By Darlene Tady
Panther Head Cross Country Coach Jon Burnett was both stunned and elated as his boy’s team ran to a seventh place team finish at the State Championships in Peoria on Saturday.
Burnett knew if they all ran their best times that they’d have a chance at top 10 of the 25 division 3A teams that earned a spot on the starting line at one of the nation’s top state competitions. They exceeded all expectations.
“A year ago we wondered if this year’s team would even qualify for state. Then they win at sectionals and come up here to place seventh. I’m stunned. This team is one of the hardest working group of boys I’ve ever coached,” Burnett remarked after the race.
Senior Will VanAlstine led his team with a 41st place finish clocking a 14:59 on the 3 mile course. Also running a 14:59 was junior Will Ray placing 45th. Nick Edwards was the eighth fastest sophomore in the field placing 49th with a time of 15:10. Senior Brendan Krell posted a 15:15 with senior teammate Jacob Ramirez crossing the line at 15:27.
The 28 second split between the team’s first and fifth runners was the best of all the teams competing.
Juniors Chris Wichlac (15:45) and David Tady (16:03) ran personal best times to round out the team’s top seven runners.
Coach Burnett’s Panther teams have placed in the top ten six times in the past nine years. Only three other division 3A teams in the state have topped that record.