2021 IHSA State Cross Country Snap Recap

The furious finish of the 3A girls state championship at Detweiller Park



Peoria IL-

It was great to be back at historic Detweiller Park after a two-year hiatus due to the Coronavirus. The day-long and non-stop cross country action started off a bit shaky with long car lines getting into the park. Once the delays were settled in, it was time for what everyone came for.

Class A Girls-

Aurora Rosary senior Lianna Surtz didn't receive many pleasantries from the pundits coming into the state meet. There had been several classification girls who had run better and the trend was toward them. However, it was Surtz who had won the last IHSA state championship back in 2019 with a sizzling time of 16:41. This time around she was able to get out well in the first mile in 5:28- ten seconds up on the field. Surtz would eventually settle in and hang on for the win in 17:21. Kate Ahmari (Jr., Urbana University) copped the runner-up spot in 17:29.

Almost everyone thought #1 Winnebago would steamroll their way to another state title. Well, the 'Bagos have had their way all season long and cruised at the sectional round with 26 points. However, #2 Tolono Unity had other plans and ran their best race of the season (possibly as a program). The Rockets closed things out well with a 41-second scoring split to tally 126 points to Winnebago's 138. Eureka took the third place trophy scoring 157 points.

Class 1A Boys-

Ryder James (Sr., Paxton-Buckley-Loda) and Drew Rogers (Sr., Herscher) are tight as any set of brothers can be. They are so close they are going to be teammates (and possibly roommates) at the University of Missouri next season. The first mile was established by those two and Miles Sheppard (Sr., West Hancock) who all hit in 4:41. James was on a mission though as he took control of the action in the backwoods and nodded to pal Rogers to come on. The subsequent response was James taking off and running away with the victory in a lifetime best 14:16. Rogers was second in 14:29.

The team battle was supposed to be close and it was. #3 Chicago Latin was one of the favorites because of their potential lowstick runners upfront. Ryan Hardiman (Sr.) did his job with a sixth place scoring effort (14:59) followed by Akili Parekh (Jr.) in the eighth team scoring slot. The Roman's 1:34 scoring split did not hurt them as much as it did for the pursuers and the final verdict was a 165-172 win over Arthur. Chicago Depaul Prep got in on the action as well with a third place trophy, earning 186 points.

Class 2A Girls-

This was considered the race of the day because of the amount of talent in the field. Led by the state's top runner Ava Parekh (Sr., Chicago Latin) she immediately took charge of the action. The first mile was in 5:15 and there was no doubt who the race was going in Parekh's favor. It was smooth sailing at the second mile in 10:49 and in complete control. Parekh would come home and win her first IHSA title in 16:23, the fastest time of day and 15 seconds better than Mary Grace Hegberg (Sr., Arlington Heights St. Viator).

The three trophy teams were all from the same Woodstock North Sectional. #7 Grayslake Central, #1 Crystal Lake South, and #5 Vernon Hills. Though Grayslake Central dropped out of the top-rated spot right before the state series, the Rams got good news that a key runner Katie Armstrong (Jr) was back in the fold. Armstrong's strong fifth place scorer did not disappoint and it enabled her team to win their first title with 148 points. CLS held off Vernon Hills for second 162-165.

Class 2A Boys-

Alex Partlow (Sr., Carbondale) waited a year to redeem himself for a final last mile at the Shazam XC Championship that appeared to be three miles long. Partlow only needed 14:11 to depose of a good field which included Wilson Georges (Sr., Limestone). Partlow's no-nonsense pacesetting and relentless surging was the key in establishing himself as the state's top overall runner.

The top four teams had scoring splits under one minute but it was #1 Oak Park Fenwick that utilized their position the best in beating #2 Deerfield 120-141. #3 Morton scored 164 points. Sifting through a maze of individuals scorers was Grayden Rill (Jr) whose third place scoring finish (8th overall in 15:06) was the difference.

Class 3A Girls-

The Lady Dukes of York came too far to be friendly on the Detweiller course. The top rated team in the state is also US#10 and they put that label out for everyone to see. York put all of their scorers in the top 20 (#6 was 27th) and routed the field in one of the most dominant performances in state history 62-151 over #5 Prospect. The 17:09 per girls scoring average was #3 behind the 2018 state meet (Naperville North 16:58, Yorkville 16:59). #6 Hinsdale Central scored 197 to take third.

Josephine Welin (Sr., Oak Park-River Forest) is peaking at the right time. With only seven weeks of regular training under her belt, Welin went to what has made her a namesake, leading from the gun. It was a blistering first mile in 5:10 that made it very difficult for anyone to challenge her. A 15 second lead at the halfway point was fizzled down to under five seconds with less than 200m to go. Welin was able to pull out the victory in a personal best 16:26 and beat Aly Negovetich (Sr., Grant) who also ran her best race with a time of 16:29. 14 girls would break 17:00, making it one of the fastest finals in state history.

Class 3A Boys-

The best sectional in the state courtesy of Hinsdale Central did not disappoint. #1 Sandburg led the charge in a hot contest event and betting foes Hinsdale Central and Downers Grove North. The Eagles put three scorers in the top 20 and two more in the scoring top 150 and won with 130 points. The Red Devils earned another trophy and beat their conference rivals the Trojans 175-179 for the runner-up spot. 

One of the most consistent runners in state history is Micah Wilson (Sr., St. Charles East), he always has a game plan when it mattered most. In the final race for his high school team, Wilson went out and set a pace that would force anyone who was rated ahead of him to make a decision to either go with his 4:34 opening mile pace or fall behind and not recover. Wilson gapped the field in the back loop which gave him some margin of error to work with. Despite a nice surge by Nick Falk (Sr., New Trier), Wilson won in a personal best 14:11. Falk's 14:14 was also his best time and Riley Newport (Jr., Dekalb) got under 14:20 at 14:15.