If O'Fallon senior Patrick Perrier wanted to make a point, he did on Saturday at the Richard Spring Memorial/Peoria Notre Dame Invitational in Peoria.
Staking his claim as the favorite to win the Class 3A state cross country title in November, Perrier ran away from the elite field at beautiful Detweiller Park, posting an 11-second win and leading the Panthers to a second- place finish.
One week removed from a record-shattering performance at the Forest Park Invitational, Perrier grabbed the lead at the 1-mile mark of the 3-mile event and was never threatened as he coasted to the win.
Perrier finished with a time of 14 minutes, 24 seconds, well ahead of runnerup Dan Lathrup of Plainfield South, who finished at 14:35.
Seeing Perrier run away from the field in the top regular season meet of the year didn't surprise Panthers coach Jon Burnett.
"Patrick looked very smooth on Saturday. He broke away from the lead pack just after the mile mark and ran the rest of the race by himself,'' Burnett said. "Basically, he ran 14:24 by himself. Patrick may be the favorite to win the individual title. There are a lot of very good individuals in the state of Illinois.
"Each one is going to give Patrick their best shot. If Patrick runs his best race, he will be very difficult to beat.''
As will perennial state title contender Elmhurst York, which placed three harriers in the top 15, to nip O'Fallon for the team championship.
York, led by a fourth-place finish from Alex Bashqawi and fifth-place Nathan Mroz, finished with 78 points. O'Fallon (140) and (Arlington Heights) Hersey (157) rounded out the top three schools.
O'Falllon, which has placed second in the last two Class 3A state meets, entered the competition, ranked first in the Class 3A state poll.
But York may still be the favorite.
Burnett was pleased with how his team performed as each runner posted his best time of the season.
Junior Dorrian Gordon placed 15th overall in 14:59, while Steve Chorma was 27th (15:13), Evan Wesslund placed 34th in 15:17 and Adam Becker was 64th in 15:36.
"We had a good day on Saturday. Each of our runners in the varsity race ran a season's best time and we're still not 100 percent healthy,'' Burnett said.
"Can we run better? Yes. Will that be enough to beat York or Hinsdale Central? I don't know. Those teams are very good. It is very flattering to be mentioned in the same sentence as those programs.''
O'Fallon girls place fourth
Also in the running for a first-ever top five finish in the state finals, the O'Fallon girls team also performed well on Saturday at Detweiller Park -- placing fourth in the loaded field with 224 points.
Led by a 21st-place finish from senior Samantha Lapp and a 34th place effort from junior Tami Cardenas, O'Fallon finished with 224 points.
Palatine High School won the meet with 94 points, followed by New Trier (140) and Glenbard West (159).
Lapp finished with a time of 18:06 on the 3-mile course, while Cardenas was at 18:18.
Reagan Lear was third for the Panthers and 46th overall in 18:25, while Angela Buch placed 58th in 18:34 and Sydney Neal was 64th in 18:36.
O'Fallon coach Neil James said he was happy with how his team ran.
"Our pack time was 30 seconds, which is good,'' James said "Lapp led the pack with Cardenas next. Lear and Buch had great races as both came close to the times that they ran at state last year.
"The girls had a strong performance and are looking to build upon it over the next couple of weeks.''
McKenzie Yanek of Pleasant Valley won the individual title in 16:48.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org