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Boys cross country: LaPorte’s Anthony Didion improves from 84th to 4th at state

LaPorte's Anthony Didiheads for finish line fourth place during Boys girls cross country state finals Terre Haute Saturday November 2

LaPorte's Anthony Didion heads for the finish line in fourth place during the Boys and girls cross country state finals in Terre Haute on Saturday November 2, 2013. | Charles Mitchell/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 4, 2013 6:48AM



TERRE HAUTE — As the last 200 meters or so played out in the boys cross country state final race on Saturday at LaVern Gibson Championship Course, it looked like Zachery Panning of Fort Wayne Concordia was on his way to winning after finishing runner-up last year.

But the physical toll of the challenging course that’s used for the NCAA championships got to him. Panning stumbled once, gathered himself for a few more strides, and then stumbled again.

He went from having the finish line in his sights to 22nd place, allowing several runners to improve their finish.

Among those was LaPorte’s Anthony Didion, who improved his effort at state by 80 spots, going from 84th last year to fourth on Saturday with a time of 15:43.9.

Didion admitted he didn’t know it was Panning collapsing to his left as he approached the finish line. Once he knew, he was visibly concerned.

“Oh my god … I hope he’s OK,” Didion said. “I was focused on the finish line. I passed like 10 people down the home stretch. It was something.”

Maybe that’s the best way to describe Didion’s effort after the disappointment of his team finishing one point from advancing at semistate. But the senior had his teammates with him in the form of their names written on his arms.

“Every time I started to hurt out there (on the course), I looked down at all the names,” he said. “It was all guts trying to hang on as best I could.”

The team that barely edged LaPorte a week before at semistate ended up posting the best Northwest Indiana effort. Munster placed 13th as a team, led by Ryan Kritzer’s 25th-place finish to earn all-state honors.

“How could we be sixth at semistate, but 13th here? … But I’m not going to complain,” said Munster coach Aaron Brown. “We ran better this week. It will be a nice ride home.”

Kritzer was pleasantly surprised with his finish.

“I thought I was further back. When I finished I was disappointed,” he said. “But this is great. We definitely made up for semistate.”

Another Northwest Crossroads Conference runner was also surprised at his finish. Lowell’s Brian Blaylock thought he was closer to Kritzer in the standings. Then his name was announced during the awards ceremony and it was, well, just crazy.

“I told coach I thought I was 22 or 23, and then I heard ‘Lowell’ and was like, ‘Oh my god … that’s crazy,” Blaylock said. “I was 15th with about 600 (meters) to go and there was a lot of passing and I guess I got 11th. Top 20 was my goal; top 15 would have been crazy; finishing 11th is real crazy.”

The next-highest local runner after Kritzer was Valparaiso’s Ari Coulopoulos, who finished his career with a 57th-place effort, while his fellow senior teammate, Andrew Jankowski, was 69th. As a team, the Vikings placed a disappointing 18th after being third last year. Crown Point was 19th, led by Tyler Gray in 68th.

Carmel won the boys title, while Jackson Bertoli of Terre Haute South was first individually.



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