It was a sea of amazing performances amid great late fall weather that reached into the upper 60s
It was a speedy time in northern Alabama over the weekend, and it didn't have anything to do with the US Space & Rocket Center. Rather a huge cross country championship billed as a "national championship" held on the laser-like John Hunt Running Park.
Right away in the first race of the day- the boys 5k gold race- featured a blazing first mile in 4:34. The question was 'who would be able to handle such a torrid pace?' Senior Kamari Miller of Marietta, Georgia had made the commitment to go and steal the race. Ultimately, the winner would be senior Parker Wolfe of Cherry Creek, Colorado in a national leading 14:26.94. In fact, eight of the top ten performances came from this race.
Illinois had several bright spots as well in the 'Heart of Dixie' as senior Justin Mumford of Wesclin was one of the runners who chased after a big performance. Mumford hit the first mile in 4:37 and never looked back. "The [course] surface made all the difference," said Mumford. "There were a few gradual inclines and one big hill, but the course was super smooth with super short grass like the greens of a golf course."
There was no question that the lightning-fast layout was the primary reason for Mumford's IL #1 14:56 which led to him taking 27th place. As he reflected afterward, "I would like to go 8:59 on the track next spring."
Several other top notables took to the slick course: Luke Wiley (Sr., Warren)- 15:00, Austin Popplewell (Sr., Yorkville)- 15:08, Spencer Werner (Jr., Loyola Academy)- 15:12, Ivan Westcott (Sr., Yorkville)- 15:16, Mathew Olech (Sr., Elgin Harvest Christian Academy)- 15:19, and Daniel Watcke (So., Hinsdale Central)- 15:38
History was in order Saturday morning as we witnessed the first sub-16:00 performance in history when Jenna Hutchins of Tennesee rocked a blistering 15:58.42. The start of the race was serious as the Science Hill junior hit the first mile in 5:01. We have seen this before with the likes of Katelyn Tuohy (former NY prep phenom). But the difference here was a favorable course that had all the trappings of great weather and peak conditions.
Hutchins produced an unofficial two-mile time of 10:16, which again has been done before. However, the key here is the engine that Hutchins possesses. She has run 9:49 (3200m) and 4:45.12 mile indoors. There were no outdoor times of official note to speak of which makes things even more intriguing.
Hutchings motored past the three-miler marker in what appeared to be under 15:30. This is something that has not been seen under a set of eyes. The final verdict spoke for itself as 32 girls broke 18:00. One of those girls was the rejuvenated junior Katrina Schlenker of Batavia. Schlenker has continued to run in 2020 after dropping a personal best 17:28 to place eighth overall.
Schlenker got on the board by positioning herself well with an opening mile in 5:38. Later, after establishing her position, Schlenker began to jell. "The race was a challenge and a fun post-season national race since NXN and Footlocker didn't happen this year," stated Schlenker. Look for more gems from Schlenker as 2021 is on the horizon.