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Surprise, surprise: Sobecki pulls off DAC meet upset; Chesterton takes team title

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP -- Upsets are not common place in cross country, where form holds more often than not.

Then you have what happened in Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference Championship at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, where the final 800 meters were so unpredictable, the winner wasn't even quite sure what had happened.

"I wasn't expecting that at all," La Porte's Brenna Sobecki said, her voice filled with emotion. "I was like, oh my gosh, I'm leading the DAC. I was just like, what? I was just in shock."

The race, expected to be a duel between Valparaiso's Kaylie Politza and Chesterton's Bailey Ranta, followed the script until the last half-mile, when Politza began to fade and a struggling Ranta collapsed. Sobecki, sitting in third, surged on through, hitting the line in 18:45.5.

"I was running a race by myself until that 4K," Sobecki said. "I really wasn't with them, then I saw Kaylie start to die and I was like, this is my chance, I need to get up there. Whenever I saw Kaylie in front of me, I knew I could catch her. Once I catch her, I'm just going to keep going. Bailey, I don't what happened, she just collapsed. She looked weak, then she fell. I'd just passed Kaylie like five meters before. I was like, what's the point in slowing down now? This is my chance, I can't let Kaylie get back up to me. I've always been pretty bad about when something unexpected happens, like what do I do? I said, no, I can't freak out, this is mine, I've got to take it and I did."

Sobecki wound up winning by 20 seconds with Politza crossing second in 19:05.1. Ranta was able to get up and finish, placing 31st in 21:25.4.

"I knew I was going to be in the top three no matter what," Sobecki said. "My goal was to be second. I've just got to stick with them. All week, I've been really thinking about how I was just going to stick with them the first mile. I started to realize my style of racing is just going out there and sticking with it as long as I can because I have guts. I just have to believe in myself and the best way to do that is to just go out hard. I can't be like, well, they're supposed to win, that's not my job. What's the point of being in the middle of nowhere when I can be right with them? It's my turn to take it."

As the gap began to tighten, Sobecki said she was probably going a mile, 800 pace.

"I'd count and say, OK, I'm six seconds away from them," she said. "I would start to stride harder and really pump my arms, then I'd check, and it would be four seconds. I was like, let's see what happens. If I fall out, I gave it my shot. My biggest goal was I didn't want to be upset after a race. I wanted it to be like, well, I tried something new."

Slicers coach Corbin Slater and the boys team were along side the finish area, cheering on Sobecki as she brought home the victory.

"That was very unexpected," Slater said. "She was in the right place at the right time. She stayed in it. It would've been so easy to let those two go. Those two are great girls who are phenomenal athletes. It was crazy. Both fell back at about the same time. It was bizarre. It happened so quick. You could see Ranta's legs going underneath her. I saw it in (Sobecki's) eyes that there was a breaking point for both of them with like 800 to go and she took advantage of it. She's a tough girl. It was so good to see. It's well-deserved."

Sobecki's win, couple with Cole Raymond's victory, gave La Porte its first individual sweep since Anthony Didion and Elana Lancioni.

"Really, just to see the reaction, our guys were so jacked for her, it was so cool," Slater said. "They were so pumped to see her coming across that hill."

Brenna Sobecki of La Porte pursues Chesterton's Bailey Ranta during Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference Championship at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

Despite Ranta's struggles, Chesterton still managed to capture the team title, doing so in relatively comfortable fashion, 35-49, over Valparaiso. La Porte (82) was third, two points in front of Lake Central.

"That really shows our depth as a team when a group sees someone's down and they're able to step up," Trojans coach Lindsey Moskalick said. "It's a gratifying win. It shows we can still do it if (Ranta) or someone has an off day. They stepped up huge. She was leading and coach (Nicole) Hartford started to see the wobbling. That's what she does. You can tell in the face. She started telling the girls she was falling back. I was screaming at them, you've got to move up, and that's exactly what they did. They saw (her fall) and they responded."

Catherine White (fourth), Ciara Bonner (sixth), Grace Carpenter (seventh), Alyssa Dunlap (eighth) and Bree Gentry (tenth) gave the Trojans five in the top ten even without Ranta.

"To think if she could've finished up where she's been, that's six in the top 12," Moskalick said. "I don't know the last time Chesterton did something like that. That can only make us stronger."

Carpenter was a JV runner last year, while White finished in the 20s in the meet last season.

"Ciara did a nice job bouncing back from New Prairie," Moskalick said. "It's a good way for (White) to go out her senior year. You ask the girls, probably only two would say they had a good race. They think they were so-so. There's more for this team."

The remainder of the top 10 included La Porte freshman Lila Gillisse (third), Valpo's Cheyanne Stock (fifth) and Crown Point's Caitlyn Derwinski (ninth).

Kaylie Politza of Valparaiso sets the early pace in Saturday's Duneland Athletic Conference Championship at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. Politza wound up second behind La Porte's Brenna Sobecki.

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