Girls cross country: Chesterton returns to state for first time since 2007
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent October 24, 2012 11:16PM
Valparaiso runner and Chesterton runners heads towards the finish line during the IHSAA New Prairie cross country regional Saturday Oct. 13, 2012 in Rolling Prairie, Ind.| Joe Raymond ~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 26, 2012 7:20AM
CHESTERTON — After appearing at the state meet in 2007, the Chesterton girls cross country program ran into a dry spell.
A total of 24 teams advance to the final cross country race of the season each year: six each from the four semistate meets. In 2008, the Trojans finished ninth at the New Prairie Semistate. A year later, an issue with a computer chip worn by the runners resulted in a 10th-place finish.
The Trojans’ luck only got tougher in the following two seasons. In 2010, Chesterton finished in seventh place, 30 points away from sixth-place Portage and a return to the state meet.
“To know we were so close to qualifying … it was a huge disappointment,” said Haley Cushway, then a freshman.
The 2011 semistate meet was even more painful, as the Trojans again took seventh place, this time with only eight points separating them from sixth-place Lake Central.
Said Cushway: “We’d improved so much and our score was much better … but we were still seventh.”
“Deep inside, I thought we made it,” recalled head coach Brian Carden. “I thought our score was going to be good enough. But it was hard to tell.”
Last Saturday, the Trojans again had a chance to erase the disappointments of past semistate meets.
“I think we knew that this was one of the strongest teams that we’ve had in years,” said senior Samantha Giordano. “But, given our track record, we didn’t want to think we already had it.”
Overconfidence was not a problem for this Chesterton squad, and several of the runners said there were tears of joy flowing once the team learned it had qualified for the state meet with a fourth-place finish.
“When I heard them announce the seventh-place team and it wasn’t us, I just lost it,” said senior Melanie Buckmaster, who experienced the previous three unsuccessful semistate meets.
“After all the years of not making it to state and being so close, we were just sick of it,” said Giordano. “We wanted it this year, more than we have in a long time.”
There wasn’t much time for the Trojans to reflect on that success, though, as they now must prepare to compete in this Saturday’s state meet. Several of the runners said that, although they got the result they wanted, the team is capable of better performances.
“I don’t even think that was our best performance; we were much better at regionals,” said Cushway. Chesterton won its regional meet by placing all five runners in the top 15. “I know that we all still want to do well but it’s just an honor that we’re still running.”
Carden also recognized the challenge he faces with re-focusing his team after ending a five-year drought.
“It seemed like we were so focused on semistate and making it to state that we might have neglected what we’re going to do this week. But we’re going to go down there and run as hard as we can.
“We’re not content with just showing up,” Carden continued. “We haven’t been there in a while, but now we want to prove that we belong there.”