MIDLOTHIAN – Many years have passed since the significance of what took place Saturday at the Class 3A Sandburg Regional meet at Midlothian Meadows.
Plainfield South’s boys team claimed its first regional title since 2004 after placing four runners in the top nine to score 33 points. Sandburg was second (57 points) with Plainfield North third and Plainfield Central fourth. Bolingbrook took the sixth and final qualifying spot.
“This is our first regional title since 2004, and I’m so happy right now,” Cougars coach Jason Crowe said. “This is championship season, and it’s important to run well right now. Plus, with the sectional meet next week on this course, this gives our team a great confidence boost for next week. They like the course and now have raced it.”
North coach Andy Derks knows what the Tigers have to work on for the sectional meet as the team had only a 26-second split between their top five runners, with junior Matt Thomas grabbing 10th place.
“Today was a dress rehearsal for next week since we are here again,” Derks said. “We ran well as a pack today, but that pack must be closer to the front for us to have a chance next week. We have to put ourselves in position early.”
Central qualified as a team for the first time since 2009 and was led by senior Javy Garcia who placed 13th.
“The work these guys have put in is paying off, and it’s so fun to see,” Central coach Jeff Purdom said. “It’s great to see the rewards for the work, and it will be tough next week, but we have a chance because we are in the race.”
Individually, the Cougars’ Christian Knowlton continued his winning ways, running in 15 minutes, 10 seconds to grab a 10-second win over Bolingbrook’s Tyler Cushing, as both runners ran away from the field on a windy day.
“I didn’t want to try and push early, especially with how windy it was,” Knowlton said. “I know Tyler is very good, and I waited until we got into the woods and with about 800 [meters] to go, and I just took off. This is great to win as a team, and we want to show others that we can compete with anyone.”
North claimed the girls title with only 28 points as Juliana Stogsdill covered the 3-mile course in 18:36 to garner the victory, as the Tigers placed four runners in the top six.
“I felt so much better today than last week at the conference,” Stogsdill said. “The team won a regional title and that is important and knowing this course for next week will really help.”
“It’s great to win and what’s better is now we have raced this course and have confidence for next week,” Tiger coach Tammy Gummerson said.
South finished third as at team and also had the third-place individual finisher, Cassidy Martin (19:11).
“Our team ran well today and I’m excited for them,” South coach Janeen Carlberg said. “Cassidy has worked very hard and I believe the success she had in track last season has helped her tremendously this cross country season.”
Bolingbrook placed fifth, and Central grabbed the final qualifying position with a sixth-place finish. It was the first time since 2012 that a Central girls team has moved on to the sectionals.
The Raiders received a seventh-place finish from freshman Kaylee Pannek and Central was led by Kaelyn Wiltse, who placed ninth.
“This is incredible,” Wildcats coach John Prieboy said. “We lost so much talent and leadership from last year, but these girls bought in right away, learned from last year, and they all stepped up today. Our third runner was sick today, so she didn’t run and I’m just incredibly proud of how this program has grown with the dedication of these kids.”
The last time both the Central boys and girls teams qualified for sectionals in the same season was 2009.