungry and very driven. Since last year, when he took the jump from being a role player to a guy who's in the front, he's done everything you'd want as a coach -- the way he approaches practice, his mindset, his attitude -- and it's contagious. You always want your best guy to be the hardest worker. If that's not the case, it's going to be an issue."
Mason Nobles gutted out a tough week to finish eighth after being as high as third late in the race.
"He did all he could do," Crague said. "He was sick all week. He'll be back. Coming in as sick as Mason was, he wanted to do it for his buddies. These guys know they have each other's back and they want to have each other's backs. He was willing to put himself out there not being 100 percent because the team is counting on him. He doesn't want to let them down. We try to get guys to be unselfish and put the team first. A lot of kids, running is not their favorite sport, but they are doing it for the team aspect, the camaraderie, pasta dinners, runs, camp, all the cool stuff we do throughout the year, and you hope they'll catch the bug that will help inspire them to want to work a little harder to achieve it."
Nathan Nova (15th), Riley Clark (17th) and Nathaniel Malchow (19th) rounded out Valpo's scoring.
Jimmy Dillabaugh of Valparaiso won the Duneland Conference Championship race Saturday at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, leading the Vikings to the team title.