STERLING – The ACT test was too important for Jake Gebhardt to pass up Saturday, forcing the Sterling senior to miss a premier meet in Peoria that day.
He wasn’t about to let Rock Falls sophomore Dawson Smith pass him up Tuesday afternoon at the Twin City Meet at Hoover Park.
Gebhardt and Smith ran side-by-side for most of the first 2 miles before Gebhardt pulled about 6 feet ahead by the 2-mile mark. That was the beginning of a surge that led Gebhardt to his first win at the event, by 19 seconds over Smith.
Finishing with a time of 16 minutes, 1 second, Gebhardt knew from having run the race for 3 years previously against the likes of Rock Falls standouts Brayden Hamblen and Seth Williams and Newman standout Chris Ahlers, that a midweek meet like this was going to pretty much be a 1-mile race.
“It’s my first Twin City win. Finally got one,” Gebhardt said. “I just stayed with Dawson until the second mile, and then did my own thing. That’s what we usually do here, make it a 1-mile race.”
Dawson missed out in his second chance against Gebhardt, finishing in 19:20; the first chance came at the Sycamore Invitational earlier this month.
“It went OK, but I should have went with him when he started putting that surge in,” Smith said. “I probably should have hung in with him, and it would have been a lot closer. Did all I could.”
While the individual race didn’t end up being all that close, the team race was especially tight. Positioning proved to be a major factor in the team standings, as Sterling (39 points) won the meet for the third straight year, but by just one point over Newman, and two points over Rock Falls. The Golden Warriors also had Isaiah Moorman and Mikio Martinez in the top 10; Moorman finished sixth (17:19) and Martinez seventh (17:27).
Javon Bruce (12th, 18:37) and Ruben Leal (13th, 18:43) were also in the top 15 for Sterling.
“The times weren’t great, but I was happy with the way we competed,” Sterling coach Greg Hendrix said. “We had a couple of kids pass some Rock Falls kids in the last straightaway, and that made a difference in the score.”
Shay Hafner led Newman with a third-place finish in 16:40, 15 seconds ahead of teammate Spencer Mauch, but some sore legs perhaps hurt his chances at closing the gap between him and Smith.
“The first half mile was pretty slow, but everything felt fine until halfway through when my legs started hurting,” Hafner said. “My time was a bit slow, but I wasn’t expecting to run anything fast. My place was right where it needed to be, so I was happy with that.”
Matt Hodge (8th, 17:57) and Noah Welty (10th, 18:30) were also in the top 10 for the Comets.
“Especially in a smaller meet where I know who everyone is, I know right where I should be,” Hafner said.
Matt Laws finished fifth for Rock Falls in 17:04, and Devon Parker (9th, 18:15) was also in the top 10.
Rock Falls’ Javier De La Torre (11th, 18:36) and Jerome Warren (14th, 18:50), and Newman’s Ben Sheats (15th, 18:57) all finished in the top 15. Each of the race’s top 15 runners factored into the tight team race.
“We’re kind of on the young side this year, and some guys are running their first year of cross country,” Hendrix said. “They’re just learning how to race. We’ve only got five guys with more than 2 years of experience, and Jake’s our only senior.
“This was just a good Tuesday night meet for us to just go out and race to see what we got.”
Boys cross country
Twin City Meet
1. Sterling 39
2. Newman 40
3. Rock Falls 41
Winner: Jake Gebhardt, Sterling, 16:01