BY SAM SCINTA WEEKLY REPORTER
The OTHS Cross Country program is used to running this late in the year, and Peoria’s Detweiller Park has become a familiar location for the Panther runners to end their season.
Both the Boys and the Girls teams managed 21st place finishes, capping off great seasons for the squads.
The Girls were led by junior star Brooke Witzel’s 27th place finish, the only O’Fallon placement in the top 75 on the day.
Kaitlyn Walker would cross the finish line second for the Panthers, finishing in 76th. Walker was followed by Sophie Wichlac in 118th. Emma Jordan (124) and Katie Mank (136) completed the O’Fallon five, while Madeline McKittrick (141) and Maddie Collins (167) also competed for the Blue and Gold.
O’Fallon managed a team score of 481, 17 points better than 22nd place Schaumburg. [Elmhurst] York finished 23rd, followed by Plainfield North and [Frankfort] Lincoln Way-East to round out the field.
Naperville North would capture the team crown, scoring a 111 to beat runner-up Yorkville by 19 points.
Edwardsville Sectional Champion Minooka would take third, followed by Downers Grove South and [Lagrange] Lyons to finish out the top five. Southwestern Conference rival Edwardsville would finish 16th.
[Glen Ellyn] Glenbard West freshman Katelynne Hart would win the Individual State Title, followed by junior teammate Lindsey Payne in second. Minooka junior Emily Shelton finished in third, ahead of senior teammate Mackenzie Callahan. [Mount Prospect] Prospect senior Brooke Wilson finished fifth.
On the Boys side, the Panthers exacted a little Sectional revenge, topping Minooka by 25 points to secure a 21st place finish. 23rd place Highland Park finished ahead of Yorkville and Naperville North to round out the competition.
[Naperville] Neuqua Valley took home the State Championship, beating Downers Grove North by a dominating 33 points. Lake Zurich finished 3rd ahead of Lyons and [Chicago] Whitney Young.
Edwardsville would take home 19th, 29 points ahead of OTHS.
The Panthers were paced by Christopher Conrad’s 37th place finish, again the only finish in the top 75 for O’Fallon. Teammate Will Van Alstine would cross the finish line 76th overall.
Conrad’s run would be the best out of any competitor from the Metro East, as he finished 28 spots in front of Edwardsville’s top runner Franky Romano.
Joey Black finished three spots later in 79th, followed by Garrett Blenkush in 135th and Matthew Gilster two spots later.
Hayden Ybarra (144) and Lucas Capistrant (146) would also run for the Blue and Gold, although both would place out of the O’Fallon five.
Minooka’s Soren Knudsen capped off an incredible postseason and high school career with the Individual State Championship. Lyons junior Danny Kilrea would finish six seconds later for second place, followed by [Orland Park] Sandberg junior Dylan Jacobs. York junior Charlie Kern finished fourth, followed by Lake Zurich’s Brian Griffith.
This race marks the end of a two great O’Fallon Boys Cross Country careers, as senior duo Chris Conrad and Joey Black both will move on from OTHS next year.
The 2016 season helped add to the status quo that both Boys Head Coach Jon Burnett and Girls Head Coach Neil James have created for this O’Fallon program. November runs in Peoria have long become the expectation for those who put on the uniform.
Next up for both Panther teams will be an entire offseason to continue to train and improve, building on what was a successful 2016 campaign. They’ll be ready to make another run for Peoria in 2017.