Jones, Ramos wear crowns
DANVILLE – Oakwood's newly named homecoming king extended his reign to the cross-country course Saturday.
Senior Justin Jones broke the school course record while running away with individual honors in the Thunder Run invitational at Kickapoo State Park.
Jones ran a blistering 16-minute,10-second time for the 3-mile race, finishing 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Tom Pacey, from team champion Paxton-Buckley-Loda.
The Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac athlete bettered the Comets' previous mark by three seconds. The person who set the school record 18 years ago as a senior, Jeff Trask, was among Saturday's observers.
Trask is now Heyworth's coach.
"It's good to see a nice, humble kid like Justin do well," Trask said. "I'm happy to see the record go down.
"Anything under a 16:30 here is a heck of a time. He's running on top of his game and has a good shot at being top five, top 10 at state."
Jones opened a seven-second lead after a mile, starting with a 5:07 split. He ran the remainder of the race at almost the same pace, 5:30 and 5:33.
"He went out fast the first mile, and I couldn't hang with him," said PBL's Nick Brehm, the third-place runner.
Oakwood coach Tim Lee said he thought Jones was ready to put together his finest race of the season.
"He keeps getting stronger and is realizing what he can do," Lee said. "He's not just good for this area. He's running state-caliber times."
Even though he ran uncontested nearly two-thirds of the race, Jones didn't lose his focus.
"When you have the lead, you have to fight through the mental aspects," he said. "You think you can take it easy and slow down, but I fought through that.
"To come in ahead of the record is huge. This gives me nothing but confidence."
PBL's state-ranked boys' team was as dominant as Jones was individually.
Teammates Pacey (16:32), Brehm (16:47) and Felix Cardosa (17:22) placed second, third and fourth, respectively.
In a meet where the team titlist is determined based on the elapsed times of a school's first five finishers, the Panthers collectively came in at 88:12 to defend their team crown.
Lee's runner-up Comets were next (91:49), followed by Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman (93:09).
Brehm believes the Panthers can continue to improve.
"All of us together haven't had a good race on the same day," he said.
In a field of 84 finishers, PBL's other scorers were Adam Carlson (12th in 18:43) and Adam Kyrouac (14th in 18:48).
"I'm very happy with the way our fourth and fifth runners are moving up," PBL coach John Overstreet said.
G-RF/C also had three runners finish in succession. Dalton Lorenzen was sixth, followed by Cody Swick and Joey McNulty. O/A-P's Zack Alvey ran ninth.
Hoopeston Area's Erika Ramos pulled away in the second mile and beat runner-up Cara Feeney of St. Thomas More to the finish line by 27 seconds.
Ramos, one of two Cornjerkers to place among the top five, was timed in 19:44. Teammate Belinda Cohen was fifth in 20:46.
Ramos and Feeney each covered the opening mile in 6:08.
The Cornjerkers nearly duplicated their winning composite from 2006. Coach Rich Stipp's cumulative total was 1:10.24. Last year's victorious effort was 1:10.18.
"This was a great team effort," said Stipp after Abby Newman placed 14th, Emily Warner 19th and Ashley Houmes 20th in the 60-runner field.
Ramos still was going strong as she approached the finish chute.
"She is running so effortlessly," Stipp said. "It doesn't look like she labors when she runs. She is just a different athlete this year, and confidence is the biggest reason."
Ramos followed her opening split with mile times of 6:44 and 6:52.
Other area athletes, besides Feeney and those from Hoopeston, in the top 10 were Salt Fork/Westville's Andrea Martis (fourth), Bismarck-Henning's Abby Albers (seventh), Villa Grove's Emily Walch (ninth) and G-RF/C's Mary McKee (10th).