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Boys cross country: Munster’s Tom Bolanowski running for redemption

Munster's Tom Bolanowski finishes fourth Bob Thomas Invite Saturday Lowell High School.  |  John Booz/For Post-Tribune

Munster's Tom Bolanowski finishes fourth in the Bob Thomas Invite on Saturday at Lowell High School. | John Booz/For the Post-Tribune

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Updated: September 15, 2013 9:09PM



MUNSTER — During the final kilometer of last year’s New Prairie Semistate, Munster runner Tom Bolanowski — then a junior — knew something was wrong.

“My body just wasn’t feeling right,” he recalled. “It was something out of the ordinary, and I kept thinking that I had to finish the race real quick.”

Bolanowski said he only felt worse as he got down to the last 100 meters and then — finally — crossed the finish line. The top 15 runners at that race qualified for a state finals appearance. Bolanowski was 16th, trailing Crown Point’s Alex Ray by, “1.7 seconds,” as Bolanowski said. “It stands out to me; I can’t really forget that.”

Having pushed his body to its limits down the final stretch of the race, Bolanowski remained at the finish line for about 30 minutes while his body tried to recover. “In the last 100 meters or so, my body just shut down. I finished the race and I just collapsed. It definitely wasn’t the end I’d wanted.”

The news only got worse for Bolanowski — and his teammates — when the team standings were announced. The top six teams at that meet also earned a state finals appearance. Lowell’s score of 209 points gave them the sixth and final berth in the state final. Munster finished seventh with 210 points.

“As unconscious as I felt after the race, I still remember just about everything,” Bolanowski said. “That was pretty defeating.”

“It always hurts,” said Munster coach Aaron Brown. “Especially for young athletes like that, to come so close and get denied was pretty painful for them.”

As Brown explained, it also prevented the Mustangs from gaining the experience of reaching the ultimate race of the high school cross country season.

“We kind of knew at the time that we might have an even better team this year, so I really wanted them to get to state last year so they’d have that experience. Then, if we made it again this year, they wouldn’t be in awe of the situation.”

Undaunted by the double dose of disappointment from the fall, Bolanowski got right back to running last spring and put together an impressive track season.

“Making it back to state in the one-mile and taking 14th definitely improved my confidence in my running, especially after missing out in cross country,” Bolanowski said.

Added Brown: “He’s just never stopped running, as long as I’ve known the kid. That consistent training is what everyone needs to see because that’s how you’re going to be successful in this sport.”

Now Bolanowski — along with a talented group of teammates including Ryan Kritzer and Manny Lopez — are looking to put the 2012 shortcomings firmly in their rearview mirrors.

“We have three really good runners at the top that can do a lot of damage in the semi-state and state (meets),” said Bolanowski, referring to the trio of himself, Kritzer and Lopez. “Then there are three or four guys right behind us that are competing for the other top five spots. I think, as a team, we can do a lot of damage this year.”



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