Danville's Leverenz rounding into form
ST. JOSEPH — Danville's finest are also the best in the Spartan Classic cross-country meet.
Junior Johnny Leverenz, from Danville, and senior Jesse Hahne, from Schlarman, were the top two individuals in Saturday's 41st running of the historic street race.
They are rivals now but were teammates in middle school when each attended St. Paul.
"We're good friends, and on the course we're always close," Leverenz said. "It's fierce competition. I'm glad he was here. Me and him can get good times because of each other. He was right next to me for 2 1/2 miles."
Leverenz ran the 3-mile course in 14 minutes, 50.9 seconds, the second fastest since the layout was reconfigured. Hahne was timed in 14:59.1.
"This is a well-known meet and for Danville runners to be 1-2 is a pretty good thing," Hahne said. "He pulled away in the last 800 meters. That has been my weak spot."
Three other area seniors were top-10 runners in the 26-school meet. Monticello's Andrew Hanselman was fourth, St. Joseph-Ogden's Drew Knipfer was seventh and Arthur's Jeffery Earnst was 10th.
Okaw Valley Conference teams Shelbyville and Monticello were the team leaders, followed in third place by SJ-O and then by Tremont, Urbana Uni High and Unity.
Hahne's time was an improvement of 20 seconds over his performance a year ago at the Spartan Classic.
"Most of my meets have shown improvement from 10 to 20 seconds," Hahne said. "I added swimming to my (summer) training, and I put in more miles."
He was coming off a Tuesday meet where he won a 5-kilometer race at the North Vermillion (Ind.) Invitational in 16:14.
"He's definitely where he needs to be," Schlarman coach Tyler Overstreet said.
Saturday's race is the final time Leverenz and Hahne will run against each other until track. A Class 3A all-stater last year, Leverenz is looking forward to the possibilities for the upcoming postseason because the Vikings have been reassigned to Class 2A.
"The last two or three weeks, he had average races, largely in part to the training we're doing," Danville coach Todd Orvis said. "We've really been hammering it during the week.
"This is the week he turns the corner. This was a real good effort."
The boys' meet remains a Who's Who of the state's elite Class 1A teams. Eight schools ranked among the top 21 (by Illinois Prep Harrier) competed. The top three teams, Shelbyville, Monticello and SJ-O, were fifth, sixth and ninth in this week's state poll.
In the girls' race, top-rated Decatur St. Teresa outdistanced No. 2 Monticello. SJ-O was third, and Danville placed sixth.
In a race with 168 finishers, the Sages had four of the top 20 runners: Hannah Houska (second), Maddie Tutich (11th), Emily Foley (15th) and Maggie Utgaard (18th). Running 2 miles, they came in within 33 seconds of one another.
With two all-staters returning (Houska and Utgaard) from a team that placed third at state in 2011, the Sages expected to have a good nucleus.
"We knew we wouldn't be that bad, but (being ranked second) is kind of a surprise," Tutich said.
Saturday was the only time during the cross-country season that Monticello will compete on a 2-mile course.
"It's a faster pace," Tutich said. "It's a good change."
Monticello coach Jeff Butler likes what the tempo does for the mind-set.
"They need to be running fast as the season progresses," Butler said.
If he needs to encourage his team to step it up, he only needs to remind it of the rankings.
"If you think you'll get second because you're ranked second, you're setting yourself up for failure," Butler said. "There's a lot of responsibility that goes along with it. If we're ranked, we say let's run like it."
Danville had the top freshman finisher. Mercedes Elliott was third. Besides the Monticello quartet, the other area athlete among the top 25 was SJ-O's Alyssa Pridemore (10th).