PEORIA — It was yet another successful day down at the state meet for both the Minooka boys and girls cross country teams, as they placed 16th and 19th, respectively, at Detweiller Park in Peoria on Saturday.
The girls race was first, as the Indians came in with a very balanced team. Using the team-mentality they've used all year, the Minooka girls improved on its 22nd place finish last year.
"Each year, these girls have taken a step forward," head coach Kevin Gummerson said. "Today was another big step. I'm proud of how they raced today. Watching each of them cross that line today made me proud of their effort and performance."
As for the individuals, the girls were led by freshman Morgan Crouch, who finished 68th overall with a time of 17:49. Once again, the freshman was able to lead the team Saturday, showing that she will likely be a big name for Minooka cross country in the years to come.
"She is a competitor," Gummerson said of Crouch. "She runs her best in big meets, and once again she stepped up and ran a great race."
The other runners for Minooka were Moira McAsey (18:18), Haley McNamara (18:19), Laura Simon (18:20), Kaitlyn Chetney (18:29), Caleigh Beverly (18:43), and Haley Renison (19:00).
The winner of the girls race was Madelin Perez from Glenbard West, who broke the course record with a time of 16:02, snapping her old record by 18 seconds. It was truly a dominant performance from the junior, one Gummerson had never seen before.
"I've been coming down here for many years now and seeing her try to break 16 minutes was a sight to see," he said.
The boys race followed after that, with all the Minooka eyes on Joey Santillo. The senior had been an All-State runner the year before, and Santilo was looking to finish his final year on a high note.
Santillo started strong, and at the two mile marker was in 15th place. In the final mile, the senior tried to make a move up, but could only manage to gain one spot to finish 14th with a time of 14:41.
"This was by far the fastest field I've ever been apart of," Santillo said. "It wasn't the race I wanted to put together, but I'm definitely happy with it."
Although Santillo earned All-State honors, fellow teammate and senior Alex Pierce came up just short, finishing 26th with a time of 14:54. Pierce made a late charge down the stretch, but fell short. Despite not earning All-State honors, Pierce improved his place by 83 spots from his junior year run at state.
"Summer running was a huge part in my improvement this year," Pierce said. "When you're running all year, you start getting back in shape and hitting personal records. It's just a bunch of hard work that's made me successful."
"An All-State cross country medal is so hard to get and a lot of work goes in to earning it," Gummerson added. "Everybody except the first 25 would give their right arm to be an All-State runner, and Pierce is at the head of the list. He has nothing to hang his head about, though. He ran a great race."
The other runners for Minooka were Cam Knudsen (15:14), Cheyne Robinson (15:58), Eric Brick (16:23), Henry Bugajski (16:24), and Will O'Connell (16:40). The collective efforts of the seven runners placed the Indians 16th overall as a team.
"I'm extremely proud of our team," Gummerson said. "There were some people that said we were the weakest team at state, but every one of those kids ran their hearts out today and I'm proud of that."
Saturday was the final race for all the seniors, as guys like Santillo, Pierce, and Knudsen all competed for the last time in a Minooka uniform. This year's senior class made it to state all four years, something a lot of people can't say across the state of Illinois.
"Crossing the finish line was weird today because I was happy and sad," Santillo said. "I was happy because I did all I could do in my four years here, but sad to see it go by."
"I've developed such great life skills," Pierce added. "When you work hard, you reap the benefits in the races. It's just like that in the real world as well, so it's really just been a great life experience for me."