SJ-O boys, girls turn in title runs
PAXTON — Jon Davis is on the run but bypassed a chance to be on the move.
The Oakwood High standout — who also has attended school in Riverton and Monticello — declined to relocate to South Dakota with his mother, sister and half-brother for his sophomore year.
“I couldn’t leave again,” Davis said. “I decided to stay here.”
He is living with his father and flourishing on the cross-country course. Davis won Saturday’s 40th running of Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s boys’ invitational, covering the redesigned course in 15 minutes, 54 seconds, a step ahead of Unity sophomore Andrew Warnes.
St. Joseph-Ogden won the boys’ and girls’ team titles.
At last year’s PBL race, Davis was edged at the chute for first place in the junior varsity race. At the state finals, he finished in the same time as the 25th placer but missed all-state honors “by less than a quarter of a second.”
The top freshman boy in the 2012 meet, Davis was 26th in Class 1A. The top 25 were all-state.
“I knew it would come down to the last 100 meters,” he said Saturday. “I’ve worked on sprinting at the end. Last year, I might not have been able to hold him off.”
During the offseason, former Oakwood all-stater Justin Jones put together a training plan for Davis, and current Olivet Nazarene runner Brandon Divan — another former Comet — was a training partner.
“He is self-motivating,” Oakwood coach Doug Robinson said. “He has definitely been working on his kicks, but Jon works on all aspects.”
Davis is serving as a spokesman for cross-country at Oakwood and Armstrong-Potomac, which is part of the co-op.
“I’m trying to recruit people,” Davis said. “We started with four boys. Now we have six. We’re small in numbers but big in heart.”
PBL was the only area school with two boys placing among the top five. Nick Porter was third and Grant Iverson fifth.
The storyline in the 16-school meet was SJ-O’s ability to run together.
“We’re learning to race instead of just running hard,” Spartans coach Jason Retz said. “Six of them were together through the first mile and a half.”
Braydon Crozier placed fourth in 16:15, but five other teammates finished within 42 seconds of him. Brennan Guido, Corey Thompsen, Clayton Nigg, Austin Earp and Nick Poff all placed among the top 12 in a field of 90 competitors.
“Working together is where success comes in cross-country,” Retz said. “We’re starting to understand that.”
Boys’ teams from Unity, PBL and Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman followed the Spartans in the team chase.
The Rockets had a standout performance from Jacob Ping, 16th overall and the fourth Unity finisher.
“He has been trying to make the top seven, and he ran very inspired,” Unity coach Dike Stirrett said.
SJ-O coach Kristin Allen is reaching the point she doesn’t know what to think.
“I have high expectations, and they usually blow me away,” Allen said, “and they did (Saturday).”
Led by runner-up Alyssa Pridemore, the Spartans placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 10. The split between second runner Keely Smith and fifth runner Emma Melchior was 53 seconds.
“Their times were amazing,” Allen said. “I told them (Friday) I was getting a good vibe. They’re getting along and working together.”
Other SJ-O leaders were Abby Gawthorp (eighth) and Abby Fisher (ninth).
Runner-up Unity had a trio of top 10 placers: Nicole Bagwell (third), Taylor Renfroe (fourth) and Laura Seiler (seventh).
Until the final few meters, Bagwell and Renfroe ran side-by-side.
“We wanted to stay together,” Bagwell said. “It makes me feel like I’m not by myself.”
It’s what Unity coach Gary Wieneke expected.
“The three of them (including Seiler) have been practicing together,” Wieneke said. “Their tempo and stride pattern fits together. They’re running good.”
Kankakee Bishop McNamara was third, Hoopeston Area fourth and PBL fifth in the team standings.