CHRISMAN – Albert Anastasio endured a change of pace as he prepared for his junior season in cross-country.
"Last summer (2008), I didn't train," the University High School junior said. "I didn't realize my potential."
Breaking 16 minutes at state last November helped Anastasio realize what was possible. He subsequently dedicated himself to becoming one of the area's top distance runners.
In the most recent offseason, he ran 530 miles. It helped him reach what he previously believed would be late-season form for the Illineks' first major meet, Saturday's 28th Chrisman Cowchip Classic.
Among No. 1 runners in the 24-school field, Anastasio was No. 1. He edged Monticello's Stephen Schroeder by two seconds to win the 3-mile race. His time was 16 minutes, 30 seconds. Schroeder's time was the day's quickest by a sophomore boy.
"It's a time I would have been happy to run at the end of the season (last year)," Anastasio said.
Uni High coach Doug Mynatt – whose squad had the winner in the flighted race for No. 2 runners, Nathan Smith (the day's fastest senior in 16:52 – expected Anastasio to start strongly.
"What he did over the summer is paying off for him," Mynatt said.
The same claims can be made by runners from St. Joseph-Ogden's combined programs. Coach Jon Jamison estimated that at least 20 runners between the Spartans' boys' and girls' teams logged at least 300 offseason miles.
"That's unheard of for us," Jamison said.
The Spartans swept to team titles in both divisions, doing so in dominating fashion. SJ-O's seven girls were no lower than second in their flighted races, and the school unseated four-team defending champion Mahomet-Seymour for team supremacy. SJ-O had 11 points, M-S had 15 and third-place Monticello finished with 30 points.
The SJ-O boys – whose top five runners had a minute split – prevailed by a greater margin. The Spartans had 12 points. Runner-up Uni totaled 18, and third-place Monticello had 19.
SJ-O's seven boys all placed among the top three in their respective races.
"It's exciting," Jamison said about becoming the fifth school to secure boys' and girls' titles in the same season. "We knew the girls would be strong, but the boys were an unknown because we lost so many (three of last year's top five). We had two good freshmen coming in, and they all put in a full commitment over the summer."
Senior Alex Hargus (No. 4 runners) and freshmen Drew Knipfer (No. 6) and Aric Pelofas (No. 7) won their respective races. The other area boy to win was Monticello's Luke Zocher (No. 5 runners).
SJ-O's top four girls had a 50-second split. Lauren Cessna, who won the race for No. 3 runners, recorded the fastest time by a senior girl (20:30) and teammates Jolee Paden (No. 4 runners) had the day's lone record-tying performance. Her 20:16 clocking matched the all-time mark for No. 4 runners.
SJ-O's other flighted champion was Tasha Shadden (No. 7 runners). Other area girls who captured first were Mahomet-Seymour teammates Rachel Rodriguez (No. 2 runners), Ceirra Nevin (No. 5 runners) and Katie Pittman (No. 6 runners). Another Bulldog, Brittany Bohn, was fourth among No. 1 runners but had the fastest time of the day by a junior (20:02).