State Cross cross country
PEORIA — North Central Illinois was well represented in the IHSA State Cross Country finals Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
Rock Falls (123 points) claimed second place in the Class 1A girls meet behind state champ Eureka (84).
It is only the second state trophy earned by a Rocket cross country team in school history. The 1956 Rock Falls boys team was also second at state.
Rock Falls ended the regular season ranked fourth in the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association rankings, behind Tolono Unity, Eureka and St. Joseph-Ogden. That served as motivation, according to Rock Falls’ Erin Porter.
“We kind of came here with a chip on our shoulder, ranked fourth, when we know that doesn’t get us a trophy,” Porter said. “We just wanted to run the best race that we could.”
Newman sophomore Karlie Hey placed fifth overall with a time of 17:29.4. Hey placed fourth as a freshman, with a time of 17:48.
Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio junior Margaret Vaessen also showed vast improvement. She placed 87th with a time of 19:22. As a sophomore, Vaessen was 189th in 22:01.
“Last year, it was bad,” Vaessen said. “I think it was in my head. I disappointed myself. This year, I’m glad I came back and I did something that I’m proud of.”
Ashley Heagy of LaSalle-Peru placed 58th (18:42) in the 2A girls race.
Rock Falls’ Dawson Smith and Sterling Newman’s Spencer Mauch placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 1A boys race.
Smith was in ninth place heading into the last mile, but then made up ground. The last runner he picked off was Mauch, and Smith finished with a time of 15:10.4, just ahead of Mauch.
“I just wanted to go out and stay in touch with the lead group, and then gut it out the last mile,” Smith said. “I’m pretty happy with my place. I wanted to go under 15 minutes, but I’ll take 15:10. That’s a good time.”
Mauch, a 4-year state qualifier, set a new school record in placing sixth with a time of 15:10.7.
Mauch was among the leaders for the first half of the race, as he did his best to keep pace with the eventual champion, Christopher Collet of Seneca. Collet (14:45) and runner-up Garrett Dixon of Monticello (14:56) separated themselves from the field.
“I was hoping to get up near the top five,” Mauch said, “and I just told myself if I want to be anywhere near there, I’m going to have to be with (Collet and Dixon) for at least half the race. I just pushed it and tried to see what they wanted to do and what I could do. That was the plan.”
Newman’s Shay Hafner (15:27.2) finished in 18th place.
Locally, Putnam County’s Michael Dzierzynski (108th, 16:28.24) and Amboy-LaMoille-Ohio’s Thomas Stamberger (109th, 16:30.81), finished back to back, as they did at sectional.
Logan Johnson of LaSalle-Peru placed 87th (16:01) in the 2A boys race.