LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — For the top runners coming out of the talent-laden New Prairie Sectional, the second step in the post-season process, in this case the Chesterton Regional, is a tricky one.
The field, with a few exceptions, is not especially stronger than it was the week before, so the potential for an emotional lull before the stakes rise for the semistate, is real.
"Every race is different," New Prairie freshman Lillian Zelasko said. "You can't rely on the past to say you're going to go. It's anybody's race."
Zelasko didn't get caught looking ahead, finishing seventh at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in a time of 19 minutes, 41.9 seconds.
"I kind of wanted to do better. I felt like I could've had a little better race," she said. "I think I went out too hard at the beginning. I needed a little more at the end."
Three other La Porte County runners moved on along with Zelasko to Saturday's New Prairie Semistate -- South Central's Adelaide Young Brust (ninth, 19:59.2), La Porte first-year runner Ella Bensz (23rd, 20:46.5) and NP's Juliana Kroll (32nd, 21:05.06). Kroll squeezed in, claiming the tenth and final spot, one place and about five seconds in front of La Porte freshman Brenna Sobecki.
"She's looking pretty solid," NP coach Julie Jeszenszky said of Zelasko. "We haven't peaked her yet. I expected her to get to semistate. She's humble, but I won't be for her. She's super pumped to have a training partner in there. Early in the race, I was a lot worried (about Kroll). I was counting raw places and I would not have thought she had made it through. Estimating team scores, counting individuals, I realized she was sitting 11th or 12th. I could see it in her face she was kind of losing it. She needed a little bit of hope. She's one that's really good at responding mid-race. I yelled out to her, hey, you're a senior, you've got to put it out there, and she made some moves."
Bensz led the way for La Porte (158), which finished sixth as a team, well back of Wheeler (109) for the last qualifying spot.
"The girls knew they would have to have another stellar day," Slicers coach Corbin Slater. "They had to be almost perfect and they weren't perfect. It's a good group of girls who wanted it. It was good to see their progression, that
buy-in at the end of the season that they didn't necessarily feel throughout the year. It's nice to see for Ella (to make it) as someone who's never done it before."
Among other individual participants, New Prairie's Audrey Henning was 34th (21:20.6) and Laynie Baltes 38th (21:34.6). Michigan City's Bridget Mark finished 48th (22:13.8).
Lillian Zelasko (New Prairie), Adelaide Young Brust (South Central), Ella Bensz (La Porte), Juliana Kroll (New Prairie)