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Cross Country

Rock Falls’ Smith, Dukes cruise to claim conference titles

Domination day in 'Bago

WINNEBAGO – At the Big Northern boys conference meet, there was individual domination by Dawson Smith of Rock Falls and team domination by Dixon.

On the 2.85-mile Fuller Forest Preserve course, Smith ran 14:13 to beat Christian Seagren of Dixon by 26 seconds. Brock Drengenberg was third at 14:56.

Though he won his umpteenth race, there is the matter of loneliness of the long-distance runner for Smith.

“I feel it is harder on me without anyone else to run against,” Smith said. “I’ve got to hold a pace on my own. It would be nice to be pushed.”

Smith may not get that chance until the state meet at Peoria in 3 weeks. Like a team that thrashes all its opponents, there is an inherent danger of not being challenged in competition.

“I’ve just got to keep pushing it myself and prepare for whatever happens at state,” said Smith, who had the benefit as a freshman of teammate Brayden Hamblen – who now runs at the University of Tennessee – giving that push.

Ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, the Dukes destroyed the team competition with 24 points. Rockford Christian, who has been the only program that has provided any sort of opposition since Dixon joined the BNC, was a distant second at 66. Rock Falls was in third at 93.

“We’re hoping to make history,” said Seagren, in reference to joining the 2008 Duke squad as state champs.

For now, Dixon settles for its fourth straight conference title. Cadyn Grafton (15:06) and Logan Griswold (15:07) chipped in with sixth and seventh places. Aiden Johnson, Thomas Sitter and Brayden Bock also earned all-conference honors for the Dukes.

“If we want to win state, the most important factor is to keep [scorers] 1-5 tight and our packs together,” Drengenberg said. “The sectional will be our first hard race since the Peoria Invite.”

Conference and regional are looked upon by the Dukes as tune-ups for much bigger prizes.

“Our goal today was to run as slow as we can to win and stay healthy,” coach Evan Thorpe said.

Devon Parker (15:16) backed up Smith with a seventh-place finish for Rock Falls. Oregon’s Andrew Harshman (16:14) took 21st.

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