Highland sophomore Sam Hengehold and freshman Jessica Borror had noteworthy performances in their first appearances at the IHSA Class 2A Girls State Cross Country Meet on Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
Hengehold crossed the finish line in 37th place out of 208 competitors in a time of 18 minutes, 21 seconds. That is the second fastest time on the state’s three-mile course in HHS school history. The only time that was better was Allison Zobrist’s 17:35 in 2013, which garnered Zobrist the sixth-place medal.
“The race started really fast, as expected, and stayed fast the entire time,” Hengehold said. “I think I did well staying where I was the whole time, and I’m proud of myself.”
Borror came across in 59th place at 19:43, which is now the fourth fastest time in school history. Emily Holtzclaw ran an 18:33 during her freshman year in the fall of 2010.
“It was so fast,” Borror said. “I kept thinking to myself that these girls near me have to slow down and they never did.”
Hengehold added, “I thought Jess and I ran the best we have all season. And what better race to do that than here at state? It was a great way to end our season.”
Highland coach Doug Bradley said the temperature was perfect and the wind was perfect, but the footing wasn’t good at all, because the mist and light rain that had fallen in the area was just enough to make things sloppy.
Hengehold slipped when the gun sounded but recovered nicely and ran a first mile of 5:46.
“Sam was pretty much where she needed to be to put herself in position to compete for an all-state finish,” Bradley said speaking about the top 25 finishers. “At the mile and a half mark, she was still in awesome position to make a run at the top 25. She crossed the halfway mark at 8:45.”
But over the next mile, Bradley said Hengehold was under a lot of stress.
“The plan was for a final mile that was really similar to the first mile, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Bradley said of Hengehold running a 6:07 final mile, which was 21 seconds off the pace of her first one. “She fought to hold her position and did a really good job of hanging in the high 30s. I think she learned a lot about state, and I expect her to be back next year and get that all-state medal.”
Bradlely said he never sees his girls right after they race for various reasons, but mostly because all season long there is a boys race right after they are finished. Without that obligation Saturday, he got a few quiet minutes with Hengehold right after she finished.
“I’m not sure how she normally is at that time, but I saw the intensity and emotion in her up close,” he said. “Prepping for the race, she is one of the most relaxed No. 1 runners I’ve ever coached, but after the race, you can really sense how strongly she feels about competing and not leaving anything out on the course. She’s a special talent, and I’m so fortunate to be her coach.”
Bradley said Borror was probably over-coached this week.
“Transitioning from coaching a team all season long to coaching an individual for the state meet is one of those artistic talents that this paint-by-number coach hasn’t quite mastered,” he said. “I think every time I mentioned the 5:45 goal for the first mile I got the look that says, ‘Coach, you know the fastest mile I’ve ever ran was a 5:42, right?’ In hindsight, the right recipe for Jessica was to simply run with Sam and a smarter coach would’ve made that the only instruction. Despite the coach’s shortcomings, Jessica had a outstanding day.”
Bradley said he thinks Borror continued on the upward trajectory she’s been on pretty much all season.
“She could’ve come in here as a freshmen and gotten freaked by the state meet experience, but she ran like she belonged and even managed to set a season personal record. She literally has gotten better every race,” Bradley said.
State champion and team finishes
The dominant Class 2A cross country runner in the state all season, Waterloo junior Jenna Schwartz’s season came to a perfect ending Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
Schwartz put herself in select company by winning the Illinois High School Association’s Class 2A individual state championship.
Entering the state meet Saturday with a pair of all-state medals already to her credit, Schwartz covered the 3-mile Detweiller Park course in 17:05 — a full nine seconds better than Dunlap freshman Campbell Patterson, who finished second.
Schwartz became the first female state champion from the metro-east since Kristen Busch of Freeburg won the Class 1A title in the fall of 2010.
Waterloo barely missed a top10 finish in the team competition. IHSA sectional champions a week ago, the Bulldogs placed 11th with 302 points. Dunlap won the title with 72 points. The Bulldogs also got a solid effort from junior Ella King, who placed 39th. Two other Mississippi Valley Conference schools also had solid days. Triad received a 65th-place finish from freshman Alyssa Kowalski en route to placing 16th with 407 points.
Mascoutah, receiving a 94th-place effort from sophomore Julia Kapp, was 19th in the team race with 478 points.
Bradley said it would have been awesome to have a team at state, because he believes that Highland might have been able to beat one or two of its MVC rivals with the low numbers that Hengehold and Borror put up.
“Regardless, it gives us something to work for next year,” Bradley said. “We lose three seniors out of our top seven, but we are excited about the progress some of our underclassmen made this year, and we hope to have Kate Marti back for her senior season. (HMS) Coach John Coziar does a great job with the middle school team, and we have our fingers crossed that we’ll get some of his eighth-graders next fall.”
Belleville News-Democrat reporter Dean Criddle contributed to this story.