EFFINGHAM — Dave Remmert’s initial reaction to being asked about his Monticello girls’ cross-country team winning the first sectional championship in team history: “How’d you know about that?”
Word travels quickly when a never-before-seen moment is involved.
Rachel Koon’s third-place effort and Mabry Bruhn’s fifth-place showing in Saturday’s Class 1A Effingham St. Anthony Sectional paced the Sages to a piece of postseason hardware no group before them ever garnered, with Monticello outlasting runner-up Unity 53-66.
“It’s been quite an exciting run,” Remmert said. “Our workouts have gotten a little tougher this year. I think it’s helped them to build their confidence.”
The sophomore Koon (18 minutes, 41 seconds) and freshman Bruhn (19:02) were supported within the individual top 15 by junior teammates Grace Talbert (10th, 19:30) and Emma Brown (13th, 19:38).
Koon, who competed earlier this year in the 2A state track and field 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, has become a steady presence for Monticello.
“She has ran in some very intense, high-level races,” Remmert said. “In many respects she really is kind of ... our veteran runner right now.”
The next stop is next Saturday’s 1A state meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park. The location has been kind to the Sages in the past, as they placed third in 2017.
“I really didn’t know what to expect this year,” Remmert said. “I’m really pleased with how these girls have competed.”
Joining the Sages’ girls at Detweiller are teams from Unity, St. Joseph-Ogden, St. Thomas More and Uni High. They were led, respectively, by Kylie Decker (fourth, 18:53), Jillian Plotner (11th, 19:33), Fran Hendrickson (seventh, 19:18) and Kate Ahmari (second, 18:29).
On the boys’ side of this sectional, Monticello earned its second consecutive team crown with 42 points, better than Uni High’s 96. Luke Sokolowski took third for the Sages in 16:07, while teammates Josh Baysore (seventh, 16:30) and Morgan Dixon (ninth, 16:34) joined him in the top 10.
The Illineks garnered a second-place effort from Henry Kraatz (16:06) and a sixth-place race from Aryan Lalwani (16:23).
Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Ryder James was the individual titlist in 15:55, advancing to Peoria by himself. Similar performances were put forth by Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond’s Layton Hall (fourth, 16:10) and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin’s Gabe Martinez (ninth, 16:33) and Eli Mojonnier (18th, 17:01).
Rounding out local state qualification were teams from St. Joseph-Ogden and Unity. The Spartans were paced by Brandon Mattsey (13th, 16:56) and the Rockets by Benjamin Gavel (16th, 17:01).
For Unity, it marks the first group state advancement since the Rockets won a 1A state championship in 2015.
“(Making state) was our goal last year, and we were very close last year,” Unity coach Jarred Koerner said. “It was really my junior class that led the charge on that. ... I’m excited to see what they bring (next) Saturday.”
Class 2A Bloomington Sectional
Bulldogs, Chargers, Tigers thrive. Neal Garrison believed before the 2019 boys’ season started his Mahomet-Seymour crew was a year away from making waves in the Class 2A state meet.
“They’re a little ahead of schedule, which is good,” Garrison said Saturday. “We’ll take it.”
Kyle Nofziger (16 minutes, 3 seconds) and Nick Miles (16:04) took 10th and 11th place, respectively, to guide the Bulldogs to third in their sectional and secure a spot at state.
“They didn’t have anybody to rely on,” said Garrison, referencing the graduation of former state champion Mathias Powell. “His absence actually forced them to realize some of them were ready to step up.”
Joining M-S in the 2A boys’ state field are Centennial’s Luke Manolakes (second, 15:37) and Ben Olaivar (eighth, 16:00), as well as Champaign Central’s Alex Ahmari (13th, 16:06).
Urbana’s Olivia Rosenstein won the girls’ race in 17:37 to bank her own state berth and paired with teammate Celia Barbieri, who advanced in eighth (19:04).
The M-S girls moved on as a team, too, grabbing the fifth and final qualifying spot. Elizabeth Sims placed fourth in 18:26, and Klein Powell snagged 20th in 19:35.
Class 1A Elmwood Sectional
Turney sticks around. Clinton’s Payne Turney kept her senior season going by taking sixth in this sectional and advancing to the 1A state meet. Turney, last year’s ninth-place state runner, clocked 18 minutes, 21 seconds on Saturday.
Class 1A Lisle Sectional
Price moves forward. Iroquois West junior Connor Price found a spot in the 1A state race, via a 10th-place display in Saturday’s sectional, notching a time of 17 minutes, 8 seconds.