OREGON – Only one second separated Ryan Taylor of Bureau Valley and Al Baldonado of Spring Valley Hall, as both crossed the finish line at the Oregon Class 1A sectional.
Taylor came through the chute at 16:41.79 and Baldonado at 16:42.99. Both knew they were on the borderline of qualifying as individuals.
To compound matters, there ended up being a one-hour delay for the official results of team and individual qualifiers because of a lost timing chip from one of the 156 runners out on the Park West course that morning.
“We were on pins and needles while we waited,” BV coach Dale Donner said. “At the half-mile mark, Ryan came by in 11th place (the same place where he finished) and got passed by one or two runners, but passed one or two the rest of the way. He pounded the finish.”
When meet officials finally made their way back to the awards stand, it was good news/bad news for the two area runners.
Taylor snuck into the seventh and final state-qualifying spot, while Baldonado was the odd man out.
“Ryan ran out of gas at the end,” Donner said. “If the course had been 10 meters, or even five meters longer, he would have been in trouble.”
Actually, there were two runners (T.J. Pitcock of Byron and Mark Spika of Ottawa Marquette) who finished between Taylor and Baldonado, but they did not count as individual qualifiers as they were on teams that qualified.
“It was just so crowded,” Baldonado said. “I had to work my way up because the course was so packed in. It’s not my best time, but I worked harder here. It’s a tough course.
It was bad enough that Baldonado just missed qualifying, but teammate Joseph Parochetti finished one place behind in 16:46.
“I’m not a big fan of this course. There was a lot of pushing and shoving,” Parochetti said. “In the middle of the race, I go away from the pack and then at the end, everyone came back.”
“It’s tough to take for them, but as time goes on they will realize that they did everything in their power. They left it all on the course and, really, their effort is the only thing they could control,” Hall coach Tom Keegan said.
Bureau Valley finished ninth as a team with 223 points, with Hall right behind with 269. Princeton, with top finisher Zach Andersen (52nd, 17:32), was last out of 20 teams with 524. PHS coach Pat Hodge said Andersen, Andrew Birkey (19:20) and Cody Workman (20:31) all ran personal bests.
Senior Logan Hoffert (48th, 17:30.32) closed out his career with a top-50 finish for Bureau Valley as the No. 2 runner behind Taylor.
Rock Island Alleman won both the team and individual titles. Ethan Aldfinger, who placed second last year in the sectional, beat Luke Hill of Ottawa Marquette, 15:52 to 15:54.
Other qualifying teams were Winnebago, Byron, Newman and Marquette.