It was all Connor Burns at the Peoria Notre Dame Richard Spring Invitational
As soon as it was announced mid-week that Connor Burns was coming to Illinois to compete in the Richard Spring Invitational you could hear the cheers and feel the anxiety through a Brinks truck vault. The senior from Southern Boone HS in Missouri made history by becoming the first American high school junior boy to break 4:00 in the mile this past spring (3:58.89). That alone made him a favorite target among his peers. But the underrated storyline was Burns was a proficient cross country runner, winning all but one of his races last season.
After mentally subduing his peers on Friday, it was a lightening fast start on Saturday morning that really set Burns apart from a solid three-mile field. The first mile was swift in 4:33 and more than five seconds ahead of the nearest competitor Marcellus Mines (Jr., Joliet West). After Mines was Parker Nold (Sr., Oswego East) a few ticks back followed a big pile of runners well under 5:00.
Any attempt at immortality such as going under 14:00 or even breaking former Hersey great Josh Methner's 13:49 record would need to be done during the second mile inside of the "Bermuda Triangle." This is where runners either emerge in great shape or disappear. Burns hit the halfway point in 6:48. Burns was on the brink of immortality but he would need to maintain his momentum. The team battle here was between #2 Hinsdale Central and #9 Oak Park-River Forest. Both had strong numbers up top and in the scoring middle. Hinsdale Central was without their top runner Daniel Watcke who was on a college visit. But still, the Red Devils looked potent with Aden Bandukwala (Jr.) leading the charge.
Burns passed the 1.75 mile mark with a little strain on his face. This is the gateway back into the main part of the course and where could gather energy from the large crowd. Mines was there also but in a more dire situation, he grabbed his right hip and winced off of the course a short time later. Nold would assume control of that second position and motor on. Burns was 9:20 at the second mile and essentially was running to maintain his big lead. The Huskies had a sizable team lead over the Red Devils and it looked safe with a mile to go.
The final verdict was a convincing win by Burns in 14:22 and it was the fastest time at Detweiller Park whether it was the Notre Dame/Bradley University rolled version or last weekend's FTTF Invite in which the first mile mark was significantly different. Nold held on for second place, barely holding off Liam Newhart (Sr., Oak Park-River Forest) 14:42.3-14:42.5. Bandukwala has solidified his team with a big personal best 14:45 for fourth. Dylan Ybarra (Jr., O'Fallon) closed out the top five running 14:48.
Newhart's Huskies won with 79 points ahead of the Red Devils 186. The upstart Wheaton-Warrenville South took third with 211 points. The Tigers had five runners in the top 60 to turn back an improving Sandburg team whose 216 is encouraging for the future.