OREGON – The wait was especially excruciating for Newman cross country coach Val Gassman.
“This is worse than waiting to have babies,” said a nervous Gassman, in the midst of a 1-hour delay (one lost timing chip) for the boys’ team results to come in Saturday at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional.
When the results finally made it to the Park West course, it wasn’t the same type of joy a newborn brings, but definitely worth the wait for Gassman and her gang of seven young men.
Led by a surprise finish by unheralded Alex DeForest, the Comets learned they were among the five state-qualifying teams that would be making the trip to Detweiller Park next Saturday.
Newman placed fourth with 162 points. Meet favorite Alleman, with individual champ Ethan Aldfinger, took first with 71 points, followed by Winnebago, Byron, Newman and Marquette.
“This is awesome; it never gets old,” said Gassman, after endless pacing of the awards area.
DeForest, normally the Comets’ No. 3 or 4 runner, took 24th with a time of 17:05.
Teammate Bryson Reyes was close behind in 25th, while Quincy Coomes, Micah Trancoso and Drew Rosengren rounded out the scoring.
“Alex’s face was priceless when he came across the finish,” Gassman said.
DeForest himself was surprised to be Newman’s top finisher.
“It was my first time to ever be first on the team,” he said. “It was nerve-racking at the beginning, but I let it go and ran my race. It just felt good today.”
Rock Falls missed out by 12 points on advancing as a team, placing seventh with 198 points.
“It’s disheartening, but we had a great year and were in the fight today,” Rockets coach Mark Truesdell said.
The Rockets had a state qualifier in senior Brandt Cole, who knew his ticket to Peoria was punched after placing fourth in 16:23.
For a course area runners either love or hate, Cole firmly aligned himself with the legion of Park West aficionados.
“I love it here,” Cole said. “It separates the good runners from the bad ones. The first mile is all uphill, and my coach said it burns out all the speed demons.”
Cole hopes to improve on last year’s 27th-place finish at state, two places away from being all-state.
Ryan Taylor of Bureau Valley earned the seventh and final spot as an individual qualifier with a time of 16:41, good for 11th overall.