FRANCESVILLE -- "Our sport is your punishment."
The phrase appears on the backs of cross country t-shirts, a badge of honor for runners who thrive in an endeavor that others often hate.
That challenge isn't unique to non-runners though. Even those who do the sport have to battle through the grind that's necessary to be successful.
"I'm really enjoying running," South Central's Adelaide Young Brust said after breezing to her second title in the 421 Run Saturday at West Central. "In previous seasons, I tended to get anxious before a race. Now I'm like, whatever happens, happens. I'm going to go out and try my best. I'm really finding a lot of fun in the process. To get those miles back up there, you've got to like to be out there all the time. I've learned to love it."
Making her season debut, Young Brust breezed to the win in 21 minutes, 12 seconds, a margin of over two minutes from runner-up Emma Bissett of Frontier. Young Brust won the race as a freshman, but didn't have enough practices in last year to be eligible to compete.
"I was in Vermont again this summer, but they moved the season back a week so I was able to come," she said. "I was a little more consistent this summer. I'm feeling stronger overall, not just with the miles. I think last season I couldn't even do one pushup. That's changed. I did lots of core stuff. It feels good. I'm optimistic, I felt pretty solid."
Given the wide gap, the task for Young Brust was more mental than physical.
"I got a little lonely," she said. "I was constantly telling myself, don't slow down, don't slow down. The competition keeps me motivated most of the time. I knew it would be better for my confidence later in the season if I came out with a pretty good time, so I could see what I could do. I'm thinking very long term."
Young Brust finished 37th in last year's semistate and the 30 or so seconds she has to cut off of that time in order to qualify for state is the main focus.
"I think we're in a good spot," S.C. coach Isaac Bules said. "I haven't seen too much yet, but the little bit we've done, I think things are where they need to be. The trick will be once we get to that (close) race, it's going to feel differently for her. But I think things are much better than they were last year, mostly because s he had much a better track season. There was a little better consistency over the summer. She's good enough to be building and hopefully we get there. I think she's ready for it."
Katrin Marks was fifth and Katelyn Adams ninth as S.C. fell just short of the team title, 33-34, to Frontier.
"It's nice to see a couple girls starting to figure it out," Bules said. "They can get in that position where they're in contention, then the competitive nature takes over, OK, I can do this, I think I can race with these girls. If you're not even there, it's eh. A couple of them are seniors, so it's the whole idea, I know this is it, I've got to do it. Having Adelaide out front, we want to put a team behind her, for her and the rest of the girls want to do it, too. Our goal is to be in contention as a team with schools we can be for as long as we can. If we get a couple to the point where maybe it's possible to go to the regional, that would be pretty cool."
Frontier topped Victory Christian, 44-51, for boys honors, followed by North White (70) and South Central (72).
"We were short a couple guys, and the four-five is where we had a bit of a hole," Bules said. "Even those guys weren't quite at the top of their game."
Kolten Becker was seventh for the Satellites in 18:51 despite heel sores from last week's race that limited his practices. Trent Olling was eighth (19:21) and freshman Stevie Klimczak 10th (19:26).
"He pretty much couldn't put shoes on all week," Bules said of Becker. "He was doing some grass running, but not training running. I have a feeling (Olling) is going to move it up once he gets some miles on him. He's been there before. Stevie's going to really be one to watch. I knew he'd be strong, but he's figuring it out way earlier than I thought he would. It's pretty cool to watch."
LaCrosse didn't have full teams in either race. Kyle Gorski (18th) and Haley O'Brien (19th) led the Tigers.
"One guy (Bradlee Seeley) ran his best, by about 20-some seconds," coach Preston Frame said. "With the conditions, we figured it was was going to be a little slower. The girls ran their best times by far. There's lot of improvement to go going forward. I got the job late, so we didn't do a lot of running in July, which I would like to do. As the season progresses, I'm really looking for them to run our best times in the (Porter County Conference) meets and come sectional time, get some guys out into the regional."