Panthers look primed for Peoria after dominating effort at sectional

News-DemocratNovember 2, 2013 

— With a week left before the Class 3A boys state cross country meet, O'Fallon senior Patrick Perrier wanted one last "hard run" on Saturday at the Edwardsville Sectional.

That run for Perrier turned out to be a record-shattering one on a cool, crisp afternoon at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Reaffirming his position as perhaps the state's premier harrier, Perrier covered the 3.1-mile course in 15 minutes and 11 seconds, as Panthers romped to an easy win in the team competition.

Leading from start to finish, Perrier's time broke the course record of 15:30 owned by Garrett Sweatt of Edwardsvillle.

Ironically, Sweatt, a sophomore at Stanford University, and Perrier will be teammates next season. Perrier gave a verbal commitment to Stanford last week.

"With one week to go before state, the goal was to go hard and fast and see how I felt,'' Perrier said. "It was a great day to run and I felt strong throughout the race.''

O'Fallon teammate Dorrian Gordon finished second and Steven Chorma gave his team a sweep of the top three places, as O'Fallon finished with 33 points, 41 less than both (New Lenox) Lincoln-Way Central and host Edwardsville, both which finished with 74.

Normal Community (125) and Joliet Central (159) rounded out the top five schools, which all will advance to the Class 3A state meet in Peoria on Saturday.

Evan Wesslund placed eighth and junior Erik McMillan was 19th to round out the top five runners for O'Fallon, which has taken second at the Class 3A state meet each of the last two years.

If Saturday is any indication, the Panthers should be in the trophy hunt once again on Saturday at beautiful Detweiller Park.

"As a coach, I'm very pleased. This was the best we've run all year as a team,'' Panthers coach Jon Burnett said. "We knew coming in that Lincoln-Way (Central) would be tough and Edwardsville was strong and running well.

"Now we'll go back to practice and try to improve for next week.''

Brydon Groves-Scott placed fourth to lead the way for Edwardsville, while Ethan Townzen was ninth overall.

But the Tigers, who won the regional last week while O'Fallon rested Perrier and Chorma, were no match for the Panthers on this day.

"I think they (O'Fallon) got tired of hearing that we had closed the gap on them,'' Edwardsville coach George Patrylak said. "That's as good as they've run all season.

"I thought our kids ran good, not great. But we advanced.''

Granite City freshman Will O'Keefe also advanced, placing 15th.

Also scoring an impressive win was O'Fallon senior Sydney Neal, who like Perrier posted a wire-to-wire win in the girls race to pace O'Fallon to a second-place finish.

The sectional title came in a time of 18:43 for Neal, who also won an individual sectional title as a sophomore.

Running without talented teammate Samantha Lapp, Neal went out fast, built a big lead and finished with an 11-second win over Minooka's Ashley Tull.

Lapp was pulled from the race just minutes before it started by coach Neil James. Lapp had a tight muscle in her hip.

"We push each other in practice every day. I missed not having her (Lapp) beside me today. I just hope she's all right,'' Neal said. "I went out fast today and felt strong the entire race.''

Reagan Lear was O'Fallon's second runner, placing eighth. Andrea George (17th), Tami Cardenas (18th) and Angela Buch (22nd) rounded out the Panthers' top five runners.

O'Fallon finished with 66 points, 28 more than champion Minooka (39). Lincoln-Way Central (101), Edwardsville (130) and (Frankfort) Lincoln-Way East (163) also earned trips to Detweiller Park next week.

James said he knew Neal was on her game Saturday.

"Sydney gets this look in her eyes when she's ready. She had that look today and I could tell she was ready,'' James said. "We just didn't want to take any chances with Sam (Lapp). We want her ready for next week.

"I thought Reagan (Lear) went out and ran a great race today.''

Fourth-place Edwardsville was led by Allie Sweatt (third) and Caitlyn Scheibal (21st).

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