October 4th – Girls DAC Preview by Chuck Heimberg

DAC Meet preview – Girls

This Saturday, October 5th, Laporte will host the Duneland Athletic Conference Cross Country meet on their home course at Kesling Park. Kesling is a flat, fast course that should produce some great times if the rains, forecast for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, are minimal.
As most people know, the teams in the DAC race dual meets during the month of September. The results of these meets account for 1/3 of a teams total points in the race for the DAC title. This Saturday’s championship meet accounts for the other 2/3’s of a team’s points. For example, the Laporte girls were undefeated in their DAC dual meets, going 7–0. Since they finished first in the regular season, they received 8 points (it is an 8 team conference). The second place team, Lake Central (6–1), received 7 points. This continues down to the 8th place team, who receives 1 point. On Saturday the winning team will receive double points. So if LaPorte wins they will have 8 points for winning the regular season plus 16 points for winning the DAC meet, giving them 24 points for the DAC overall win.
There are four teams that have a realistic chance to win the DAC this year. These team’s rankings at the end of the regular season are:
Laporte – 7–0 – 8 pts
Lake Central – 6–1 – 7 pts
Portage – 5–2 – 6 pts
Valparaiso – 4–3 – 5 pts
For LaPorte the formula is simple, a win or runner up finish will get them the DAC title, as long as Lake Central does not win the meet. If Lake Central wins they win it all. For Portage to win outright they need to win the meet and have LaPorte finish no better than third. If Portage wins and LaPorte is second they tie for the overall DAC title. Are you confused yet? Valpo has a shot but a lot of things will have to fall their way with the other teams placings for them to claim the title.
Now that I have gotten the confusion that is the DAC scoring system out of the way, let’s look at the top contenders for the team and individual titles.
Team Race

LaPorte – Coming into this meet it looks to be a very special day for the host team, the LaPorte Slicers. I may be wrong, but as far as I know LaPorte has never won the DAC. Not only are they the team favorites, they also have the top two contenders for the individual title, senior Elena Lancioni and sophomore Kailee Schoof. These two girls have consistently been the top two runners in the DAC all season and will assure that the Slicers will begin their scoring with less than 6 points, and probably only 3. The key for LaPorte is how well Cave, Didion and Gerick run. When they are on they have been right with the Portage pack. If that is the case on Saturday, the home team will rule the day.
Portage – Portage is, by far, the deepest team in the field. At the recent New Prairie Invitational the Indians had 6 runners before every other DAC team’s 4th, and every team but LP and LC’s 3rd. And this was before the return of Kyra Ball to the lineup. If you score this meet based on the New Prairie Invite results, Portage would beat LaPorte by eight points. If the Indian pack shows up strong and all seven stay close, they could upset the hosts.
Lake Central – This meet is really a toss up between LaPorte, Portage and Lake Central. I can easily see any of the three winningSaturday. Before the injury to freshman Sara Ramos, Lake Central was looking like the team to beat in the DAC. Even in her absence the Indians have had runners step up and keep them in the hunt. Sarah Hunsley and Megan Zajac may be the best one-two punch outside of LaPorte, but the key will be how well their 3–4–5 match up with LaPorte and Portage.
Valpo – Valpo has run all season without two of their top five from last years semi state, Sydney Nosbusch and Aurora Bonner. I have heard rumors that they both may be back in the lineup in October, which would be a huge boost for the Vikings. Alison Mundell and Michaela Gazdich have been doing a great job up front for Valpo, but they are going to need some help if Valpo is going to challenge for the win.
Crown Point – The Bulldogs were totally off of my radar when the season began, but their performance at New Prairie put them back in the picture as a possible state qualifier. Kayla McGurk has emerged as a solid front runner, and the rest of the team has been improving across the board. It will be interesting to see if they can continue to progress in October.
Chesterton – Every time Chesterton looks like they are ready to break through it seems as though they take a step backwards. If they have a good day I think they can challenge for 4th place.
Merrillville and Michigan City – Neither program has what it takes this year to be considered a contender, with their scoring runners racing in the 21:00 – 25:00 range. But they should pay attention to what LaPorte is doing, as it wasn’t that many years ago that LaPorte was in a similar boat.
Individuals listed by season best times
Elena Lancioni – LaPorte – 18:09 – should finish her DAC career in style
Kailee Schoof – LaPorte – 18:49 – ready to step up if Elena falters
Megan Zajac – Lake Central – 19:12 – was brilliant at New Prairie
Sarah Hunsley – Lake Central – 19:15 – best freshman in the DAC
Kayla McGurk – Crown Point – 19:30 – has been running well at the big meets
Alison Mundell – Valparaiso – 19:33 – has run consistently well all season
Paige Pizer – Portage – 19:34 – great race at Woodland Park last week
Rebecca Timm – Portage – 19:39 – another freshman having a great season
Michaela Gazdich – Valparaiso – 19:48 – has really stepped up for the Vikings this season
Rhyan Sloan – Portage – 19:54 – has the talent to help Portage be a great team
Saturday promises to be another great DAC meet. It is, after the state meet, the main focus of the season for these teams. These programs take pride in being DAC champions, and in my opinion it is the next best thing to being a top five team at the state meet. I think the race is Elena Lancioni’s to lose, and I don’t foresee that happening. She is an incredibly poised, focused runner who is respected and admired by her competitors in the conference. The team battle should be exciting, with LaPorte, Portage and Lake Central fighting all the way to the finish. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the top three separated by three or four points when the final scores are tabulated. The tournament season gets started on Saturday, and I think we are in for some incredible competition.

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