The start of the furious boys championship race
The state championship was back in effect and the historic Detweiller Park was the scene of the lively action. There was a bit of a delay for people getting inside of the venue, but once there you can expect so much action and excitement.
Pre-season #1 Winnebago steamrolled their way through the season including at the Oregon Sectional where they could have run a B-team and probably finish advance to state. Where the 'Bagos overconfident? After all, this storied program has won multiple programs over several generations of runners, and they are champions of the last two champions: 2019 state and 2020 Shazam.
The racing tempo was set at a faster pace than expected because of Lianna Surtz (Sr., Aurora Rosary) who hit the first mile in 5:28 and at least 10 seconds faster than the first pack of runners. Winnebago's pack was up front throughout the race but they never got the lead or could separate away from their main competitors. By the second mile, #2 Tolono (Unity) was in front based on a strong top five. Winnebago appeared to be in trouble with some untimely injuries, one devastating blow was #3 runner Kaylee Woolery (Jr) not finishing. She was in the top 20 through the second mile. However, when you have a 40-second scoring split and all five runners among the top 40, it is hard to lose.
Surtz got her win the hard way after the fast opening mile as she continued hammering through each checkpoint. It would be Surtz's second title in a row in 17:21. Kate Ahmari (Jr., Urbana University) took second in a personal best 17:29. Louisa Wilson (Fr., Williamsville) completed an amazing season placed third with a time of 17:34. Last year's Shazam champ Anna Perry (Sr., Eureka) closes her career by finishing fourth in 17:47. Ava Knap (Sr., St. Joseph-Ogden) closed out the top five in 17:48.
|Top 5 TEAM SCORES|
|1||Tolono Unity High School||126||16+20+24+26+40 (80+81)||0:41 1-5 Split | 18:40 Avg|
|2||Winnebago High School||138||9+11+18+29+71 (111)||1:33 1-5 Split | 18:38 Avg|
|3||Eureka High School||157||4+15+23+43+72 (152+184)||1:55 1-5 Split | 18:43 Avg|
|4||St. Joseph-Ogden||167||5+6+39+55+62 (112+161)||1:45 1-5 Split | 18:44 Avg|
|5||Rosary High School||182||1+19+50+52+60 (76+82)||2:10 1-5 Split | 18:48 Avg|
The story coming into the championship was the individual race. Three of the state's elite runners were in the field. Drew Rogers (Sr., Herscher), Ryder James (Sr., Paxton-Buckley-Loda), and Miles Sheppard (Sr., West Hancock). As expected, this trio went out and started an inferno on the Detweiller turf that was still damp from the morning frost.
Sheppard led the first mile in 4:41 followed by Rogers and James. Several others were nearby including Ryan Hardiman (Sr., Chicago Latin) at 4:43. Hardiman has stepped up as the Roman's top man during the post-season. He would eventually be the lowstick needed in winning a state team title.
It was in the "Bermuda Triangle" where things began to formulate. James took a slight over Sheppard and James right before the 1.5 marker. James checked over his right shoulder and it appeared he was motioning his pal James to "come let's go", he would begin his push toward a championship. Rogers came in with a sore foot which hampered his training and relegated him to the elliptical machine. Friend or no friend, James was in it to win it and he passed the second mile in 9:35.
James turned a three-second lead with a half-mile to go into a double-digit win over Rogers 14:16 to 14:29. Sheppard ran 14:31 to finish third and establish a big personal best. Daniel Winkelman (Jr., Elgin Harvest Christian Academy) took fourth in 14:42. The fifth-place finish was Issac Teel (So., Pinckneyville) who ran out of his mind in 14:45.
#2 Latin was a team capable of winning the state championship. Hardiman (8th), Akili Parekh (Jr)- 10th, and Ben Gibson (Fr)- 20th provided the fireworks upfront. The lingering question throughout the season was the fourth and fifth runners. Kudos to Daniel Goodman (Fr) and Jackson Ballard (Jr) because they stepped up with PB's 16:29 and 16:33 respectively. It was just good enough to hold off Arthur who had four runners in the top 40. Depaul Prep emerged as well, earned a trophy in third place.
|Top 5 TEAM SCORES|
|1||Chicago Latin High School||165||6+8+14+65+72 (114+142)||1:34 1-5 Split | 15:46 Avg|
|2||Arthur-Lovington-Atwood- Hammond HS||172||9+20+29+30+84 (156+208)||1:23 1-5 Split | 15:56 Avg|
|3||DePaul College Prep||186||11+17+44+51+63 (92+151)||1:06 1-5 Split | 16:00 Avg|
|4||Normal [University]||193||21+25+45+50+52 (78+87)||0:36 1-5 Split | 16:07 Avg|
|5||Rockford Christian||217||10+13+35+58+101 (112+171)||1:31 1-5 Split | 16:02 Avg|