Freeburg senior Charlie Parrish has been down this road three times before.
A three-time Class 1A state cross country meet qualifier and one of the top distance runners in southern Illinois, Parrish was instrumental in helping the Midgets place second in the Class 1A state meet a year ago. Parrish, running with an injured toe suffered in a freak injury at home two weeks before the state finals, placed 13th in the individual competition.
Now in his final postseason, Parrish is healthy, focused and more determined than ever heading into the Class 1A Benton Sectional on Saturday.
“It hasn’t been the season I had hoped, either from an individual or team perspective. But its getting better. Last season at this point I was struggling. This year, with my training, I feel like I’m getting stronger,” Parrish said. “My goal at state is to run 14 minutes 35 seconds (over three miles) and finish in the top three. I want to give myself a chance.”
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Beaten by Wesclin freshman Justin Mumford at the New Athens Regional a week ago, Parrish and the Midgets will attempt to qualify for the state finals on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.
The Class 1A Benton Sectional is at Benton City Park, one of just three sectional sites on the road to the state meet Nov. 5 at Detweiller Park in Peoria. The Class 2A Decatur MacArthur Sectional is at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur beginning at 10 a.m. while the Class 3A Granite City Sectional is at Wilson Park and begins at 10:30 a.m.
Midgets coach Carl Florczyk says he’d like to see Parrish rewarded for his hard work during the past four years.
“Charlie is one of those runners you like to see have success. With his training, his diet and the way he takes care of himself, he does things the right way,” Florczyk said. “There are several excellent runners who will be competing with him at the sectional including (Justin) Mumford and Mater Dei’s top runner (Luke Goebel) and once he gets to state, there are 8-10 others who will be in contention.
“I’m a little paranoid this time of season because I worry about every little ache and pain that we have. But Charlie is healthy and I’m just hopeful that both of our teams — boys and girls — can get to state and run their best. I think we can be in the top 10. If you in the top 10 anything can happen.”