Those two, who Becker raced at the Kaneland Sectional last week, proved unshakeable.
“I decided I needed to be the one to make a move,” Becker said. “I felt like, ‘Now or never,’ so I made a move. I knew they wouldn’t let me get (too far) away. They’re too good of kickers to let that happen. In the end, they just had a stronger kick than I did.”
Becker, who took satisfaction in going down fighting, finished in third place in 14:31. Richtman held off Gebhardt, although they were given the same times (14:23) to win the state championship Saturday at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
Becker’s third place was the highest in South school history for a boys or girls runner. Three other area runners – Johnsburg’s Tim Bertulis (Class 1A boys), Prairie Ridge’s Chelsea Gale and Woodstock’s Kylie Hagmann (both 2A girls) – joined Becker in earning All-State honors as top-25 finishes.
After last week’s sectional race, Becker knew he could not wait until the end of the race to make his move, which was why he went at the half-mile mark.
“I was feeding off the energy from everybody in the last 1,000 meters,” he said. “I was like, ‘I go now or I don’t go at all.’ Richtman came right back with another move on me. I just didn’t have anything left to match their moves, but overall I’m happy with the race I had.”
Richtman was edged out for the sectional title by Gebhardt last week and determined not to get beat by his Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference rival this time.
“The last 50 meters or so I saw him come up again, I knew I had to keep that little bit of a lead on him,” said Richtman, who will be teammates with Becker at Bradley next season.
Gators coach Rich Eschman said Becker did everything he could.
“He took a chance,” Eschman said. “He knew if he wanted to break these guys, he had to try to break them at some point. He tried, they fought back, but it was a gutsy race.”
Becker said it is special to have set the standard for boys distance runners at his school.
“We haven’t have any big-name guys coming through,” he said. “It’s nice to be someone to be on the record boards at South and someone people will remember for running.”
Eschman said that was cemented long before Saturday’s race.
“I told him, ’This race won’t define you. Your legacy is there’ ” Eschman said. “He’s a great runner and, more importantly, a great person. He’s real good to the guys, he doesn’t act like he’s higher than anybody. He’s a great teammate.”