Rich East Cross Country Team Finishes With Strong PRs

Janiah Jones Sectionals
Rich East’s Janiah Jones (2576) works to keeps pace with Abbi Wieland (2632) from Rock Island and Lauren May (2446) of East Peoria at last Saturday’s Class 2A Cross Country Sectionals in Normal. Jones finished just behind them at the finish line but still has a personal record with a 20:34. (SUPPLIED)

Normal, IL-(ENEWSPF)- While they did not have any state qualifiers, the Rich East Boys and Girls Cross Country runners had strong, solid personal record (PRs) finishes at Saturday’s Class 2A Cross Country Sectional meet in Normal, Illinois.

LaRon Rogers
At last Saturday’s Class 2A Boys Cross Country Sectional meet in Normal, Rich East’s LaRon Rogers (2286) keeps up with Peoria Richwoods’ Trent Schroeder (2310) and Dan Barbee (2301) just past the 1-mile mark where Rogers hit the mark in five minutes, 20 seconds. At the finish line, Rogers came across with a PR time of 17:21, a fraction of a second behind Schroeder. (SUPPLIED)

LaRon Rogers, Devontae Bowman, Leon Heard all shattered their previous PR’s in the boys race and Janiah Jones did the same in the girls race on the lightning-fast three-mile Maxwell Park course.  Rogers, the Rockets team captain and four-year harrier, finished his high-school career with a 17 minute, 21 second run. Bowman (17:49) and Heard (17:50), both juniors and running cross country for the first time this season, also had good runs. Jones, a junior, in her second-straight sectional meet, finished in the 20s for the first time as a Rocket cross country runner, with a 20:34.

With more than 25 schools competing as complete teams or individuals, the Sectional field was one of the fastest in the state. The top 40 times for the boys race was under 16 minutes and the top five were under 15 minutes, which is nearly comparable to a state meet. The girls race was also fairly fast with the top 10 runners finishing with times 18 minutes or less and the Top 30 19:01 or less. The top boys time was 14:48 by Tyler Rasso of United High School in East Moline, who was only a second faster than Peoria-Notre Dame’s Michel Kouri’s 14:49. Washington’s Julia Williams won the girls race with a 17:29, five seconds ahead of Jessie Wynn from Peoria-Notre Dame. Teamwise, University High (Normal), was both tops among boys and girls teams. 

For the Rockets, however, it was still a good finish even though no one made it to this weekend’s coveted state finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria.

"I can’t say enough about how well they all ran," said Rich East Boys Cross Country Coach Kevin Kredens. "All conditions indicated that it was going to be fast race and it was. The course was very flat, it was a sunny and cool morning, a slight wind and there weren’t as many course turns as we’ve had at sectional meets in the past. It was a very fast, very good course. It just showed how well you have to train and be to get to this and the next level in this state series."

Rogers, running in his first sectional, missed the first several meets of the season, but still managed a good season. He also has had some minor struggles the past two seasons, but was determined to make this a good year. As a freshman, he went with former teammate Bryan Minnich, the last Rocket to qualify for the state meet in 2008, to get a taste of state and has been trying to get back to run the course ever since. He knew that Saturday would be his last chance. So he was determined to make the best of it.

"I just wanted to go out fast with the lead pack," Rogers said, who missed going to sectionals last year by a few seconds and one place." There were so many good runners here that I knew I had to get up there quickly and go for it all. I wish I could have made it to state, but this was a very fast field. I’m a little disappointed but I’m glad I was able to finish strong. Guess now I’ll start conditioning for track after taking a little time off."

Jones also had a good run, getting into the 20s for the first time as a Rocket, running the last mile in just over six minutes to do so.

"She really kicked it in that last mile," said Rockets Girls Cross Country Coach Christy Cook. "What a great finish for her. Next year should really be her year in she continues to train hard especially over the summer."

Rogers, Heard and Jones also all earned all-Southland Athletic Conference honors this season and Bowman missed by just a few seconds. For Jones, it was her second-straight all-conference honor. While Rogers will be exploring opportunities to continue running in college, Heard, Bowman and Jones still have a lot of high school running ahead of them.

"This is a big step for the kids and for our program," Kredens said. "They know what it takes to get better and now that they have a taste of success, they want to put in the time and the miles to do that. They were just sayn’ to me: hey coach, summer practice isn’t that far off is it.’"

Team at the 2011 Sectionals
Happy Rockets at the Class 2A Cross Country Sectional Cross Country meet in Normal are (clockwise, from left): volunteer assistant coach Marilyn Mitchell; Kevin Kredens, head boys coach, boys team captain LaRon Rogers; Leon Heard, Devontae Bowman; head girls coach Christy Cook; Janiah Jones. (SUPPLIED)