Boys cross country: Morgan Twp.’s Alec Kostelnik named P-T Runner of the Year
By DAVE MELTON Post-Tribune correspondent November 28, 2012 11:26PM
Alec Kostelnik, a senior running for Morgan Township High School, left, and Ari Coulopoulos, a junior running for Valparaiso High School, leave the stage after receiving their medals for finishing 11th and 15th respectively. The 67th Annual IHSAA Boy's Cross Country State Finals was held at The LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute Saturday, October 27, 2012. | Doug McSchooler~for the Post-Tribune
Updated: December 30, 2012 3:58PM
VALPARAISO — When a sport acts more like a family trait, it usually doesn’t take long for the “bug” to bite into the mind of a growing athlete and spur him into competition.
For Morgan Township senior Alec Kostelnik, however, the running bug remained dormant for the first decade of his life.
“I was a basketball and a baseball player,” he recalled. “I was all right, but I wasn’t anything special.”
Alec’s uncle Todd had been an all-state runner at Valparaiso in 1993 and his father, Sean, was an all-state runner at Kankakee Valley in 1988 and continued that career into college at Morehead State. It wasn’t until Alec was near middle school that he got into running.
“I didn’t know what he was going to do at first,” said Sean Kostelnik. “I talked him into running cross country in sixth grade and I don’t think he enjoyed it all that much. That next year was a little bit better and in eighth grade he seemed to catch the running bug.”
Four years later, Kostelnik had developed into one of the best runners in the state and worthy of the title 2012 Post-Tribune Runner of the Year.
It was during the 2011 season that Kostelnik started turning heads, as he ended his junior season with a 10th-place finish at the state meet. As an encore in his senior season, Kostelnik won his sectional and semistate races and took second at regional. In the 2012 state meet, Kostelnik dropped three seconds off of his 2011 time — down to 15:42 — but finished in 11th place.
The first words from Kostelnik’s mouth after the race, when asked how he felt during the final stretch, were: “My legs felt terrible.” But a month later, Kostelnik wasn’t sulking over the results.
“It’s not anything I can hang my head about,” he said. “I wish I could’ve done better but I just did what I could.”
One more season awaits Kostelnik, and he said he’ll be looking for some redemption when track begins in the spring.
“I didn’t have the season I wanted to, so I’m really motivated for track season. I just want to run faster than I did last year.”
After track season, Kostelnik will continue his running career at IUPUI, joining five other local runners: Jacob Baranowski (Highland), David Dailey (Michigan City), Ryan Cutter (Chesterton), Dakota Dubbs (LaPorte) and 2011 Post-Tribune Runner of the Year Mitch Hubner (LaPorte).
After coaching his son through middle school and high school, Sean Kostelnik now has a chance to impart more wisdom on his son, as the younger Kostelnik prepares for a new level of competition —and training.
“One of my goals while coaching him was to get him ready for college,” said Sean Kostelnik. “Sometimes college can be a big shock. You’ll go from running 60-70 miles per week up to 100-plus miles. It was a big deal. If you don’t do certain types of training in high school to prepare you for that, then it can get you discouraged real quick and then you give up the sport.”
Kostelnik called it a “huge help” to have someone with knowledge of the cross country experience. “I know that if I have any problems, then I have someone that I can relate with.”
Another family “bug” has caught the young Kostelnik in high school, as he spends half of his school day at Wheeler High School taking classes on law enforcement. Sean Kostelnik currently serves as a police officer in Valparaiso.
Whether it’s been in sports or in careers, for these two Kostelniks, it’s been: like father, like son.