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Girls cross country: Grady raises bar for Clippers

Family fun

Oregon's McCahl Sanders competes at the Class 1A cross country sectional. Sanders finished 93rd in 22 minutes, 51 seconds.
Oregon's McCahl Sanders competes at the Class 1A cross country sectional. Sanders finished 93rd in 22 minutes, 51 seconds.

OREGON – Megan Grady did something Saturday afternoon that no other female athlete at Amboy High School has ever done.

All she wanted to talk about, however, was keeping pace with dear old dad.

Grady became the first Amboy girl to qualify for the state cross country meet by finishing sixth at the Class 1A Oregon Sectional. She and Rock Falls sophomore Makaley Velazquez will be among the individual competitors at the state meet.

Grady, a freshman, was pleased to have that opportunity, but even moreso to make her mark at AHS.

Her father, Jim, held the 880-yard record in track for the Clippers. There will soon be another Grady on that wall of records in some fashion.

“It feels really good, because my dad had a record in track, so now my name is right next to his,” Grady said.

Grady finished with a time of 19 minutes, 33 seconds to safely qualify. Keeping pace with winner Kelsey Hildreth of Byron (18:29) or runner-up Kirstie Ramsey of Annawan-Wethersfield (19:01) was unlikely, so Grady kept the runner just in front of her, Rockford Lutheran’s Emma Fenelon, within her sights.

Fenelon finished fifth in 19:30.

“If I was in sixth, I needed to just stay there or get ahead,” Grady said. “I just stayed there the whole race. I’ve run against these girls all season, so I knew what I had to do.”

Velazquez squeaked into the seventh – and final – individual qualifying spot with a time of 20:08, good for 13th place overall. The closest runner who could have overtaken her for the final spot was Seneca’s Sarah Cameron, who took 15th in 20:10.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I would be up there,” Velazquez said. “I thought I would be back more, but I wanted to make it to state really bad, and I tried my hardest.”

The Rockets were hopeful of earning a team berth, but wound up 10th with 265 points. Annawan-Wethersfield (83), Byron (148), Ottawa Marquette (151), Henry-Senachwine (154) and Harvard (164) claimed the five team spots for state.

“I wish our whole team could have went,” Velazquez said, “but I’m proud of myself for making it in the last spot. I’m excited for state.”

Amboy finished 12th as a team with 281 points, while Bureau Valley was 14th with 328.

Leading the way for the Storm was junior Regan Weidner, 52nd with a time of 21:31. Last year’s state runner-up endured an injury-plagued season. She now plans to rest and, hopefully, come back stronger as a senior.

“I just want to train really hard and smart,” Weidner said, “and come out next year and have the greatest season of my life.”

Erie-Prophetstown finished 19th among 21 teams with 482 points. Corrie Reiley (40th, 21:16) led the Panthers.

Newman’s Haley Simpson finished 23rd individually with a time of 20:32.

Top 3 teams

1. Annawan-Wethersfield 83

2. Byron 148

3. Ottawa Marquette 151

Advancing locals

6. Megan Grady (Amboy)

13. Makaley Velazquez (Rock Falls)

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