Girls cross country: Portage freshman Kyra Ball off to fast start
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent October 8, 2012 11:24PM
during the Duneland Conference boys and girls cross country meet held at Lemon Lake Park in Cedar Lake on September 29, 2012. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 10, 2012 6:24AM
As a big group of Lake Central runners passed them, Portage’s Kyra Ball wasn’t quite sure how to react.
“I wasn’t sure how to run my race,’’ said Ball, recalling the Gavit Invitational at Hammond’s Dowling Park, Aug. 25.
Junior Paige Pizer, who’s been a tremendous influence on Ball, said to her: ‘If you think you can go, then go and catch them.’ ”
Ball went after LC’s throng of blue-clad runners and nearly ran every one of them down.
“(Paige) pushes me a lot,’’ Ball said. “I took off with them. I think I did alright.’’
The freshman placed sixth at the Gavit Invite — finishing ahead of six girls from LC, which had eight runners place among the top 20.
“The first couple of races, Paige would tell me when to go, and I’d go,’’ Ball said. “She’s been a big help to me. After and before every race, we always have our pep talks. We talk about races when we’re cooling down.’’
In perhaps her best race this fall, Ball took third at the DAC meet, finishing behind LaPorte’s Elena Lancioni and Valparaiso’s Alison Mundell.
“I usually set a goal for myself each race,’’ said Ball, who competes at the Chesterton Sectional today. “At DAC, I wanted to get top five. I knew the two girls who were behind me were really close. That’s probably the only race I ever had to sprint. I sprinted the about the last 400 yards to get third.’’
Ball’s been consistent this fall.
She placed fifth at Lowell’s Bob Thomas Invitational and ran a season-best 19:32 at the New Prairie Invitational. She also went 19:38 in a dual meet at Chesterton and finished in 19:49 at the prestigious Culver Invite.
“As an individual, I’ve wanted to get where I’ve been, but it’s been kind of a surprise since I’m a freshman,’’ Ball said.
A summer of hard training — running at least 45 miles per week — helped Ball get ready for her first year of varsity competition.
A sterling career at Willowcreek Middle School also prepared her for the rugged DAC grind.
Ball placed third at the Rensselaer Invite, took first at Willowcreek’s Invite, finished second at Culver Academy and captured first place at the Lake-Porter Conference Middle School Meet. In all four races, she ran between 11:29 and 11:35 —talk about consistency.
“She’s a real good kid, a very smart kid,’’ Portage coach Jay White said. “She works hard. She’s a competitor and she doesn’t like to lose. She’s just a good, all-around athlete. She’s a strong girl who will get better with time.’’
Ball believes her competitive streak comes from her parents (Kai and Nate). Her dad played high school football and lacrosse in Colorado, while her mom played volleyball, tennis, and ran track, at Portage.
“If someone beats me in a race, I’ll really try to beat that person the next time I compete against them,’’ Ball said.
One of four freshmen on the Indians, Ball has meshed well with a group of sophomores and juniors.
“All my teammates encourage me,’’ she said. “We always encourage each other by talking about our goals. It usually pushes us through. We’re really a close group. I like that if I have a problem, there’s always going to be someone there to listen.’’
An outstanding student, Ball maintains an A average in Pre-AP classes.
“She’s had a nice season,’’ White said. “We’re real happy with what she’s done. We think she has a really good future ahead of her.’’