Cross Country: Eagles host first, last conference meet

Rantoul Township High School held its first and last Corn Belt Conference cross country meet on a chilly Saturday at Heritage Lake.

RTHS will be moving to the Okaw Valley Conference next year.

"It was nice to sleep in this morning to host this meet," RTHS head coach Tom Gelsthorpe said.

Gelsthorpe was proud of both his teams' effort.

"They both ran pretty good races today," Gelsthorpe said. "The conditions aren't ideal with what the wind is, but the temperature was real nice. We had a couple kids get personal records so that's always good to see."

Boys results. The Eagles placed eighth out of eight teams, collecting 231 points.

RTHS seniors Jeremy Good (18:31.9 for 36th), Xavier Johnson (19:50.4 for 46th), Jeulius Johnson (20:12.5 for 47th), Nicolas Hinshaw (20:12.5 for 49th) and sophomore Jhaset Mora (22:07.5 for 53rd) all scored for the Eagles.

"I thought Jeremy Good ran a good race," Gelsthorpe said. "I was impressed with what he did."

Senior York-Philipp Graef (54th with a 22:47.8) and junior Tylor Vannarath (55th with a 23:34.1) also competed.

Xavier Johnson competed hard, but was a bit frustrated.

"I'm cold, exhausted and a little mad because I hate this course," Johnson said. "The wood chips make for uneven footing and slows you down a lot."

Johnson said the chilly weather, in the low 40s with a blustery wind, didn't bother him.

"It wasn't too hot or too cold," Johnson said. "It was a bit chilly warming up, but not when you ran."

For the boys team to advance to the sectional meet, Johnson said the Eagles have to beat at least two teams in the regional.

Mahomet-Seymour edged Normal U-High to win its first-ever Corn Belt Conference meet.       

"We've worked extremely hard by trying to win this thing for years," M-S head coach Neal Garrison said. "This is the 28th year Mahomet has been in the Corn Belt Conference, and this is the first time we won it. U-High is a phenomenal team."

M-S' winning effort was made possible by Alex  Keeble (15:38.3), Jackson Powell (16:07.8), William Wolf (16:09.2), Andrew Walmer (16:21.6) and James Williams (16:31.3).

Keeble placed second behind Normal U-High's Alexander Bruno (15:34.9. U-High's J.D. LaFayette (15:55.2) was third.

Other teams that placed included Olympia (79), Pontiac (103), Bloomington Central Catholic (144), Eureka (154) and Prairie Central (181).

Girls results. RTHS' girls team placed seventh out of seven competing teams, collecting 205 points. Eagles freshman Mackenzie Taticek (24:05.5 for 38th), senior Mercedes Porter (24:32.8 for 40th), juniors Aleah Combs (25:23.3 for 41st) and Allison Kelley (25:42.6 for 42nd) and senior Yesli Martinez-Velazquez (26:45.1 for 44th) scored.

Combs said she was coming back from a double kidney infection.

"I did well for the circumstances for just recovering," said Combs, who said she might have over prepared for the cold as she overheated midway through the race. "Every run completed is a good run."

Porter, a second-year cross country runner, said she felt she did well for a tough course.

"There's a random hill up in the middle; you have to go up it, and there are a lot of dips, bumps and holes, making it harder to get into stride," Porter said. "You are afraid you'll roll your ankle every three steps."

Gelsthrope said Taticek dropped nearly three minutes off her best Heritage Lake time. Combs said she and her team are coming together for the regional.

"Mackenzie Taticek has come out and killed every race she's run," Combs said. "Her time was mindblowingly fast for this course. And Mercedes did really well. Our team is coming together, and we may have a shot for sectionals this year."

Normal U-High beat M-S 24-45 in the girls meet. The Pioneers had five runners in the top 9 with Shannan Supan (18:33.6), Sydney Billingsley (19:08.7), Advika Kamatar (19:55.1) and Ashley LaFayette (20:07.9).

M-S' Lauren Whitehouse just missed the individual championship, coming in second (18:43.2). Olympia's Naomi Springer was third (18:55.3).

Other placers include Eureka (54), BCC (128), Prairie Central (134), Pontiac (166) and Rantoul (205). Olympia didn't have enough runners for a team score.

bbajek@ranotulpress.com

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