Saturday will mark the end of an era for Laura Jones’ family at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
In 1991, Jones (then Laura Witek) was a sophomore at Marian Central and became the first Hurricanes girls runner to earn a medal at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet. She took 11th in the Class 1A girls race.
Since 2014, Jones has enjoyed watching her own children compete at Detweiller and win state medals. Her son Ryan, a senior at Marian, will run in the Class 2A boys race for his final high school competition.
There are six races at the state meet, starting with the 1A girls race at 9 a.m. Races are run on each hour, alternating between boys and girls with each of the three classes.
“I’m excited. Every time is a little bit different,” said Ryan Jones, who took 24th to become a Class 2A All-Stater last year. “There are so many good memories. I can’t wait to give it my all.”
Jones is running in his fourth state meet, just as his sister Abigail (now a junior at Loyola) did. Abigail finished eighth in 1A in 2014, then was 21st in Class 2A in 2016.
Laura Jones finished 24th as a junior and 18th as a senior. She and Abigail join Catie LaBracke (four) and Brooke Lada (two) as Marian’s only girls to win multiple cross country state medals.
“It’s exciting to see your kids love the same sport that you love,” Laura Jones said. “I always hoped they would be runners. I got two out of three. I felt like I was doing pretty well.”
Ray and Laura Jones’ freshman daughter Tessa is a swimmer.
Laura ran cross country and track at St. Joseph’s College, an NCAA Division II school in Rensselaer, Indiana. She remained involved in road races when Abigail and Ryan were small. They started doing 1-mile fun runs at those, then worked their way into competing for real by fifth grade.
Ryan watched a lot of his sister’s races.
“She was a good example,” he said. “She always put in a lot of hard work at practice. She did pretty well at the meets. It was cool to look up to her.”
While Ryan aims for his family’s seventh state medal, he also will be supporting teammates Peter Walsdorf, who has run right with him all season, and girls runner Siobhan Stoll, who was third in last week’s Belvidere Sectional. All three of them could become All-Staters.
Huntley’s Ian Geisler has built onto his 2018 Northwest Herald Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year season with an even better senior season.
Geisler will be looking to add another Class 3A All-State performance at Detweiller to go with his 17th-place finish last year. He recently committed to Iowa, where he will run cross country and track next year.
“I feel confident. I know I have a lot of good training behind me,” Geisler said. “I know the strategy I’m going to use going in. I think I’m going to run well. I’m going to go down there and run as hard as I can.”
Geisler had Iowa, Bradley, Illinois and Purdue as his four top schools. He visited Iowa, Bradley and Illinois before making his decision.
“I really liked [Iowa coach Randy Hasenbank], and combine that with the facilities they have, it just makes a great program for me,” Geisler said. “It was really hard. I enjoyed Bradley a lot. It was fun on that visit. I made a pros and cons chart of each, and Iowa came up on top.”
Bradley has former Fox Valley Conference runners Jack Becker (Crystal Lake South) and Zach Albrecht (Jacobs).
STATE AT A GLANCE
Boys cross country
Local state qualifiers
Individuals: Luke Chaffin (Marengo), Aidan Gonzalez (Hampshire), Ryan Jones (Marian Central), Peter Walsdorf (Marian Central)
Individuals: Maxum Caesar (Cary-Grove), Ian Geisler (Huntley)
Team: McHenry (Jackson Albanese, Jessi Garcia, Dylan Jensen, Ian Knebl, Carlos Montes, Enrique Robles, Caleb Schopen)
Girls cross country
Local state qualifiers
Individuals: Annette Ferrero (Crystal Lake Central), Kylie Smith (Crystal Lake Central), Siobhan Stoll (Marian Central)
Teams: Prairie Ridge (Alaura Busch, Colette Janik, Bridget Jewell, Allie Klauser, Rylee Lydon, Sophie Robinson, Rachel Soukup); Crystal Lake South (Mackenzie Aldridge, Addie Frisch, Bianca Garay, Bella Gonzalez, Chelsea Greene, Anna McDermott, Emma Murphy)
Team: Huntley (Molly Allen, Breanna Burak, Brittney Burak, Genevieve Collatz, Emily Glass, Annie Mitchell, Bailey Wilk)