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Cross country notes: Harvard coach sees building blocks

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Harvard cross country coach Brett Willhoit is trying to instill the pride and dedication required to build a strong program in his boys and girls runners.

Willhoit saw some things Saturday at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet in Peoria that were encouraging. Showing the Harvard runners a video of York, Illinois’ most storied program with 28 state championships, was inspiring.

When the Hornets were at Detweiller Park on Saturday – the girls team ran in the Class 1A race and boys runner Jorge Pichardo qualified for the boys race – they got their picture taken with York coach Joe Newton.

Willhoit was thrilled that his runners grasped the sense of history.

Harvard’s girls team was 19th, but sophomore Jordan Peterson is a leader Willhoit will lean on for two more years. Peterson, who thrived in track last spring, was in her first year of cross country. She finished 34th in the Class 1A race.

“That’s huge,” Willhoit said. “We saw flashes here and there in races. She really works her butt off in practice.”

Tough finish for Schulz: Cary-Grove junior Morgan Schulz was poised for an All-State performance in the Class 3A girls race when her body failed her about 75 feet from the finish line Saturday.

Schulz, running cross country for the first time, was fourth in the Fox Valley Conference Invitational and was in position to crack the Top 25, which would have given her All-State status. Just before the finish, she collapsed.

“I could see the finish line,” she said. “I went out really fast because I didn’t want to get too far back. The last 800 meters I tried to pick up the pace. The last 400, my legs just couldn’t go any faster.”

Schulz lay on the ground for what she thought was a few minutes. She eventually finished in 21:53, last in the field.

“I crossed the finish line and all I wanted to do was lie down,” she said.

C-G coach Mark Anderson saw Schulz doing well and already had gone to the chutes behind the finishing area to congratulate her, not realizing until a few minutes later what had happened. Schulz then spent some time in the medical trailer for assistance before riding home with her parents.

That’s a finish: Prairie Ridge senior Erin Wagner finished ninth in the Class 2A girls race to become the first All-State runner in Wolves’ girls history. Wagner’s 17:43 also was a personal-best time by 30 seconds.

“As soon as I hit the mile mark, it was the time [5:34] that I had a dream about last night,” Wagner said. “I was really pumped about that.”

Beattie looking: Woodstock senior Maura Beattie now can concentrate on looking for NCAA Division I schools at which to run next year. Beattie has visited Eastern Illinois, Central Michigan and Bowling Green (the alma mater of her parents Dave and Debbie). She also wants to visit Arkansas State.

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