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Redskins' runners retain rights to 'The Chief'

Perhaps you’ve seen him when you went to pay for a ticket at a Morris Community High School basketball game.

That’s where The Chief has spent the better part of the last year until being run out to the Redskins cross country course Tuesday.

“He’s four-feet tall and doesn’t fit in the trophy case, so we put him in the main gym lobby ticket booth,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said.

The Chief is a traveling trophy given to the winner of the annual cross country race between the locals and the Sandwich Indians – now in its second year.

“It’s a really neat trophy,” the top finisher of this year’s race, Jacob Wantland of Morris said.

Morris won the unique race last year, and Redskins top female runner, freshman Maria Blanco (21:58), said she got caught up in the excitement of keeping The Chief in the ticket booth for another year.

“Everybody today was like pumped to go out and win because they’d like to keep him around,” she said.

“I hope that’s what a traveling trophy turns into,” Blumberg said. “We like to remind them of him and use it as motivation.”

Like the trophy, the race format itself is also unique.

Everyone runs – both boys and girls – in one big family type race.

“We did it because we wanted everybody to feel like they played a part in it and were included,” Blumberg said. “We thought this was the best way to actually have the boys run with the girls. It’s worked out well.”

Wantland’s first place time of 16:22 over the 2.97 mile course counted, as did all of the other 29 runners for Morris. This instead of just the top five individuals counting toward a team score.

“It’s really great for both us and Sandwich because it incorporates everybody – all the times for all the runners, and the average time wins,” Wantland said. “It’s pretty cool to get everybody involved.”

Morris won the trophy for a second year in a row – this year with the Redskins turning in an average time of 20:59.56 per runner. That bested the 21:38.32 average turned in by the 15 Sandwich runners.

The Redskins actually turned in 14 of the top 17 finishes on the newly configured Morris course.

The home course was changed because the Redskins are going to be hosting the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference meet in October.

“We had to do it from a safety standpoint,” Blumberg said. “Our old start narrowed to soon into the woods and we changed it, but I still think it’s a spectator-friendly course. You can see the runners up to five or six times. I envision this finish being pretty chaotic at conference.”

The Morris runners seemed to like the new look.

“I like it a lot. It’s going to be good at conference time,” Wantland said of the new layout. “It was our first time running it, but I really liked it. We practiced it, but this is the first time running it competitively.”

“It was a little confusing because it was the first time we’ve run it, but I like the ending better,” Blanco said. “When you get to the end you can sprint instead of going through the woods. I like sprinting at the end.”

Essentially, the start of the new course, which traditionally ended and began behind the recreation center, now only ends there and starts out in the open on the south side of the sophomore softball field.

That’s where the runners were told The Chief was going to be staying in Morris for at least another year.

“It means a lot to us,” Wantland said. “It’s not just another meet. It’s something we’ve been looking forward to.”

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