Crystal Lake South senior Jack Becker has some ideas about what he needs to do against Sterling’s Jacob Gebhardt and Kaneland’s Matt Richtman this time.
Those three runners are regarded as the favorites in the Class 2A boys race at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet on Saturday at Peoria’s Detweiller Park. Richtman (fourth) and Gebhardt (seventh) are the only returning runners from last year’s top 10 in Class 2A.
Becker was 20th in 3A last year and South dropped in classification this year, leaving him to battle with Richtman and Gebhardt. The three raced at the Kaneland Sectional last week with Gebhardt nipping Richtman at the finish line, both in 14:44.8. Becker was third in 14:53.1.
In the Class 1A boys race, Johnsburg’s Tim Bertulis (23rd last year) again will try to earn All-State honors (a top-25 finish), and Marian Central’s Ryan Jones (30th last year) might move up a few spots into All-State territory. In the Class 1A girls race, Johnsburg will try to move up from 18th, and sophomore Sam Schmitt will be shooting for All-State honors.
In the Class 2A girls race, Woodstock’s Kylie Hagmann and Crystal Lake Central’s Katelyn Smith hope to repeat as All-Staters, while Prairie Ridge freshman Chelsea Gale could be looking at a top-10 finish. Gale won the Fox Valley Conference title, was first at the Burlington Regional and third at the Kaneland Sectional.
When the Class 2A boys race starts at noon, Becker hopes to utilize some different race tactics. He beat Richtman early in the season at the Crystal Lake South Invitational at Veteran Acres Park, then lost to him at the Burlington Central Regional and at Kaneland.
Gebhardt and Richtman know each other well, as both run in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference and have raced five times this season. Becker thinks he may have to push the pace more Saturday because of the finishing speed of Gebhardt and Richtman.
“If I’m going to have a shot against them, I’m going to have to make some moves during the race and hope I can hang on against them,” Becker said. “If it comes down to a kickers’ race, I know I have a good move, but those guys are just as strong, if not stronger. They both have strong kicks; they’re really good milers (in track).”
The trio broke off from the pack early last week and had their own race. The strategy they use this week will add intrigue to the race.
“We all race a little differently,” Richtman said. “It’s what you want to do to counter what the other people do. It’ll be a race like [the sectional]. Push a little more in different parts of the race to move up a little bit more.”
Gebhardt, like the other two, enjoyed the challenging sectional race. He said he would consider this week what tactics he might try in the state race.
“I’ll have to think about it a little more,” Gebhardt said. “They really wanted it, and I wanted it, too. We were just battling it out. They can really pick it up when they had to, that’s good to know. We’ll be battling for a state championship.”
Gebhardt will run at Indiana next year, while Becker and Richtman will be teammates at Bradley, which repeated as Missouri Valley Conference champion Saturday.
Although Becker was nine seconds behind Gebhardt and Richtman at Kaneland, he is confident he can contend for a state title this weekend.
“It was good to go out there, especially in the cold, and run a good, strong race against them,” Becker said. “They took off with about a half-mile to go, and I just didn’t have enough to stay with them in the last 200 meters. Hats off to whoever wins it. We have [Saturday] to really make it count.”