Cole Raymond talks about win at Bob Thomas Invite
When Cole Raymond got to the starting line for Saturday's Bob Thomas Invitational, he noticed someone was conspicuous by their absence from Highland's lineup. Lucas Guerra, the 2019 state runner-up, didn't race due to some general soreness, opening the door for Raymond and the field to have a legitimate chance at winning. "I knew like two minutes before the race," Raymond said. "Coach (Corbin Slater)'s strategy was go out and get second place, then I saw him (at the start), he looked at me and said, let's get this win." That he did, cruising to a 26-second victory in 16:06.7. "My next race against (Guerra) isn't going to be until semistate so I wanted to come out and see what I had against him," Raymond said. "I wasn't going to go out balliistic like I did the opening meet. He's in the state class, maybe even the nation, a projected state champ. It's nice to win. I really wanted to get out hard and push the pace but I didn't really get out very well. At 500 meters, I took over, not feeling the best. I was shaky, then every turn, my coach said, start surging, start gapping, then I started to get into a rhythm." The win is the second in as many weeks for Raymond, who did the same seven days prior at Harrison (West Lafayette)."I credit my dad," he said. "He started getting on me. The running aspect, I was there, but I didn't do the weight lifting part. I started doing the little things, and it's really shown huge benefits the past two weeks. I changed my race strategies, too. I've paid the price before. I'm just going to be smart and lay back."
Crown Point's Cole Simmons was next in at 16:32.6, emitting a yell as he sprinted past LaPorte's Sam Bell in the last 100 meters. "My famous thing with my team is my kick," Simmons said. "Whenever it's a close race at the end, everyone gathers around so I have to put on for them. If it's a close race, I usually get the energy going. It was the same thing at Lake Central. The last 200, I turned it up. I'm thinking if i'm within 20 meters of someone, I've got this. It's a pretty good feeling when you pass someone that last stretch. Usually, I go out a lot slower, like eighth after the first mile. This race, I wanted to establish myself. I got out in the top three, and the halfway point, I tried to separate."
In the most exciting finish of the day, Merrillville's Zach Dunn nipped Morgan Township's Owen Thomas, 16:56.4-16:56.8. "It was like, this is my moment," Dunn said. "I have it in my head, I've tried so hard in the race, why stop now? I train in practice with Jeremie Lander (third place), who's a faster 800 runner. I'm never able to stick with him, but I try to his pace stuff, and it all prepares me. It helps me at the finish. The one thing I lacked as a cross country runner is a strong finish. I got beat in the same exact situation last year. It's what I've worked on the hardest. This is my first big win, so it's a major boost to my confidence that I can finally stay up there. I missed (state) by a couple places last year. I was so close, it made me push throughout the quarantine and summer." Technically, there were no team champions, but C.P. continued its dominance, notching a modest 34 points. Lake Central was a distant second with 79, followed by Munster (90). "Overall, we did pretty well," coach Erik Forehand said. "We're continuing to see improvement from pretty much each of guys every week. We're still taking each race, letting boys try new things. A couple of them wanted to try something new and I said, go for it. A couple guys were a lot further back than they'd have liked, but I'd rather do it in a meet like this and learn from it if we need to. Things are going well, this is awesome. We just don't want to get too comfortable. We also have to recognize a big part of our season isn't here yet, and that's when we want everybody to be healthy." Morgan made it a Black Division sweep, edging Hanover Central 50-62 for the low number.
So much for the hype. There was plenty of build-up for the Red Division race in Saturday's Bob Thomas Invitational, where the host's Karina James faced Bailey Ranta of Chesterton and Hailey Orosz of Wheeler for the first time this season. The Lowell junior just didn't know. "I genuinely didn't even realize," James said. "Actually, I kind of forgot about all the teams who were coming. They came in, I was like, oh my gosh, they're here and they're here, too. I knew since it was a home meet that I wanted to be able to do what I needed to do. My paces were a little slower this week, but nothing dramatic. They're really talented girls. I knew Hailey and Emma (Hellwege), the Wheeler girls, had been running really well. I think there was a little bit of nerves and a little bit of planning as to how to run the race. I knew there was work to be done." In the end, there was no drama, as James turned on the jets half way through and breezed to the line in 18:27.6.
Ranta checked in at 18:43.8 and Orosz at 19:22.6. "I didn't want to get myself in a sticky situation at the end where they're tagging along with me," James said. "You have to be able to know your body and be able to predict what's going to happen. When you make that move, it's a big move. You have to be able to go through with it or otherwise it's going to backfire on me. I felt good enough to take off a little earlier. Coach (Scott Coil) mentioned the course record (18:16) right before. I was like, really? Coming around here, I was like, do I go for it? I'm learning to race the watch. It's completely different than having someone on you. I'm working on that a lot lately, just working on the mental aspect." Ranta had mixed reviews on her performance. "I was somewhat pleased," she said. "I was kind of hoping I would be a little bit closer to Karina. She's a really good competitor. She really pushes me. I hope I can do better the next time. I knew she was going to (surge) at some point. I kind of had the feeling she was going to do it at the two-mile. I was going to prepare to go with her, but I should've had a closer distance between us. I knew I had some energy left. I'm going to be more prepared (next time). I know what I can do next week to improve. I just have to push myself harder." Orosz, too, is looking for better moving forward. "I was kind of disappointed in the time more than anything," she said. "This was like the first race I've had people in front of me, so I have to get used to that again. I feel like I just put it on cruise control after the first mile. I just wasn't there mentally. You learn, so next week will be different. I tried to hold on, but once I realized they were kind of gone."
There were no team awards given out, though scoring was kept with Chesterton topping Wheeler and Lake Central, 61-80-84, for first, followed by Crown Point (95) and Lowell (104). "It was a good step in the right direction," said Trojans coach Lindsey Moskalick, who also had Catherine White (eighth) and Bree Gentry (ninth) in the top 10. "I think the girls are finally starting to believe this can be a good season for them, believing in the training, believing in themselves and running the best that they can. It's just getting their confidence with each workout, each race. I'm just as new to it as them with being in the upper tier. We can talk to them all day long about how good they are, but until they believe it and start doing it, it's a different game." Wheeler's state finals aspirations were validated in their first race against the larger schools."It's cool going up against the big schools and telling the girls they can run with them," said Bearcats coach Ben Kosal, who seven personal bests from his 10 varsity girls. "We know we have the best team we've had since I've been coaching (11 years). The faster girls, the faster schools do not have to be ahead of you. You can be up there with them and beat them. It was a great race. Our three, four, five girls were monsters. They went with the big girls. Hailey and Emma are always going to be up there. For Wheeler to be successful, it's always going to come down to three, four and five, and six and seven."
In the Red Division race, Boone Grove's Kyra Flesvig took advantage of a navigational error by Kankakee Valley's Emma Bell, who led comfortably but continued to run straight instead of turning left toward the finish line."I saw her take a wrong turn and as soon as she kept going, I was thinking, oh no, she went the wrong way," Flesvig said. "That actually happened to me before where I ended up losing. I just thought, finish strong and see what happens." Flesvig crossed in 20:09.7 with Bell at 20:23.1, losing an estimated 45 seconds with the error. Morgan Township placed four in the top eight to finish first with 39 points, followed by Hobart (61) and Hanover Central (73).