The EHS boys cross country team members did not perform as well as they expected at their sectional race on Saturday Nov. 2, but they will have an opportunity to earn their desired results at the state meet Saturday Nov. 9 in Peoria.
Two EHS runners placed in the top 20 out of 140 varsity runners. Senior Jack Pifer placed 10th overall in the race, and sophomore Ryan Watts placed 19th.
Watts was more than content with his individual performance.
“I personally thought I had the best race of my life just due to the fact that I believed I battled harder than I have my entire life,” Watts said. “My time and place won’t reflect it, but I was very happy with my own race.”
The team, however, was not pleased with their group performance, according to senior Kurt Brase. The Tigers placed fourth in the meet, behind Minooka, Yorkville and Lincoln-Way Central.
“Our number two runner, Zach Walters, was unable to finish the race so our points were affected as scoring depends upon a team’s top five finishers,” Brase said. “We luckily finished fourth so we have the opportunity to run at state, but this sectional meet has left a very bad taste in our mouths.”
EHS cross country coach George Patrylak was also looking for better results.
“For whatever reason, today was not our best,” coach Patrylak said in an interview with the Intelligencer. “The big thing is we did enough to advance.”
The girls team, on the other hand, was pleasantly surprised by its success at sectionals. The team placed fifth in the meet, which was unexpected as they were not projected to qualify for state, according to sophomore Makenna Lueking.
“We all went into the race with the mentality that there was a lot on the line and that every point mattered,” Lueking said. “At the end of the race, we all had given it everything we had, but we were unsure of the results. Later we found out we had advanced to state and it was amazing to see that our work throughout the season paid off.”
Freshman Riley Knoyle had a significant impact on the team’s ability to qualify for state as she placed second overall after a tough battle to the finish.
“I was in second for most of the race and first place had a good lead in front of me,” Knoyle said. “The last mile I closed the gap and passed her. She ended up beating me in a sprint to the finish by .12 seconds.”
Knoyle had mixed emotions after crossing the finish line.
“I felt a little discouraged knowing I was so close to first, and I was worried our team was not going to make state,” Knoyle said. “But when we found out we made it for sure, I felt much better.”
This is the seventh consecutive year the EHS girls cross country team has qualified for state, which is a school record according to Knoyle.
“We do not have any expectations [for state],” Knoyle said. “The team had such an amazing race last weekend, and I hope we all run smart and every single one of us gets a PR [personal record] at state.”
Despite the disappointment the boys team felt after their performance at sectionals, Watts is optimistic about the team as it heads to the state meet as well.
“It was not a great meet as a lot of guys knew that we could do better as a group, but we qualified for state, which was the first and main goal” Watts said. “So, we are going to improve this next weekend and kill it at state.”