After competing Saturday on a muddy, sloppy course at Peoria’a Detweiller Park and finishing in 42nd of 58 squads, the Highland High School boys cross country team had a big bright spot as senior Jacob Plocher nabbed the boys’ first medal at the First to the Finish Invitational, the largest meet of the entire season, since 2011.
After traversing through the slop, Plocher crossed the finish line in 50th place out of an eye-popping 852 harriers in the Class 2A varsity boys race with an impressive time of 16 minutes, 57 seconds.
“Jacob Plocher is the first boy to place for us since 2011,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said. “He is battling a hamstring issue and was a race-time decision today but he ran really well. He pushed himself inside the top 40 or so and just fought tooth-and-nail to stay in there. It’s great to see him get an award after just missing out last week at Granite.”
And Plocher performed admirably in much less than ideal competing conditions.
“It was very muddy and a lot people were falling,” Plocher said. “I knew that with 800 or so guys in the race that I had to go out fast to get some room. I then tried to hold off as many guys as I could.”
Bradley concurred with Plocher on the messy course conditions.
“We ran in the soup today. It was a mess,” Bradley said. “Bradley University hosted a meet on the course last night in the rain and then the Class 1A boys and girls raced before we did this morning. It created a mess. The times and results were impacted greatly.”
Bradley said junior Gabe Sherrill raced well again after he came in 205th with a time of 18:23.
“He has energy and is just beginning to learn how to distribute that energy out over 3 miles,” Bradley said. “He could be an outstanding runner before the season is over.”
Bradley said senior Bret Cochran put together his second strong race in a row after placing 289th at 19:00.
“His experience is exactly what is needed as the team has three guys in the top seven that are completely new to cross country,” Bradley said. “If Bret keeps running as well as he is, this team will really improve.”
But Bradley admitted that he and the boys hoped for a better performance than the one they got.
“I see some things in this team that I really like and I think will be really beneficial as the team progresses but they have to work together more within the race,” he said. “We got too far apart and lost too many of our teammates. We have our work cut out for us but I’m confident there are brighter days ahead.”