NEW CARLISLE – If cross country only required three runners for a team score, Warsaw’s boys would have dominated Saturday’s semistate race at New Prairie High School.
But the rules say you need five, and that proved to be the Tigers’ undoing in the battle for an IHSAA title.
Senior Jake Poyner finished second, senior Robert Murphy fourth and junior Ellis Coon was fifth in the 5,000-meter semistate race, an impressive showing no matter how you look at it.
But before the next Tiger came in, six Valparaiso runners crossed the finish line, giving the No. 2 Vikings a 45-60 advantage in the team score.
Nevertheless, the sixth-ranked Tigers still achieved their main goal, qualifying for next weekend’s state finals in Terre Haute.
The top six teams and top 15 individual finishers at a semistate advance to the state meet.
“We know we’re not as good as (Valparaiso at runner positions 4 and 5) and to be honest, our main goal was just to not flop up here at New Prairie,” said Warsaw coach Jim Mills.
“I felt like, if we came within 30 or 40 points of Valpo, we had a good day. Coming within 15 points, we’re thrilled to death,” Mills said. “We gave them a race.”Poyner actually led most of the race, but was passed by Alec Kostelnik of Morgan Township with about a thousand meters remaining. Though Poyner tried to close the gap on the homestretch, Kostelnik held on for a 15:45.9 victory.
Poyner clocked 15:49.
“For whatever reason, whenever we come here, I always go out hard,” said Poyner. “When there was (2,000 meters) left, I started to feel it a little bit. I knew Alec was right with me, but I just didn’t get into a higher gear. That’s something I’ve got to work on. I’ve got a week.”
Murphy was just a few steps back at 15:59.4, while Coon recorded a 16:03.4. Coon, in fact, out-kicked Valparaiso’s No. 1 runner, Ari Coulopoulos, into the finish chute.
“We’re right there,” said Poyner. “To put our top three in front of (Valparaiso’s) guys again is encouraging.
“We’re coming around in the back,” he added. “You know, anything’s possible. All bets are off at the (state) meet.”Senior Brysten James was 27th and Daniel Messenger 33rd to wrap up the Tiger scoring.
Owen Glogovsky placed 45th and Ismael Calderon was 60th for Warsaw.
No other team was even close to the top two. Third-place McCutcheon was 129 points behind Warsaw.
The state finals are run at the Wabash Valley Sports Center, near Terre Haute.
This was Warsaw’s first year of running at the New Prairie semistate after several years of traveling to Fort Wayne.
“We’ve felt really confident all year,” said Mills. “I think our guys showed today they weren’t too nervous.”
And now, its on to the state finals, where a could run by the Warsaw support troops could conceivably put the Tigers on the awards podium.
“Our four and five runners know they are the key to our team right now,” said Mills. “For the last week and a half now, they’ve dropped times. I’m ecstatic with the way they ran today. If they can reach down and grab another 10 seconds per runner, we’re going to be in good shape.”
IHSAA BOYS SEMISTATE CROSS COUNTRY TOURNAMENT
At New Carlisle
Team scores: Valparaiso 45, Warsaw 60, McCutcheon 189, Hobart 189, West Lafayette 207, Lowell 209, Munster 210, Crown Point 211, LaPorte 230, Portage 231, Lake Central 249, Wheeler 279, Chesterton 302, Rochester 306, Culver Academies 384, Western 402, Lafayette Jeff 405, Frankfort 501, Twin Lakes 514, Carroll (Flora) 551.
Top 20 finishers: 1, Alec Kostelnik (Morgan Twp.) 15:45.9. 2, Jake Poyner (Warsaw) 15:49.0. 3, Kyle Eller (Lowell) 15:57.8. 4, Robert Murphy (Warsaw) 15:59.4. 5, Ellis Coon (Warsaw) 16:03.4. 6, Ari Coulopoulos (Valparaiso) 16:03.9. 7, Taylor Bisacchi (Valparaiso) 16:07.4. 8, Nick Arndt (New Prairie) 16:12.2. 9, Anthony Didion (LaPorte) 16:13.5. 10, Landon Davison (Valparaiso) 16:14.1. 11, Dunn Brent (Hobart) 16:15.5. 12, Peyton Reed (Valparaiso) 16:18.3. 13, Cooper Williams (West Lafayette) 16:18.8. 14, Joel O’Shea (Wheeler) 16:20.0. 15, Alex Ray (Crown Pt) 16:20.6. 16, Tom Bolanowski (Munster) 16:22.3. 17, Jacob Wickes (McCutcheon) 16:24.9. 18, Pat Dalton (Valparaiso) 16:24.9. 19, Brian Blaylock (Lowell) 16:30.7. 20, Kevin Kenney (Chesterton) 16:31.6.