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Rockets set new standard with fourth-place finish

The wait is over

Rock Falls runners Aubree Johnson (left) and Makaley Velazquez run during the Class 1A state meet Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria. The Rockets finished fourth as team.
Rock Falls runners Aubree Johnson (left) and Makaley Velazquez run during the Class 1A state meet Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria. The Rockets finished fourth as team.

PEORIA – The cosmos seemed to be pointing the Rock Falls Rockets toward a seventh-place finish in the Class 1A girls state cross country race.
On the Monday leading up to the Saturday showcase, they started acknowledging the phenomena, for the most part, embracing it.
“There are seven girls, and we’re in [starting] box 7,” senior Paige Davis said after the race. “Our seventh runner’s number adds up to seven.”
That would be senior Lindsay Crow.
“We had seven rooms at the hotel, and it’s 77 miles to Peoria,” Crow added.
The numeral also jibed with an aspect of the Rockets’ game plan.
“You have 7 seconds of surge – 7 seconds to get out and then 7 at the finish,” junior Katie Anderson tacked on.
Heck, the Rockets even came in as the seventh-ranked 1A team in the state.
“But we didn’t go off that,” senior Aubree Johnson said.
The Rockets’ 150 points (Anderson 18th, 18:23; Davis 19th, 18:24; Sandra Gomez 34th, 18:58; Johnson 37th, 19:04; Makaley Velazquez 42nd, 19:08)  earned them fourth place, the team’s best showing in Peoria.
But the girls were also hell-bent on putting a seventh trophy in the case at the high school to go with hardware in boys cross country (1956), wrestling (’76), softball (’04), baseball (’08) and boys basketball (’58, ’99).
For nearly an hour after the race, the rumbling around the park was that the Rockets had placed either second or third. Even the play-by-play commentary broadcast over the park indicated such.
“That’s why I don’t listen,” Rock Falls coach Mark Truesdell said. “I was all the way in the back by about a mile and a half to see how they were.”
But Mindy Porter brought the girls the disappointing news, and the tears immediately burst forth. Johnson couldn’t control her sobs, having dealt with pirimorfis syndrome throughout her prep career.
She was able to put mind over matter during the 3-mile grinder.
“It was tough, but I knew I had to do it for the team and overcome all the pain I was feeling,” Johnson said.
At the end of the chute, the tears were flowing long before the results shook out.
“We can’t stop crying,” Johnson said. “For four of us, it’s our senior year, so it’s really emotional. We just really want a trophy. We’ve been working toward it for 8 years. We really want it.”
But the Rockets couldn’t have done much more. They were 55 points ahead of fifth-place PORTA. The top four was simply heads and shoulders above the other 21 teams.
Anderson, Davis and Gomez all posted PRs. And Velazquez is a freshman.
“It’s her first time down here,” Johnson said. “She thinks she didn’t do as good as she hoped, but I’m really proud of her.”
“She did really good,” the other five Rockets said, virtually in unison.
“She’s almost in the 18s, so nothing to hang our heads about,” Truesdell said. “Expectations … I know they wanted to be on that podium, but every year we get better. I can’t be more proud of them. They ran as well as they could today.”

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