Girls cross country: Lake Central defends regional title
By John O’Malley Post-Tribune correspondent October 13, 2012 11:42PM
Griffith's Taylor Austin with a :14 second lead over her nearest competitor runs the course during the Crown Point Cross Country Regional at Lemon Lake Park in Cedar Lake, IN on Saturday October 13, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:51AM
CROWN POINT — As Taylor Austin approached the end of the chute, she dropped to her knees and was shaking.
The rain and cold had taken their toll on the Griffith standout at the Crown Point Regional, held Saturday at Lemon Lake County Park.
“I wanted all three of them,” said Austin, referring to the Northwest Crossroads Conference, Gavit Sectional and CP Regional titles. “So this was really good. I’m really excited. The top five next weekend (at the New Prairie Semistate) that’s my goal right now. I love running the course there, it’s awesome.”
The weather, more suited to ducks than athletes, was an added obstacle Austin faced in addition to the challenge of a hilly course and tough competition.
“It was really bad,” said Austin, who won in 19:23. “I tried not to think about it and just kept running. I couldn’t feel my arms. My legs were numb. My feet were tingling. My whole body was just frozen.”
Griffith coach Shannon Scheidel was pleased with Austin’s performance against a field of really good runners that included Hobart’s Mindy Whidden, who placed second, the Brickies’ Celena Guerrero, who finished third, Lake Central’s Megan Zajac, who was fifth, and Hebron’s Payton and Lexie Schatz, who ended up fourth and sixth respectively.
“She ran a really good race, especially for these conditions,” said Scheidel, of Austin. “She was going after the course record (held by LC’s Dana Payonk) and she was on pace the first mile, but then the rain got harder and the temperature dropped, which made it a lot tougher.”
Zajac’s fifth-place finish — the Indians placed four runners among the top 11 and five in the top 18 — helped Lake Central easily defend its team title.
The Indians had 43 points to easily out-distance Hebron, which placed second with 77 points. Hobart, Munster and the host Bulldogs were the other semistate teams.
“We’re thrilled,” LC coach Ann Downey said. “I thought the kids ran well. We didn’t get out as (quickly) as we would have liked those first 800 meters or so, but Jade (Tazbir, who placed 24th) got out and made the rest of the girls pull out and they all ran well.”
After a disappointing fifth-place finish at the Duneland Athletic Conference meet two weeks ago, the Indians appeared to be on a mission.
“We had to prove to ourselves that we could run this course,” Downey said. “Megan (Zajac) did great. She came to race today. They all came to race and that’s what we needed.”
Andrean’s Becca Conley, who won last year’s regional, was 24th heading into the final stretch, but found something within to pass 11 runners and finish 13th to advance.