The Rock Falls girls cross country team followed up last week’s regional title by closing out the season with a second-place run at Saturday’s Class 1A Seneca Sectional.
That would have qualified the Rockets for the state meet for the fourth year in a row had the state meet not been canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rock Falls scored 109 points, second only to Big Northern Conference rival Winnebago’s 15. Winnebago also boasted the individual champion, Natalia Martino, whose 19:01.2 run beat East Dubuque’s Hailey Heiar by 14 seconds. Winnebago also had runners in third, fourth, fifth and sixth.
Calin Gaulrapp, running in the same phase as Martino and Heiar in the event run in four phases due to COVID protocols, had the top time for Rock Falls, finishing 17th in 21:11.0.
Martino went out quickly and built what proved to be an insurmountable lead, and Heiar was closest to chasing her down but could not quite chip away. A pack of three runners were slightly behind Heiar, and Gaulrapp was not far behind them.
“My plan was either to stay on their shoulder or to make sure I could see their backs in the distance,” Gaulrapp said. “If they got too far away, I knew I wasn’t doing good.”
Gaulrapp found herself in a sprint to the finish, but was able to hold off Mercer County’s Eden Mueller.
“II was using the people screaming,” Gaulrapp said. “I knew they were saying her name, so I knew she was pretty close to me.”
Rock Falls also had Gracie Rippy take 19th with a time of 21:15.3. Tayli Hultin was 23rd with a time of 21:24.8, running in the third phase in which she was the third finisher behind a pair of Winnebago runners.
“I was just completely ignoring them,” Hultin said. “If I went out with them, I would have died.”
Bryahna Ganther was 27th in 21:38.3. If there were a state meet this year, the Rockets senior would have been able to cap it off with her fourth trip to Peoria in four years.
Ganther was in the same phase as Rippy, the second, and the two planned to go out at a slower pace after seeing Gaulrapp fade near the end of her race.
“Gracie has been in front of me every race, so I was just pacing off her,” Ganther said. “In the second mile, we were getting into the woods and it was hurting my legs, but all I knew was we had two laps of the woods and we’re out, and all I could think was ‘chill out and keep running and the second [lap] try to get people’ which I did. A lot of people were struggling up the huge hill, and that benefited me a lot.”
Another Rock Falls senior, Sydney Reyes, finished 38th in 22:08.3
Oregon notched 221 points to finish 10th.
Faith Marquardt was the Hawks’ top runner, taking 28th overall with a time of 21:38.3
“It was kind of difficult, because the course is difficult because of all the hills, but it felt pretty good,” she said.
The Hawks had Leah Watters in 41st, Katlyn Ramirez in 45th, Jennica Ciesiel in 66th and Katelyn Bowers in 83rd.
Eastland was 13th with 295 points. Mara Schmieder was the top Cougar, taking 58th place in 22:59.9 to beat teammate Delaney Wilhelms by one-tenth of a second. Addison Burkholder was 69th, Jenica Stoner took 75th and Kennedy Burkholder was 96th.
Amboy was 14th with 316 points. Lauren Althaus was the top Clipper, finishing in 22:28.2 for 47th place. Elly Jones was in 50th, Madelyn McLaughlin took 70th, Bailey Crouch was 100th and Brooklyn Whelchel was 111th.
Erie-Prophetstown’s Dylan Chandler finished 26th with a time of 22:03.5.
“It was pretty difficult, so it’s good I had such a good time for a difficult course like this,” she said.
Polo’s Bekah Zeigler capped off her first year of cross country with an 85th-place run in 24:00.2.
“I had absolutely no expectations coming into sectionals. I was just happy to get here,” she said. “It’s a nice end to this season. Obviously not my greatest race, but for my first cross country season, I enjoyed it a lot.”