NEW CARLISLE — Early Saturday afternoon, amidst the fresh sting of losing out on a boys cross country state finals berth by way of a tie-breaker, New Prairie coach John Arndt spoke glowingly of his team's season, at that point, in retrospect.
"What a cool journey," Arndt said after the semistate. "Let's call it what it is. It is the best and the worst all at the same time. This is a great team. It's going to be very sad to lose these seniors. The La Porte coach (Corbin Slater) walks up to me and said, 'We saw you at Harrison, and your growth has been ridiculous.' We were happy where we were at Harrison, but we knew some things could come together. I would have been very, very, very proud of how we developed, even if we didn't run like we did and we ran an 'A' race."
In the moment, Arndt said the Cougars 'are humming right now' and longed for another race. Two days later, the wish was granted when the school's appeal to review a scoring error that put them in sixth place was accepted.
"I know you can have two perspectives on this race," Arndt said of state. "You can go in and say, wow, all pressure off, let's just have fun, enjoy the experience and see what happens. The other perspective is, let's show any doubters why we're there, that we belong, we're there to compete with the best the state offers and see how high up in the rankings we can show ourselves."
Cougars' lead runner Tim O'Laughlin agreed.
"I can't speak for everyone, but it's probably going to be all business for another week," he said. "These guys surprised me a little bit."
In retrospect, the Cougars were appreciative of the support Saturday when it looked like they were on the outside looking in, on the short end of a tie-breaker with Lake Central.
"It felt good having coaches come up to us, Chesterton, La Porte," NP assistant coach David Dailey said. "We were saying Sunday, 'Would we be willing to do this (video review) for anybody else? The nice thing is, we were saying, 'Yes, we would.' We coach in a great running community. We could call these coaches and they'd back us up. We wanted Lake Central in, too."
THE SOLE SLICER: La Porte's 10th-place team finish was tempered by sophomore Cole Raymond qualifying by taking eighth.
"I definitely wanted the team aspect, but going individually is also pretty dope," Raymond said. "I can bring some of the boys with me."
As he's done all season, Raymond intends to push the pace early and see how long he can maintain it. He estimates that his speed would put him in the 60th-place range.
"I'm used to bigger races," he said. "I know how to race. I'm going to be there at the halfway point and see what happens. You never know. I'm going to go out there and try to win. If I'm going to mess up, I'd rather do it my sophomore year."
HELP WANTED: If you live in La Porte and you find Corbin Slater knocking on doors, he's not canvassing for political office or selling candy bars for the fundraiser.
The Slicers cross country coach is on the hunt for more runners.
"That's on me as a coach," Slater said. "I'm going to be going door to door, any kid in La Porte who wants to be a runner some day, that's my goal, to get any kid we can out. That's what's going to take us to that next level. We had all the ingredients. We showed up when it mattered. We just have a depth issue. We need more guys. That's where we're putting our efforts. We can't rely on 15 guys, year in and year out. We need to move that group up and who knows what can happen."
Cross Country State Finals
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Lavern Gibson Championship Course, Terre Haute