BELVIDERE – The Dixon Dukes came into Saturday morning’s Class 2A Belvidere Sectional with a title in mind. They left with some fuel for their fire for next weekend.
Led by top-five finishes from seniors Simon Thorpe and Cody Sondgeroth, the Dukes placed second to Vernon Hills. Dixon’s 99 points was more than double Vernon Hills’ 45, and left the Dukes feeling a little out of sorts.
“I don’t think any of us are happy with what we did today,” said Sondgeroth, who placed fifth in 15 minutes, 31.61 seconds. “It’s not as good as we wanted, but we still have the chance to make up for it with a better day in Peoria.”
Joining the Dukes at Detweiller Park will be Sterling freshman Jonathan Landis, whose time of 15:45.68 placed him 13th and earned him the fifth qualifying spot of the seven runners not on the top five advancing teams.
“I just tried to stay with Thorpe, but I went out too fast trying to do that,” Landis said. “The second mile caught me a little, and once I slowed down, I couldn’t get going again.”
“But I bet there are a lot of freshmen that would pay to be going to state,” Landis said, “and I’m going to make the most of it.”
There were actually six advancing teams, as Prairie Ridge and Grayslake Central tied for fifth with 181 points. Crystal Lake Central (102 points) and Kaneland (163) also moved on their full squads.
Crystal Lake Central’s Ryan Pitner was the individual winner, as his time of 15:09.09 was the only one better than Thorpe’s 15:21.11. And while the senior had his sights set on a sectional title, he was just as happy to bring his team along with him to state.
“It stings a little right now, because we wanted to win as a team, and I thought I could win individually,” Thorpe said. “But it’s pretty cool to be going to Peoria with all these guys. It’s a lot more fun to have company down there, and we’ve got a shot next week to run a better race and take home a bigger trophy.”
Thorpe stayed out front for most of the race, only to see Pitner pass him with about 800 meters left. With the wind firmly in their faces, Thorpe couldn’t get back up to speed and catch Pitner.
“I kind if wish I’d just hammered all the through the race, but I didn’t want to take on the wind and wear myself out,” Thorpe said. “Then that last half-mile, my arms froze a little and I couldn’t get back in front.”
Sondgeroth felt the same way about his run. He stayed with the lead pack the whole way, but couldn’t muster a charge when Pitner and Thorpe started to break away.
“I tried to stay up with them, but I dropped off a little bit,” Sondgeroth said. “I didn’t feel great before the race, and it wasn’t a very good day for a run, but I thought we all did pretty good. We’ll be ready for state next weekend.”
Austin Trevino (27th, 16:05.20), Skylar Mitchell (29th, 16:07.30) and Evan Grady (42nd, 16:22.94) also counted toward the Dukes’ score, while Kylian Lally (99th, 17:13.38) and Blain Masterson (17:13.99) will also join in the road trip to state.
“The work has been done; it’s just a little fine-tuning now,” Thorpe said. “The mental aspect of state is bigger, but today’s going to be fresh in our minds ... and we don’t want to let that happen again.”
Boys cross country
Class 2A Belvidere Sectional
Top 3 teams
1. Vernon Hills 45; 2. Dixon 99; 3. Crystal Lake Central 102
Top 3 runners
1. Ryan Pitner (Crystal Lake Central) 15:09.09; 2. Simon Thorpe (Dixon) 15:21.11; 3. Kyle Whitney (Vernon Hills) 15:26.85
Local advancing individual
Jonathan Landis, Sterling, 13th in 15:45.68