MORRIS — Due to efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, sectionals will have to take the place of the state meet as the culmination of the IHSA-sanctioned cross country season.
That will prove especially true for the advancers out of Saturday's Morris Class 2A Regional, as their sectional is set to be run next Saturday at the site of the IHSA State Finals, Peoria's Detweiller Park.
Two teams and five individuals from La Salle County punched their tickets to Detweiller here on the campus of Morris High School — La Salle-Peru's boys team with a fourth-place finish, Ottawa's girls with a fifth-place run and individual harriers including Streator's Kody Danko, Abby Seaton and Lily Kupec, Ottawa's Liam Tipple and L-P's Brianna Pijanowski.
Cavaliers ace Ryan Hartman [3rd, 16:27.5] led his team, running to an impressive finish in the first and fastest of three boys heats.
"I tried to stick with the head pack for most of the way, but they started pulling away, and I was feeling tired," Hartman said. "So I just gave it all I had and did what I could to make a good time and get a good place.
"For sectionals I'd like to get top 10. I haven't looked at the teams there yet, but I'm sure there will be some good kids there like there was here today."
L-P's 111 team point total also included Matt Beard [21st, 17:48.4], Avery Lueck [25th, 19:07.1], Erik Garcia [29th, 18:15.4] and Cooper Vaske [33rd, 18:33.0].
Streator's boys — led by a qualifying run from Danko [7th, 16:37.4] followed by Nick Adams [36th, 18:45.9] — placed sixth in the nine-team field.
"I was with the first group for a while," Danko said. "The second lap was just grit and grind. I was sticking with that Morris kid [fifth-place Matt Clark], that was my main plan throughout the whole second lap, and I was able to rank up pretty high."
Ottawa — paced by Tipple's qualifying time [20th, 17:41.0] followed by Aaron Noble [40th, 18:56.1] — finished eighth.
A trio of girls heats opened the day. Ultimately, Ottawa edged Streator 156-172 for the fifth and final qualifying spot, with L-P not far behind in eighth out of the 10-team field.
The Lady Pirates' Lainey Billings [10th, 20:37.8] finished ninth in the fast heat, with only one faster time coming from the later heats.
"It feels amazing to make sectionals," said Billings. "Last year I was out for half the season, and this is only my second year in cross country, so it just feels great to be able to build myself up to the top throughout the season."
Lexi Jett [21st, 21:24.4] also posted a qualifying-worthy time had OHS not advanced as a team, with the team score rounded out by Eva Heimsoth [31st, 22:38.3], Maddie Carroll [46th, 24:42.4] and Paris Blankenship [52nd, 25:14.2].
Streator will send on two qualifiers — the senior Seaton [17th, 21:16.8] and freshman Kupec [25th, 21:46.1] — with Stephanie Mendoza [38th, 23:29.2] third on the squad.
"I always run better in the cold, so today felt pretty good," said Seaton. "My legs were a little tight ... but I feel pretty good with how I did. I think I qualified for sectionals, so that's a good feeling."
L-P's Pijanowski [26th, 21:48.2] earned the third of five individual qualifying spots from the girls heats, with teammates Mallely Ontiveros [33rd, 22:56.3] and Karina Moscosa [36th, 23:03.3] making the top 40 but not the sectional cutoff.
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