Sauk Valley state cross country preview: Senior Dale Johnson leads Sterling into state meet

Sterling’s Dale Johnson led wire to wire to win the Rock River Run race Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023 at Hoover Park in Sterling.

Sterling senior Dale Johnson has been here before, so any chance of nerves before the Class 2A State Meet on Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria are pretty slim.

“He doesn’t get nervous,” said Sterling coach Greg Hendrix of Johnson.

After all, he has been here before.

Johnson ran the Detweiller course during an in-season invite and came within five seconds of breaking the school record set by Jake Gebhardt in 2017.

“He knows the course, the surroundings and what to expect,” Hendrix added. “He really took it out hard last week at the sectional, and he will have a plan for Saturday.

Johnson is one of the favorites. Sterling will have its team in the running this weekend with Aalin Schmidt, Charles Johnson, Jordan Britt, Parker Blakeslee, Parker Janssen and Owen Anderson racing with him.

Dixon will have a team in the Class 2A race led by junior Aaron Conderman. Conderman finished seventh overall at the Woodstock Sectional last week and raced at state as a sophomore last season. Dean Geiger, Westin Conatser, Keegan Shirley, Hayden Fulton, Averick Wiseman and Noah Terviel will race for the Dukes as they make a push in the team race.

One group that is ready for their trip to state is Prophetstown. Making their second appearance as a team since 2013, the Panthers are looking to “be the best,” according to coaches Tom and Liz Green.

“They are always checking on websites and asking if they are the best,” Tom Green said. “I keep telling them, not yet.”

In their quest to be “the best,” Charlie Link will lead the way as the Panthers’ best runner. Lucas Dreisbach, Tyson Skinner, Gus Schultz, Wyatt Goossens, Alex Bomleny and Jacob Gibson will represent Prophetstown in the Class 1A race Saturday morning.

What makes the weekend that much more fun for the Panthers, is that the girls will be competing as a team at state for the first time in school history.

“It’s exciting for sure,” said Liz Green, part of the husband and wife coaching duo at Prophetstown. “These girls have had success through middle school and now are getting to see what it’s like to compete at the high school level.”

A lighter week of practice this week to prep the Panthers for the state meet, coupled with an October snow, kept the mood light. But make no mistake, the freshman-led Panthers will be ready this weekend.

Sarah Link and Jessie DeNeve are two of three freshmen who have led to the success at Prophetstown this fall. Alana Little, who has earned the nickname “Pringles,” and Taylor Robshaw lead the young Panthers to Peoria. Chloe Slock, who led a snow angel contest at practice this week, and Brooke Lalley and Clara Ashdown round out the Panthers’ competitors in Class 1A Saturday.

Ariel Hernandez and Hana Ford will race for Rock Falls after finishing eighth and 23rd, respectively, last weekend at the Geneseo Sectional.

Sterling will bring its girls team to state to join the boys. Rhylee Wade leads the way, and she will be joined by Delia Block, Jaz’Mya Castaneda, Laney Zuithoff, Connie Ibarra, Lainey Block and Emma Anderson.

Newman Central Catholic will bring its team to state in Class 1A. Lucas Schaub and Lucas Simpson are veterans and will be at the front of the pack for the Comets. Wyatt Widolff, Carver Grummert, Zachery DeForest, Ryan Welty, and Max Sagel will also compete in Class 1A on Saturday.

Rock Falls' Ariel Hernandez leads runners at the Big Northern Conference meet at Oregon Park West on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. She finished first in the event.
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