Highland High school cross country coach Doug Bradley said he was very proud of how aggressive and competitive his boys team ran at the Season Kickoff Meet Tuesday, Aug. 29 at Alhambra Township Park.
The hard work and effort helped the Bulldogs split three teams with a team score of 47 points, which was second to Triad’s winning total of 29, but bested Collinsville’s 52.
“I can’t believe how they ran with so much more confidence and pride today,” Bradley said. “This group of guys can really get after it. The boys had the kind of meet a coach can get excited about. They didn’t win and they didn’t accomplish all of the milestones that were set but they showed some heart and that is an asset that goes a long way in this sport.”
Bradley was standing at about 1,000-meter mark of the race when Highland had four runners — sophomore Nick Hanratty, sophomore Brylee Portell, senior Gabe Sherrill and freshman Easton Rosen — among the top six.
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“Nick, Brylee, Gabe, and Easton can really bring it,” Bradley said. “They’ve been practicing together and pushing each other in practice. They approached that first mile like they were doing a hard practice workout. They were dominating the race.”
Hanratty was the top Bulldog and was only bested by one runner in the entire field of 37 harriers. He finished with a strong second-place time of 17 minutes, 39 seconds.
“Nick Hanratty came to the park today in his work clothes,” Bradley said. “He was locked in and focused on having a great race and he absolutely succeeded. He has only ran in the 17:00s once before and that was on a short and fast course. For him to run a 17:39 here is incredible. That is the fifth fastest time of any Highland kid on this course and all of the other times were ran in October.
“This kid has worked so hard to get better and the results were immediate.”
Portell was Highland’s next-best finisher as he came home in sixth place with a quality time of 18:02.
Bradley said Portell may be one of the most naturally gifted runners the coach has ever had.
“Since he’s on the golf team, he certainly doesn’t get much coaching from me but he can really bring the heat on race day,” Bradley said of Portell. “His endurance is not quite where we would like it but it will come and when it does he’ll cause some problems for his opponents.”
Sherrill crossed the finish line right on Portell’s heels in seventh place and just three seconds back at 18:05.
“Gabe Sherrill burst onto the cross country scene last year with an all-conference honor and a sectional qualification as a rookie runner,” Bradley said. “No one will be surprised by the success he has this season and there should be a lot of success. He has an extra gear that most runners would love to have.”
Bradley said Rosen’s high school debut had its ups and downs after he came in 13th place with a time of 18:40.
“(Rosen) was really strong early and then faded during the middle mile,” Bradley said. “The middle mile is never a picnic and it’s especially challenging when making the transition from the junior high to high school distances. (Rosen) will learn from this race and figure out a way to manage the three mile courses.”