Boys cross country: Kyle Eller leads deep Lowell squad making first state appearance
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent October 24, 2012 11:16PM
Lowell's Jeff Potat nears the finish during a NCC meet on Saturday, in Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:20AM
LOWELL — It takes a lot more than just one runner to send a cross country team to a state championship meet.
Even the most special runners, such as Lowell’s Kyle Eller, need a solid group of teammates in spots 2-5 to push the entire squad deep into the postseason.
For the first time in its program history, Lowell was able to piece together a complete squad as the Devils did something Saturday that no other Lowell cross country had: advance to the state meet.
“Ever since the end of the last cross country season, we wanted this,” said senior Jeff Potat, the third Lowell runner to finish at the New Prairie Semistate.
“We all wanted to prove we were state-worthy,” added Brian Blaylock, another key to this year’s postseason success.
Lowell’s depth proved to be crucial at the New Prairie Semistate, with only four points separating teams four through eight. West Lafayette was fifth with 207 points and Lowell earned the final state bid with a score of 209. A pair of region teams followed agonizingly close, as Munster took seventh with 210 points and Crown Point was eighth with 211.
“That says a lot,” said Lowell coach Jake Rakoczy. “How many times did Munster and Crown Point beat us this season? But we still came into the race with the mindset that we could beat them. Their resolve has been outstanding all year long.”
Crown Point had won both the sectional and regional meets ahead of Lowell, while Munster took first place at the NCC Invitational over Lowell and took third place — just ahead of Lowell’s fourth-place finish — at regionals. But clutch performances from runners like Potat and Blaylock propelled Lowell into the next round.
“It was the best feeling you could have as a runner,” said Blaylock. “I was so happy for the team. We’ve got a lot of seniors this year … this is going to be something that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.”
Blaylock cut one minute off of his time from the 2011 semistate meet and jumped 59 places: moving from 76th to 17th in one year. Potat’s evolution was equally as impressive, as he dropped his time from 17:41 to 16:59, allowing him to jump from 93rd to 34th in the standings.
“I never got the feeling that Jeff and Bryan weren’t going to be ready for Saturday,” said Rakoczy. “They talked about it all year, about really being able to compete and break some of the goals that they set.”
Senior Garrett Corning (68th overall) and sophomore Ethan Huseman (88th overall) rounded the Devils’ top five finishers, accounting for vital points in a tight battle to advance.
Said Rakoczy: “Garrett had been dealing with some knee injuries and Ethan is still in his first full season of running, but they all did exactly what we talked about. That’s what still blows my mind. Everyone has a plan and very rarely does the race go according to plan. But those are the kinds of kids we’ve got.”
One race remains this season, and even though it’ll be the first time a Lowell cross country squad competes in it, Rakoczy said he’ll be expecting more of the same.
“The last thing we want to see happen is for our guys just to be happy to be there and have a bad race, ending the season on a sour note. We’ve determined what place everyone should be in, and we want them to be even better than that.”