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They are who we thought they were: Dillabaugh rallies to win; Valparaiso takes second at New Prairie

NEW CARLISLE -- Based on what it returned from last season -- six runners from its top seven on a team that finished 15th at state -- Valparaiso was expected to be the top dog in local boys cross country.

The Vikings, however, remained a bit of a mystery for the early part of the schedule, running all of their meets out of the area.

"We've been on the road the last month," coach Aaron Crague said. "It's been some early mornings, some long bus rides, but we get see schools around the state. I like that our schedule allows us to travel, to see how we measure up with teams who aren't from our area. We know at the end of the year we're going to see them on an almost weekly basis. I like the opportunity to get out and compete around Indy, Fort Wayne, the southern part of the state. That's important to me. I wish we could travel more."

Valpo, close to home for the first time Saturday, running in the Class AAA race at the New Prairie Invitational, but even then, they were a tad anonymous as their gray shirts featured the word Vikings spelled out in old Norse manuscript.

"We're getting in touch with our roots," Crague laughed. "One of the boys on the team a number of years ago had the idea."

The Vikings finished second to Franklin Central, 67-101

"We lost a fantastic piece in Joel Bryant. He was such a good leader. He was a hard worker and had such a good attitude. He was such a grinder," Crague said. "But having six back, three of them freshmen, sometimes there's an impact going from their freshman to sophomore year, you hope to see them build off that and come with out something bigger, and they've responded to the challenge. There's a lot of good teams out there. We have a lot of area to keep improving, to run and grow, but I'm proud of the boys. I'm pleased with what they've done."

In particular Saturday, it was Jimmy Dillabaugh, who roared back from an estimated 10-to-15-second, 40-to-5-meter deficit to overtake Mishawaka's William Bauschke in the last 300, 400 meters to take the race in 15:51.4.

"Seeing him out of the woods, the 3K mark, it was quite a bit," Dillabaugh said. "The race went out faster than it typically goes out. The top two, three already had a gap 800 meters in. I was still stuck between a few people, so I had to sprint to get up there. I go slow up Agony (Hill) -- that's how I typically like to race, so coming out of woods, I realized I had 2K to make up ground. For a while, it didn't seem like he was slowing down, that it wasn't going to be worth it, but I had some kick left, so I thought maybe I had a chance. I just had to go for it. It's never a perfect race, but it worked pretty well."

Crague called the comeback 'absolutely incredible.'

"I can give you all the cliches. They're all true," he said of Dillabaugh said. "He sets his sights high. The kind of year he's had, any coach would be so happy. His last name is Dillabaugh, his uncle Joe (was on two state championship teams) back in the day. He doesn't feel any pressure, but you could say running's in his blood. He's a good leader for us. Mason (Nobles has) been up there really great. He's working hard."

Nobles placed third (15:58.5) with Sammy Sienkowski 24th, Nathaniel Malchow 32nd and Brady Cavanaugh 44th.

"This is really like a semistate preview," Dillabaugh said. "Since the beginning of the summer, we've been planning, working. Our goal is top five at state as a team. That's first, then I want to be top 20 individual."

Jimmy Dillabaugh of Valparaiso overtook Mishawaka's William Bauschke in the final 400 meters to win the Class AAA division at the New Prairie Invitational.

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