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Boys cross country: Dixon claims top two spots at Big Northern Conference Meet, places second as a team

KINGSTON – The Dixon boys cross country team sent the first two runners across the finish line Friday at the Big Northern Conference meet at Walcamp, crossing the line side by side.

Brock Drengenberg won the individual conference championship with a time of 15 minutes, 50.67 seconds. Teammate Cadyn Grafton was a half-step behind in 15:50.87.

Drengenberg and Grafton were neck-and-neck with a pair of Rockford Christian runners at first but pulled away at the end to finish 14 seconds ahead of the pair of Royal Lions.

“We just wanted, for the first
2 miles, to keep a nice steady pace,” Drengenberg said. “Once we hit 2 [miles], we surged to get a little bit ahead. It felt good, just the feeling of pushing really hard and breaking away from the pack felt good.”

Although the Dukes claimed the top two spots, Rockford Christian won the team title with runners taking third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. D’Artagnon Beaver was the top Rockford Christian runner with a time of 16:04. Stephen Thomas was 12 seconds behind him.

Drengenberg, Grafton, Beaver and Thomas all got to the front of the pack early in the race, with those four well ahead of the Royal Lions’ Ethan Walsh by the 2-mile mark, but the two Dukes pulled farther and farther ahead and had a smooth run to the finish line to claim the top two spots.

“We took it out steady and went about 5:30 right off the bat,” Grafton said. “That surge at the end, just feeling so good and being first and second for that final mile, just really showed our athleticism and how we’ve come through our season.”

It was a repeat of a triangular four weeks ago between Dixon, Rockford Christian and Rock Falls, when Drengenberg and Grafton took the top two spots, but the Royal Lions packed into the next several spots to claim the team win.

Rockford Christian came away with 25 team points. Dixon was second with 33.

Byron and Rock Falls both finished with 126, with the Tigers claiming third on the strength of a better sixth runner.

Matt Marcum led the Rockets with a ninth-place run in 16:57, staying just behind the four leaders much of the way and holding off a Byron runner with a final kick.

“I felt good. I felt really quick and felt like as a team, we did good,” Marcum said.

The Rockets had Victor Rivera finish 14th in 17:26. Jose Gomez finished 21st, Carter Dillon was 38th and Josue DeLaTorre was 44th.

Oregon took eighth with 192 points. Ryan Hussung led the Hawks with a 15th-place run in 17:27, narrowly beating Stillman Valley’s Salvador Salas-Godinez to the line.

“Probably the best run I’ve ever had,” Hussung said. “I was aiming to be right next to the kid from Byron, Sam Lewis, but I couldn’t, but I was fine with it because I got a [personal record].”

The Hawks’ Austin Ebert finished in 35th place, with Gavin Bradshaw in 39th, Leo Cardenas in 51st and Riley Benton in 52nd.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the race was run in three phases, with teams sending their top three runners to the start line for phase three, their fourth- through sixth-best runners out for phase two and the rest starting phase one.

That led to runners who normally don’t find themselves near the front of the pack crossing the line first in their individual flights.

“The directions I gave them, we knew the conference wasn’t very deep, so they would likely find themselves at the front with RC guys,” Dixon coach Simon Thorpe said. “They knew that going in, and a lot of them have run an open or a JV race before and been in that position. The other thing is, with our limited schedule of only dual meets, they’ve been running by themselves, so it’s kind of the same thing, running by yourself, but they were running by themselves at the front of the pack.”

Dixon’s Dom Lozano was the first-phase winner, beating Rockford Christian’s Tony Chen on a sprint to the finish in 17:12. Lozano was 12th overall.

“I knew I had enough energy, but the course is filled with a lot of rocks in the back,” Lozano said. “It’s really hard to catch up to people, so I knew that at the end would be the perfect time to get past him.”

Dixon nearly won all three phases, with Jack Johnson and Isaiah Kuehl up with Rockford Christian’s Weston Forward for much of the second phase before Forward pulled in front at the end.

Johnson finished eighth overall in 16:56. Kuehl was 10th in 17:06.

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