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The race for No. 1: Hanover Central's York making his case to be the Region's top dog

LOWELL -- With La Porte's Cole Raymond running for Indiana University now, the race to be the top dog in the Region has plenty of contenders this season.

Ryan York stated his case Saturday at the Bob Thomas Invite, where the Hanover Central senior separated from an early pack to win in 16:17.69.

"I'm looking to be one of the top guys," York said. "I don't think I'll run against the Valpo guys until (semistate), so it'll be fun to race against them there. It's definitely going to be a close race for the semistate. I like the competition. It puts less pressure on myself because then I know I'm getting pushed and I'm not going to worry about burning myself out, maybe I go out too fast and die out."

York led a group that included Crown Point's Weston Hulen, Portage's Shane Conroy and Griffith's Joe LaPatra.

"It was sure fun to watch the race up front," LC coach Jeff Rhody said. "I think it's the first time those guys have all gotten together in one place. I haven't seen York lose yet. Good for Ryan, Good for Hanover."

Hulen wound up second in 16:22.07, just in front of La Porte's Jay Pillai (16:22.57), followed by Conroy and LaPatra.

"I decided at the mile-and-a-half as we were going into the woods, I didn't like how it was going," York said. "I was just staying with the pack, so I decided to make a move and hopefully put some distance and I made sure to hold it. I listen to the people cheering, I'm like, OK, I've got about that much on him. I kept trying to build my lead from there. Someone was even with me, it might have been Weston. I lengthened my stride a little bit and made sure to try pick it up more. With all the twists and turns, you can lose people with the lack of vision in the woods."

Ryan York of Hanover Central won Saturday's Bob Thomas Invitational at Lowell.

Pillai, slowed by a race bout of COVID, came well off the lead pace to nearly catch Hulen.

"The strategy going in was to sit back, 5:20, 5:30 for the mile,work up a little bit to the two-mile, and then just hammer as hard as I could," Pillai said. "I came through in like 50th place. We just look at what (Raymond) did last year and try to copy all the hard work. We just work for ourselves now."

Drew McGrath (seventh), Evan Smith (ninth), Ben Perschon (13th) and Kaden Smith (16th) paced Lake Central, which held off Portage and Crown Point, 65-74-77.

"Our No. 5 (Austin Wojcik), normally our No. 1, is coming off an injury, and our No. 3 (Riley Petrovich) is still sitting," Rhody said. "He'll race for the first time since La Porte next week. We're still working to get guys back. I'm really happy the guys who were in the race stepped up and ran well. Now if and when those guys come back at full speed, that's even better for us. The kids ran well. We had guys trying to get in that five, six, seven spot. It got warmer than it was supposed to and I think that affected things. Everybody thinks this could be a fast course and, for some reason, it never is."

Ryan York of Hanover Central leads an early pack that includes Weston Hulen of Crown Point, Shane Conroy of Portage and Joe LaPatra of Griffith.

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