Cross-country '09: News and notes

Cross-country '09: News and notes

Ryan Root won't leave Centennial High School as the same kind of runner who entered in the fall of 2006.

"He came in unheralded," Charger coach Greg Walters said. "He wasn't the star. He wasn't one of those kids who jumped out at you."

To prepare for his senior season, Root did something no other Centennial cross-country runner has managed. His summer training regimen consisted of running 750 miles.

"We've had some dedicated kids, but I've never had anyone hit that kind of mileage for the summer," Walters said.

Every day, when Root arose at 6 a.m. he told himself the routine was worth it.

"I said, 'This will make me better,' " Root said.

Three or four days a week, he'd lace his training shoes back up for an evening run around 8 p.m.

All the time, he had one goal in mind.

"I intend to be the first male all-stater from Centennial," he said.

The Chargers have offered the sport for 40-plus years but have not yet had a boy place among the top 25 runners at state. Root was 35th as a junior.

"Last summer, I got about 500 miles for the entire summer," Root said, "and thought that was good."

This summer, he put in more effort, but not to the point of overtraining.

"There were very few days I really pushed it to the limit," said Root, who ran for all but two days during the summer, "but I feel as fit as I've ever been."

Though he lettered in cross-country as a freshman, Root didn't run track the following spring.

"I'd been playing baseball for seven years and I loved it," Root said, "so I skipped my freshman track season. I had not been a fan of running around the same loop more than three times."

By his sophomore year, he recognized his future was in running and his career has taken off. North Central College, a Divsion III powerhouse in Naperville, is interested in Root, who plans on majoring in biology.

Among state's elite

Two area Class 1A boys' teams and two area Class 2A squads are among the schools receiving recognition in the preseason state rankings, compiled by (formerly Illinois Prep Top Times).

In 1A, Urbana Uni High is rated ninth and Paxton-Buckley-Loda 12th.

In 2A, Mahomet-Seymour is ranked 12th and Centennial 18th.

Individually, PBL senior Tom Pacey is regarded as Class 1A's premier runner. He placed sixth at state as a junior and was the highest finishing underclassman.

Among girls' teams, St. Joseph-Ogden is ranked third in 1A, behind Winnebago and Elmwood. The Spartans have two of the preseason's top 20-rated runners: junior Sidney Long (12th) and sophomore Chelsea Blaase (16th).

SJ-O coach Jon Jamison calls the Spartans' girls' squad, "the best-prepared team I have ever coached."

The only other area runner to receive statewide recognition is Argenta-Oreana sophomore Haley Briggs (seventh).

On the move

Three athletes who ran last year for St. Thomas More will be wearing new uniforms this season. Sophomore Joe Cochrane has transferred to Centennial and senior Lucas Rose is now at Mahomet-Seymour.

Also moving on is sophomore Taylor Staab, who will help Centennial's girls' team field a solid core of five runners.


Centennial's 3-mile school record (18 minutes, 13 seconds) has stood since 2002 when Brandy Buss registered that time at state. The Chargers' top two runners this season each have the potential to lower that mark. The team's leaders are Neli Crawford and Claire Tortorelli.

Urbana's school record (18:42) belongs to senior Marissa Marrone, who established her record in 2007 during her state-qualifying season.

Overcoming obstacles

Danville junior Matt Cleveland, the top sophomore in last year's Class 2A Urbana Regional, turned in cross-country times among the school's all-time 15 for freshmen and sophomores. Last spring in track, he was clocked at 9:50 in the 3,200 meters even though he underwent an appendectomy during the indoor season.

Last Friday, he underwent hernia surgery. Cleveland is expected to be sidelined for about another week.

Looking to repeat

Uni High's boys' team won the area trifecta last season, taking top honors in the Twin City meet as well as the regional and sectional meets on the way to a fourth-place performance at state.

Coach Doug Mynatt has his largest turnout in the 14 years he has coached at the school, 30 boys, which he hopes will enable the Illineks to remain among the state's top programs.

Team leaders Nathan Smith and Albert Anastasio each logged more than 500 training miles during the summer and Mynatt said, "they look as strong coming into the season as any runners I've ever trained."

Short shots

Brock Ramos, a team captain in soccer, is trying to arrange to compete for the Hoopeston Area cross-country team when he can avoid scheduling conflicts. When available, he'd likely be the team leader. ... Judah Christian's 4-year-old program has its first four-year runners, Alyssa Chambers and Jesse Widick. ... Due to a late starting date for school (Sept. 15), La Salette will compete in an abbreviated season. The Lions could have as many as half of those enrolled at the school in the sport. ... Zach Alvey, who was the top returning runner for the Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac team, has transferred to Covington, Ind. ... Andrea Palmer, the second-year Salt Fork/Westville coach, will run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 11. It will be her seventh marathon. ... The Salt Fork/Westville squad has four girls and two of them are on track to be the valedictorian (Kaitlyn Davis) and salutatorian (Hayley Lockwood) at Catlin. ... For the second consecutive season, SJ-O has gained a first-time runner from volleyball. Sophomore Hannah Graham is a running newcomer. ... Also helping to solidify the Spartans' lineup is the return of junior Kayla Green, who was in the top seven in 2007 when SJ-O placed fourth at state. Green was not on the team as a sophomore.