Eagles cross country compete at State

Adam Larck
Dunlap runner Leah Brooks keeps ahead of Morton runner Ashley Pribble.

After achieving their season goal last week, Dunlap cross country coach Joe Wenskus knew the State meet for the teams would be “gravy.”

“I think they did well,” Wenskus said. “We talked a lot before last week about how we were going to run, what we were going to do, where we thought we’d be and all that stuff. This week, we kind of laid back and said, ‘We made it where we want to be.’ We wanted to be at State. That was our goal at the beginning of the year, we never varied from it all. We knew today was just going to be gravy.”

The State meet Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria marked the first time since going to Class 2A that both teams have advanced, and the second time overall in school history.

On the girls side, the team finished 20th of 25 teams and were led by senior Leah Brooks.

“It probably wasn’t my best race, but I’m here with the team and that’s something to be proud of,” Brooks said.

Brooks started off the race strong, keeping up with the top of the pack. However, as the race progressed Brooks dropped a few spots here and there to finish 35th overall in a time of 18 minutes, 20 seconds.

“Well, you know, she’s been here four years in a row,” Wenskus said of Brooks. “She gave everything she had. She kept this together to get the whole team here. That was her emphasis this year, but that’s Leah. She’s going to be that way as a person and she stayed true to that. She worked with the girls and got them here.”

Brooks was 21 seconds behind 25th-place, the last place to receive a state medal.

“I’m sure we all wanted her to do that, and that was our goal for her,” Wenskus said. “But, you learn from those kinds of things and she’s going to be fine.”

Brooks said she is planning to take a bit of time off and get ready for track this spring.

After that, it’s off to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“I’ve verbally committed to IUPUI,” she said. “I’ll run cross country and track there. I’m really excited for that.”

Coming in second for the team was freshman Allison Verville in 19:04, good enough for 92nd place.

Other runners for the Eagles were Danielle Snarr (20:00), Abigail Jockisch (20:14), Anastasia Landon (20:21), Chloe Gunn (20:33) and Stephanie Coghill (21:10).

Meanwhile, the boys team finished 14th out of 25 teams.

Leading the way for the boys was Zack Plank, who finished in 39th overall in 15:35.

“I ran probably the same race I’ve ran every year, it’s just a different field of competitors,” Plank said. “It’s definitely faster than I thought it was going to be.”

He said that, while he did not do what he wanted time-wise, he did what he wanted to competition-wise.

“I thought I did pretty well,” Plank said. “I kind of lost sight of them in that huge pack at the beginning. I saw them and I was like, ‘I got to go catch them.’ So, I just took off and knew it was my time to go.”

Plank, a junior, will be competing in the 2-mile run during track this spring.

“I’m just going to train through this winter,” he said. “Do the best I can in State again.

“I went last year and didn’t do so well, so this is kind of my experiment year to see what I can do and see what I can do next year.”

Finishing in 60th-place was Everett Lepp in 15:50, with Matthew Weber taking 123rd in 16:25.

“We did our usual plan where we take it slow the first 800 and then we just attack the rest of the field, and the field just went too,” Plank said. “It was such a fast field.”

The other boys runners included John Eberle (16:43), Anthony Holshouser (16:46) and Derick Colvin (17:15).

“This team is going down in history at our school and in my memory,” Plank said. “I’ll love this team forever and I’m definitely going to miss everyone.”

Wenskus said that, while the boys team will lose three seniors (Colvin, Noah Neace and Weber) and the girls team will lose Brooks, there is a major core returning and a nice junior high group coming up that will help the Eagles push for another postseason run next year.

“It’s always the hope,” he said. “We might as well ride this wave.”

He added that he was proud of the team and happy to be coaching them.

“I hope that they enjoyed the experience,” he said. “I think every guy and every gal did their best.”