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'V' is for Valpo (or victory): Vikings girls, boys sweep Chesterton Regional

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP -- As Jimmy Dillabaugh neared the finish line of Saturday's Chesterton Regional, the Valparaiso senior formed a 'V' with his hands that he displayed for a couple strides before crossing the timing mat in 16:00.2.

It's about as demonstrative of a gesture as a Vikings runner will make.

"We're not about that here at Valpo," he said. "I just put up a 'V' for Valpo. I'm really proud of the team, what we've been doing the past couple weeks."

The 'V' could also stand for victory as the Vikings topped La Porte 47-60 at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

"The guys ran really well," Valpo coach Aaron Crague said. "Our seniors have been stepping up. That's what you need. A team goes as your seniors go, and they've been absolutely dynamite for us. They set a good example for us in the locker room, in practice."

It all starts with Dillabaugh, who needed to dig a little deeper to match his sectional finish, besting teammate Mason Nobles by five seconds with La Porte's Jay Pillai another stride back.

"They gave me a very honest race," Dillabaugh said. "I usually make a move, and Jay covered my move really well, like another whole K than I expected. Nothing goes how it's planned. I take the first three K to try to feel things out, and the real racing starts with 2K to go. Mason was right there. He covered my move pretty well. We were able to pull off the one-two again. I'm proud of that. We had a good, hard week. It'll probably be another week like that next week, hopefully that will last us for state week, and we'll bring our 'A' game there."

Jimmy Dillabaugh of Valparaiso won Saturday's Chesterton Regional at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. La Porte's Jay Pillai finished third with Portage's Shane Conroy fourth.

After Nobles, Valpo put Nathaniel Malchow in 12th, Riley Clark in 14th and Brady Cavanaugh in 20th.

"(Nathan) Nova's back flared up on him," Crague said. "He was huge for us last week, and I know he's feeling like he let his buddies down. Other guys step up. That's what makes a team great. Guys are always all in for each other. Nathaniel was back in there and provided a nice spark off the bench, if we can use that analogy for cross country. He gave us a little extra cushion in the middle of the lineup. Brady had another nice one. Riley's been really consistent. We talk about trying to keep a cool head when we're fighting that pack, trying to win those small position battles. As you add in other teams from other areas, there are more kids in that range. The state meet, four, five guys might come in in a second."

La Porte put together its best race of the season in topping Chesterton (70).

"They were awesome," Slicers coach Corbin Slater said. "They put themselves out there again, put their nose in it, went for it. I couldn't be more proud. These guys are competitive. They want to run for each other, run for their team. They're dialed. We tell them what to do and they do it, the results be whatever. I think we've created a legacy of expectation and they're meeting it."

Pillai paced the Slicers at 16:06.4, with Brayden Sobecki sixth.

"I think he went out a little slower," Pillai said of Dillabaugh. "He didn't make any moves for two miles. I just stuck on him until the woods back there.At the sectional, we all PR'd, and the mindsets have been really good ever since that. We're like, we belong, we're ready to roll. I was expecting it from their times in track. It's nice to see them actually running fast."

* Valparaiso topped Morgan Township 41-56 for the girls title.

"It seems like the regional, we never run sharp," Vikings coach John Arredondo said. "I was happy that they were tough enough to run through it. We did push them a little bit this week. Coming down that back stretch was really windy. I told the girls they've got to tuck in and gut it out. At this point, it's survive, advance, get to next week and throw all your cards on the table. If you can win, you try to win. I thought Morgan ran great. I've been telling everybody since summer time. They're really good. They just have to stay healthy. hats off to them on a great race."

Runner-up Cheyanne Stock followed defending champion Lilly Zelasko of New Prairie (17:55.6) to the line. Grace Thomas came in fifth, Elizabeth Ehrhardt 10th, Angela Coulopoulos 11th and Brooke Byvoets 13th.

Lilly Zelasko of New Prairie defended her title in Saturday's Chesterton Regional.

"Cheyanne didn't feel great, so I've got to be happy with that," Arredondo said. "Grace came by me at the four-and-a-half K with a bloody nose and I was like, what happened to you? I don't know if it was allergies or what. I thought Angela ran out of her mind. We sat out Liv Hatch and Meredith Isley. We wanted to give some girls a chance to run. We'll see where we're at and put our best seven out there (at semistate), the ones that are going to give us the best chance to compete. We've got a long week ahead."

Stock was happy to grind out a solid finish despite lacking her usual snap.

"I really felt lethargic for most of it," she said. "My legs were really heavy. I know a lot of girls felt that way. We all fought for it. My big motivation was doing it for the team, pushing past the pain. No matter how bad I felt, it's worth it. I just wanted to stick with it, keep my place, stay the same pace, just push with what I had, try to kick it in and get it over with. It's the first time I've felt like this all season. I'm still happy with my time. I stayed in the 40s."

Zelasko overcame a flare-up of knee tendinitis that prompted her to rest a few days during the week, but looked none the worse for wear.

"Taking a few days off, it can be a little nerve-wracking," she said. "I wanted to come out and prove I could still do this even after having to take some unexpected time off."

Some rest, some ice and a little pain medication -- 'the life of a runner,' she joked -- and Zelasko was good to go, timing sub-18 for the third week in a row.

"I'm always super blessed to cross the line. That's how I look at it," Zelasko said. "Senior year, I want to go out and perform to my best every week and just take it all in. It was a good mental thing for me. Through years of running, I've learned when you can and can't push yourself through something. I'm older, more experienced now. You've got to be cautious, manage the pain, do what you can, just keep going and keep running

Cheyanne Stock of Valparaiso was the runner

-up in Saturday's Chesterton Regional.

fast. I started feeling better mid-week. I got a few runs in. There's only a few weeks left, hopefully two more races, then there'll be a break."

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