OREGON – Newman coach Val Gassman and Rock Falls coach Mark Truesdell had different strategies for their teams heading into the Class 1A Oregon Sectional on Saturday.
Each worked in its own way, as the Comets and Rockets punched their tickets to the state meet, on Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
Newman finished fourth with 150 points, while the Rockets took fifth with 174, four fewer than Byron. Winnebago (82), Rockford Christian (133) and El Paso-Gridley (148) were the top three squads.
For Gassman, the instructions for her team were simple.
“Get out fast, run hard and don’t look back,” she said.
Truesdell and the Rockets scouted the 3-mile Oregon Park West course earlier in the week. He had his runners lay back a bit in the early portion of the race, which goes up a steep incline, to conserve energy for later. He was pleased with the results.
“The guys were telling me when they were coming down that hill, they were passing a lot of kids,” Truesdell said. “It was four points, so everything was a big deal.”
Leading the way for the Rockets was freshman Brayden Hamblen, who took sixth with a time of 16 minutes, 24 seconds. He was pleased with his race, but more happy for the team.
“It’s so much better to have my team with me and not just myself,” Hamblen said. “We all get the glory together.”
Seth Williams (9th, 16:27), Cayden Erickson (33rd, 17:28), Kasey Anger (56th, 17:52) and Jevon Hey (88th, 18:32) were the other counting Rock Falls runners.
This marks the third time Rock Falls is sending a boys team to state, the other times being 1956 and 2010.
Newman will also make its third appearance. It won a championship in 2009, and was 12th last year.
“I love this group of kids,” said Micah Trancoso, the lone senior in the Comets’ lineup. “This is a very special team, especially the young guys and the juniors. I’m so happy to grab that spot away with this great team.”
Leading the way for Newman was Bryson Reyes, 16th with a time of 16:42. He was followed by Drew Rosengren (19th, 16:58), Chris Ahlers (20th, 16:59), Trancoso (37th, 17:32) and Quincy Coomes (75th, 18:14).
Coomes is coming off a bout of tendonitis in his right foot, and did not compete in the Bureau Valley Regional last week. He’s normally the team’s fourth finisher.
“I was a little out of it today,” Coomes said, “but I think I just need this week to get back, and I’ll be ready for state.”
The Comets entered the Oregon Sectional as the No. 2 seed, behind Winnebago, in the Dyestat rankings, so they feel there is much room for improvement next week.
“We wanted to win it. We wanted to battle Winnebago,” Trancoso said, “but at this point, we’re just happy we’re going. Next week is a whole different race, a whole different course, so we’ll see where the chips fall.”
Bureau Valley placed seventh among 21 teams with 196 points. Leading the way for the Storm was Ryan Taylor, 25th with a time of 17:10.
Erie-Prophetstown wound up 13th with 363 points. The top Panther was Braedon Bonnell, 46th with a time of 17:40.
Amboy was 21st with 477 points. James Blackburn paced the Clippers with a time of 18:17, good for 78th place.
Byron’s T.J. Pitcock won the race in 16:01, 6 seconds ahead of runner-up Cody Baele of Annawan-Wethersfield.
Top 3 teams
1. Winnebago 82
2. Rockford Christian 133
3. El Paso-Gridley 148