PEORIA – Besides Dale Johnson of Sterling, the only other area runner to reach all-state status at the IHSA cross country meet was Dixon junior Aaron Conderman. Bettering his seeding, Conderman took 18th place in 2A with a time of 15:05 and blasting away his previous best effort of 15:40.
“On paper, Aaron was ranked 32nd,” Dixon coach Simon Thorpe said. “He really went for it. It’s been 2019 (Brock Drengenberg) since we’ve had an all-stater and it’s good to have one again.”
Known as a tenacious competitor, Conderman stuck with the chase pack for the majority of the 3-mile race and managed to pass a handful of runners in the last half mile.
“The majority of the race, I was around 25th (cutoff for all-state),” Conderman said. “At two and half miles, someone told me I was 22nd. I was definitely breaking down, but didn’t want to give up all-state.”
Joining nine other state placers at Dixon since the program burst on the scene as a legitimate state power in in 2008, Conderman has another year to also go after Thorpe’s school record of 14:53.
“That would be neat to see,” Thorpe said. “Aaron is a very consistent runner.”
Dixon finished 19th overall with 453 points. Other scorers were freshmen Dean Geiger and Averick Wiseman and sophomores Keegan Shirley and Westin Conatser, giving the Dukes promise for a strong season in 2024.
“Today was a mixed bag,” Thorpe said. “It was a good learning experience for our young kids, but those freshmen are gritty.”
In the 2A girls meet, Ariel Hernandez of Rock Falls stuck with the leaders for the first 2 miles before fading to 34th place with a 18:12 clocking. At 1 mile, she was in 10th and then 13th at 2 miles.
“The last 100 meters were a struggle,” Hernandez said. “There’s a difference in 2A compared to 1A with speed and aggressiveness.”
This was the first time Rock Falls has competed in 2A in 15 years, a fact not lost on coach Mark Truesdell.
“Besides tougher competition, we’re just not familiar with it,” Truesdell said. “There are things you don’t think of, like running two hours later and trying to keep a schedule for eating.”
The only other area 2A individual qualifier was Hana Ford of RF, who took 116th at 19:24.
Sterling sent a team downstate for the first time since 2003 and was 24th out of 29 teams with 585 points. Rhylee Wade (19:00) and Delia Block (19:07) cracked the top 100 out of 242 finishers.
“It’s really exciting and I’m happy to see our team’s progression in the three years I’ve been head coach,” Sterling coach Megan Grady said. “To go downstate was a goal they set last year.”
Chatham Glenwood handily won the girls title over Grayslake Central. In the individual race, senior Becca Heitzig of Lincoln began celebrating before crossing the finish and was almost edged out by sophomore Annika Swan of St. Ignatius. Their times were 16:34.75 and 16:34.80.
Erie-Prophetstown sent both its boys and girls team to Peoria and the results were a 15th place by the boys and 26th by the girls.
For senior Charlie Link, it was a bittersweet experience. Participating for the first time at the state meet after injuries and sickness the previous two years, he finished three spots away from all-state with a time of 15:36. A 15:26 was needed for 25th. Link also came within 3 seconds of Aaron Heaton’s school record set in 1998.
“It was a weird experience being here for the first time. I couldn’t hear my own thoughts it was so loud,” Link said.
As he has done all year, Lucas Dreisbach backed up Link as the No. 2 runner with a 16:23, good for 95th out of 256.
“We set six out of seven PRs today and met our goal of beating the 2011 boys team that got 16th. This group will go down as the best in history,” E-P coach Liz Green said. “The girls ran amazing too. Unfortunately, we’re graduating five seniors.”
A returning bright spot is freshman Sarah Link, who was the sole top 100 E-P finisher with at 18:55, good for 59th.
Sterling Newman was 21st in the boys meet with 509 points. Lucas Schaab (15:57) and Lucas Simpson (16:12) were 61st and 77th.
“I’m happy. How can you not be? This is a tough meet,” Newman coach Pat Warkins said. Losing three of our four top runners; it will interesting for us next year. The kids will need to step up. There’s room for improvement.”
The lone area 1A individual qualifier, sophomore Roscoe Davies of West Carroll, was 84th at 16:15.
“The last mile, he was catching people,” WC coach Chris McDermot said. “We have a young crop of kids with a good trajectory and Roscoe is leading it.”
In an exciting team battle for 1A boys, Tuscola defeated Benton and its individual champ Gavin Genisio, 97-104. Genisio’s winning time of 14:12 would have won the boys 3A meet.