Highland senior Gabe Sherrill earned another week of running as he was the only Bulldog runner to qualify for this Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A Decatur MacArthur Sectional after coming in 18th place at the Highland Regional Saturday at Alhambra Township Park.
Sherrill finished the 2.90-mile course in 16 minutes, 52 seconds and the was only Bulldogs to post a sub-17-minute time.
“Gabe Sherrill had one heck of a race,” Highland coach Doug Badley said. “Alhambra is an honest cross country course. It has turns, gravel, pavement, grass, and four significant hills. He ran in the 16s on this course, and that took some guts. Gabe doesn’t have natural speed and doesn’t have the best form, but he has heart, and he didn’t want his high school cross country career to end today. He took care of business and has advanced to sectionals for the second year in a row.”
However, the day wasn’t as bright for his teammates. The Bulldogs needed to finish among the top six teams to qualify as a team to Decatur MacArthur Sectional, but they could only muster an eighth-place finish in the 11-team regional.
“The boys had a rough day,” Bradley said. “It seems like I say this every year after regionals, and I’m pretty tired of saying it. We haven’t qualified a team to sectionals since 2011, and here we are again. Every year, we come in on the bubble and I think we are poised for a breakout race, and it just doesn’t happen. I really thought this was the year, too. I have no words.”
Highland’s Mississippi Valley Conference rivals fared much better, as they took the top three finishing positions, with Mascoutah posting a winning team score of 51 points and Waterloo (71) and Triad (112) finishing second and third, respectively.
Rounding out the top six squads, which all advanced to the sectional, were Carbondale (112), Marion (117) and Mount Vernon (158)
“The Mississippi Valley Conference teams were outstanding today in direct competition with the South Seven and East St. Louis from the Southwestern Conference,” Bradley said. “The Waterloo boys rested their No. 1 runner, and their girls rested their No. 2 runner, and they were still really good. In my 12 seasons as head coach, this is the best I’ve ever season the MVC girls, and the boys are really close.”
Bradley said the group that has ran together as a pack all year — sophomores Brylee Portell (32nd place, 17:19) and Nick Hanratty (34th place, 17:22), and freshman Easton Rosen (49th place, 17:59) — really got broke up in the middle of the race, and that hurt the team’s chances of qualifying.
“And, we just didn’t get the push from the 5, 6, and 7 guys that we needed,” he said. “It’s a team loss, and with the exception of Gabe (Sherrill), all the parts, including the coaches, didn’t get the job done. For the younger guys, the offseason workouts will be starting in a few weeks and for our other three seniors, Nick Schaible, Caleb Machuca, and Quentin Miller, it’s off to a new chapter of their life. It’s disappointing to not see them race again, but they’ve been great teammates and great assets for the program.”
Triad was paced by a ninth-place effort from freshman Drake Bleier (16:32).