MAPLE PARK – Crystal Lake South’s Jack Becker has become well-acquainted with Kaneland’s Matt Richtman, who will be his teammate at Bradley next year.
Becker is getting to know Sterling’s Jacob Gebhardt better, as well. Those three staged their own race for first place Saturday at the Class 2A Kaneland Cross Country Sectional, and figure to be out in front again next week at the IHSA State Meet in Peoria.
Gebhardt nipped Richtman in what was their fifth race of the year together to win the sectional title in 14:44.8. Becker was third at 14:53.1.
“I’ve been looking forward to this race all season,” Becker said. “I know those two guys are the main competition next week, and going into this, I was trying to figure out how those two race, since I didn’t race them a lot during the season.”
Becker beat Richtman early in the season at the Crystal Lake South Invitational, while Richtman returned the favor at last week’s Burlington Central Regional.
“We have next week to make it really count,” Becker said.
Hampshire’s boys took second as a team with 97 points to Sycamore’s 91 and will run next week at Peoria’s Detweiller Park. Crystal Lake Central, with 202 points, made it as the fifth team, stretching its string of state team appearances to eight years.
Prairie Ridge freshman Chelsea Gale took third in the girls race and led four local qualifiers. Woodstock’s Kylie Hagmann, Crystal Lake Central’s Katelyn Smith and Hampshire’s Sophia Oury also qualified. All three will be making return trips to state.
Hampshire’s boys narrowly missed a trip last year, taking sixth in their sectional.
“It feels great,” senior Santiago Arreola said. “Last year, we were close, but right now, I’m very excited. It will be even better with my brothers racing with me. We came here nervous; we were borderline, but we raced really well.”
Crystal Lake Central coach Bill Eschman said the Tigers have qualified a boys individual or a team for state in every year since 1993. The Tigers nudged out Dixon by seven points for the final qualifying team spot.
Gale continued her standout season, finishing in 17:44.2 for third.
“It’s really exciting,” Gale said. “It’s been a real fun journey, and I’ve gotten to exactly where I wanted to go, which is to state. I was aiming for top 10, so getting third was really, really good.”
Hagmann and Smith will look to repeat as All-Staters with top-25 finishes next week.
“I’m super-excited,” said Hagmann, who was 22nd last year. “I’m very honored to be able to go back, and I’m proud of my team today. I wanted to go out and get a season-best, that was kind of my goal, and I did that.”
Smith struggled with being happy about qualifying because it will be her first trip as an individual. The Tigers fell seven points short of the fifth team spot, ending a run of 10 consecutive state team appearances.
“I really wanted to be with my team,” said Smith, who was 10th. “It’s really hard. I’m excited I have this opportunity to go to state. We talked about no regrets after this race. We’re happy because we worked hard, we gave it our all. We’re not happy because we’re not going to state, but we’re happy with how we performed.”
STAR OF THE MEET
Arreola finished ninth in the race and led the Whip-Purs to second place as a team at the Class 2A Kaneland Sectional. Arreola finished in 15:44.2, and teammate Elijah Stuart was two places behind him in 15:50.8. The Whips scored 97 points, six behind first-place Sycamore.
Individuals: Chelsea Gale (Prairie Ridge), Kylie Hagmann (Woodstock), Katelyn Smith (Woodstock), Sophia Oury (Hampshire).
Individuals: Jack Becker (Crystal Lake South).
Teams: Hampshire (Santiago Arreola, Elijah Stuart, Kyle Blake, Angel Yescas, Tommy Crossaint, Isai Morales, Teddy Lyon); Crystal Lake Central (Jack Flynn, Josh Johnson, Keegan Smalley, Nick Camacho, Josh Antiongiovanni, Adam Zenter, Nate Kopp)
AND ANOTHER THING...
Hampshire senior Sophia Oury had been battling muscle soreness in her right leg and was afraid she would miss another trip to the Class 2A State Meet. When the individual qualifiers were announced, her name was first (as the seventh and last qualifier). Oury was in tears after learning the news. “I didn’t expect to go,” she said. “I knew the guys were going to make it (as a team), and I wanted to set an example for the girls because I know they have a really strong chance of making it next year. This means a lot.”