Hahne wins PBL Invite
PAXTON — Jesse Hahne doesn't come from a family of runners nor has he been training for years.
"In eighth grade, I went out for track," Hahne said, "to get in shape for football. I went to state (in the 1,600 meters), but still thought I would pursue football in high school."
He was on Schlarman's freshman football team in 2009, mostly as a cornerback.
"My brothers had played football, and I'd played youth football," Hahne said.
During the spring of his freshman year in track, he began to see his future in a different fall sport.
He took up cross-country as a sophomore and now as a senior is one of the area's premier 3-mile runners. He plans a campus visit to the University of Illinois soon and will have multiple options to continue running beyond high school.
Hahne was the runaway winner in Saturday's Paxton-Buckley-Loda Invitational. He covered the 3-mile course in 16 minutes, 16.9 seconds. Runner-up Drew Knipfer, from team champion St. Joseph-Ogden, came in at 16:45.6.
Hahne's times are an improvement from 2011, but that's not the only difference. Last year, he was the runner targeting others who were ahead of him. Now, he's the one everybody wants to beat.
"One of my weaknesses has been running by myself and setting the pace," Hahne said. "I'm sure it will come, but I'm still trying to figure it out."
While Hahne is no longer a newcomer to distance running, the boys' third-place finisher is very much a novice. Arthur senior Jeffery Earnst is running cross-country for the first time. As a junior, he didn't even run track.
"I went to the Olympic Trials as a spectator, and it inspired me to do cross-country," Earnst said.
In his third 3-mile race, he recorded his best time, 16:51.8.
"I've decided running is my sport," said Earnst, who said his summer training included 115-mile training weeks for six weeks. "My work is starting to pay off. I knew I could do something."
SJ-O coach Jim Acklin was less certain how his team would fare. Two of the Spartans' top seven are first-year runners, senior Jon Crawford and junior Clayton Nigg.
They were both in the top 20 in PBL's 116-runner field. Crawford was 14th and Nigg 18th.
"We're a team of no-names," Acklin said. "We graduated a lot of talent and I don't know if I expected we'd be competitive. They've responded well in workouts."
Fourth-place finisher Braydon Crozier (16:53.3) is a second-year cross-country runner. SJ-O teammate Corey Thompsen placed ninth, but drew his coach's praise.
"Five minutes into the race, four Unity kids were ahead of him," Acklin said, "but it didn't finish that way."
Team runner-up Unity had just one runner (Austin Woodard) finish ahead of Thompsen and the margin was 1.3 seconds.
"Thompsen ran great," Acklin said.
Host Paxton-Buckley-Loda placed third and was the other team besides SJ-O with three top-10 finishers. The Panthers were led by Hayden Young (fifth), Nick Porter (seventh) and Grant Iverson (10th).
In the girls' varsity race, Kankakee Bishop McNamara beat SJ-O for team honors. The Spartans' Alyssa Pridemore was second (20:05.2) and teammate Veronica Brooks was sixth (21:07.9).
SJ-O ended one point ahead of Unity for second place. The Rockets were led by Taylor Renfroe (third).
SJ-O girls' coach Kristin Allen put some of her younger runners in the 2-mile JV race (which the Spartans' Abby Gawthorp won) and was pleased with the overall performance.
"We had a hard week of practice," Allen said. "They did an excellent job with heavy legs. Alyssa's time is about 20 seconds ahead of last year's and Jessica (Kassuelke, 12th place) ran her best so far."