By Mark Gregory
The Downers Grove North boys country team went into the Marist Sectional with one idea in their heads – win.
That was what the Trojans did with 54 points, ahead of Lyons (80) and Hinsdale Central (92), qualifying them for the IHSA state finals in Peoria.
“The main goal was to get us the sectional title. Our main rival is Neuqua Valley and we just want to get them next week and we didn’t want anyone to beat us before that so we could focus on them,” said senior Alec Danner. “Last year, we were fourth or fifth in the sectional and getting to state was the goal even though we weren’t really a contender. This year we are returning everyone and there is a much larger focus coming into the race.”
Danner was the top runner through for North, placing sixth in the race in 15 minutes, 6 seconds.
“I thought my individual performance was pretty good,” Danner said. “I know I struggled a little but at the beginning of the year with how the training was affecting my legs, but I am finally feeling fresh and able to really get after it that last mile.”
Jacob Ridderhoff (7th, 15:07), Matt Moravec (10th, 15:17), Ryan Birkmeier (15th, 15:27) and Andrew Marek (16th, 15:30) rounding out the five scorers. “It was brutal,” Ridderhoff said. “I was racing with a Lyons kid the first two miles and every time I would pass him, he would sprint by me and it was mentally tough because I knew I had to beat him, but in the final mile I gave it everything I had and I got him. It helped me focus on the race because I knew what needed to be done and what was the goal for the race.”
Stephen Pipilas of Downers Grove South will also race at the state meet, as he qualified with a 12th place showing in 15:21.
On the girls side, it was Downers Grove South that claimed the top sectional prize with 69 points, finishing ahead of Lyons (101) and Lockport (101). “It was really good. The course was in pretty good condition except for the one muddy patch. It was a good race. I was one where people were challenging each other all the way through and there was a lot of good competition here,” said freshman Brenna Cohoon. “[Being here for the first time] was very exciting. There was a lot of adrenaline and a lot of excitement with every one cheering Our goal today was to get first. We have been working all season to get stronger as a team and I think we did a really good job of working with each other throughout the race to get that accomplished.
Cohoon finished fifth in 17:52. Fellow freshman Erin Reidy was 10th in 18:08.
“It was very difficult at first because I went out a little uncontrolled,” she said. “But the help of my team really helped because it pushed me to go faster. I thought I was going to break down, but I found that gear and I shifted.”
Melissa Weidner (12th, 18:12), Becky Versaskas (18th, 18:18) and Katie Stapleton (24th, 18:34) rounded out the scorers.
Also qualifying were Mae Tully of Benet (14th, 18:15) and Emma Moravec of Downers North (16th, 18:18) In Class 2A, the Westmont Cross Country team placed well at the Lisle Sectional meet on Saturday. The girls team finished in third place and the boys team finished 7th. Halle Nash was a sectional medalist finishing fifth overall, leading the team to the state meet, while on the guys side, only Matt Gedraitis advanced, finishing 10th overall.