CRYSTAL LAKE – As Harvard cross country coach Brett Willhoit sees it, Jorge Pichardo likely is the best distance runner the Hornets have ever had.
Now, it’s a matter of Pichardo adding to his résumé in his final high school year. And in the season’s first two races, Pichardo is well on his way to doing that.
The Hornets’ senior took sixth place in the Crystal Lake South Invitational Saturday at Veteran Acres Park with a time of 17:34.7. Pichardo was 30th in last year’s race.
McHenry’s Jesse Reiser and Woodstock’s Maura Beattie were the boys’ and girls’ individual champions, winning by wide margins as they did in last week’s McHenry County Meet. Beattie helped the Blue Streaks girls to a strong second-place team finish behind defending Class 1A state champion Decatur St. Teresa.
Reiser won in 16:34.3, 16 seconds ahead of Glenbrook South’s David O’Gara. Beattie won in 19:07.6, more than a minute better than St. Teresa’s Rachel Devereux.
Pichardo and some St. Teresa boys runners were the only Class 1A competitors in the field.
“It was good. It’s a challenging hills on the course,” Pichardo said. “It was a good experience running against these guys. I’ll know what it’s like when I get to regional and sectional. I hope I can get back to state.”
Pichardo narrowly missed All-State honors last year finishing 28th in the IHSA Class 1A State Meet. Hornets coach Brett Willhoit has higher aspirations this year for Pichardo, who has the school’s 3,200-meter record.
“We’re aiming for top 10,” Willhoit said. “He’s a great hard worker, he does everything I ask him and more. When you look at the talent around here, for him to pull [sixth place] off, on a challenging course, shows what kind of fighter he is.”
Reiser had not run Veteran Acres, one of the state’s toughest courses, since his freshman season.
“Sometimes I like it,” he said. “Sometimes it kills me and I just try to get done as fast as I can.”
McHenry’s Michael Hahndorf was 12th and Tyler Lay was 18th as the Warriors finished fourth as a team (154 points) behind Fremd (80), Grant (92) and Glenbrook South (111). Cary-Grove (162) was fifth.
Beattie looked very strong again. She, freshman Katy Jacobs and sophomore Grace Beattie (Maura’s sister) finished in the top 14 to get the Streaks 83 points. St. Teresa won with 62.
“It was a pretty good race,” Maura Beattie said. “I worked the hills. I like this course, it’s challenging. I haven’t run here since I was a freshman and I heard it got narrow at 150 meters, so I wanted to get out in front. I just kept thinking about the next upcoming hill.”
McHenry’s Katy Purich was eighth and Huntley’s Kelly Meehleib was 12th.
Jacobs was running her first varsity invitational after winning the McHenry County Meet freshman-sophomore race last week.
“It was exciting and surprising,” Jacobs said. “We were planning to do a pack run and push it as hard as we could. I was trying to push the downhill spots. I like this course.”
Blue Streaks coach Matt McCulley liked what he saw from Jacobs and his team.
“She ran great in the second half,” he said. “In the first half, you may have seen a little of the freshman timidness, but her confidence hit and she just flew in the second half.”