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Minooka boys and girls cross country teams advance again

MINOOKA — Although the Minooka boys and girls cross country teams used different styles at their regional races Saturday at Channahon Community Park, both proved to be effective. The boys team took second place Saturday, while the girls team took home the regional crown, continuing the success of the Minooka cross country program.

The girls ran first Saturday, and used a team strategy throughout the race. Instead of one runner commanding the race and trying to win, the Lady Indians stayed mostly as a pack, trying to get as many team points as possible. This strategy seemed to work for Minooka, as they placed four girls in the top 10.

“We have such a great group of girls that runs really well together,” head coach Kevin Gummerson said. “We were willing to take a little risk today to try and get us ready for next week’s sectional run. They fed off each other very well today.”

Junior Caleigh Beverly edged out freshman Meghan Crouch at the finish line to take fourth place with a time of 18:46 and lead Minooka. The other two top-10 runners for Minooka, Haley McNamara and Kaitlyn Chetney, finished eighth and ninth respectively, guiding the Indians to a regional title.

“To walk away with a regional title on the girls side is outstanding,” Gummerson said. “They went out there and battled today. They came out more aggressive than usual in that first mile, and they were fit enough to keep up that pace.”

The boys race followed, and all eyes were on Joe Santillo, one of the top runners in the state of Illinois. The senior lived up to his expectations Saturday morning, running away with the regional title with a time of 15:11 in his final race at Community Park.

“It means a lot to get this win, especially it being my senior year and my last time on the course,” Santillo said. “I’ve been running this course since I was in fifth grade in junior high, and I really wanted to enjoy the run more than anything.”

“There have been some great runners in Minooka history, and he’s right in the mix with them,” Gummerson added about Santillo. “It’s hard to compare times on different courses, but as far as his attitude and competitiveness, he’s one of the best.”

Santillo wasn’t the only impressive Indian on Saturday, as fellow senior and teammate Alex Pierce finished second with a time of 15:25. Also finishing strong was senior Cam Knudsen, who made a late charge down the stretch to take fifth place with a time of 15:48.

“It’s awesome having guys like that, knowing that it’s not all on me to go out and win or place high,” Santillo said. “I know I have those guys right behind me pushing me, and I’m pushing them as well, which is key.”

“I was proud of how this group of boys raced today,” Gummerson added. “We’re looking for a fight and looking for an edge, and all seven of our guys came out there and battled. To have three in the top five, though, is great.”

Despite three runners in the top five, it wasn’t enough for the boys, as Lincoln-Way Central took home the regional title.

Even though they didn’t win, the boys, along with the girls team, both qualified for sectionals next week down in Bloomington. It is sure to be a much tougher test for the Indians, as both teams will be put to the test.

“We have to go over our strategy and our game plan and be mentally ready to go,” Gummerson said. “Every week the pressure is elevated. We’re just going to build off it and keep working here to try and get the job done.”

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