There’s no better time to set a personal best record than at state. And that’s exactly what O’Fallon Township High School sophomore Kaitlyn Walker did.
“Kaitlyn has been one of our most consistent runners throughout the year. She kept getting better and better as the season went along. She ran her best race of the season at state,” said OTHS coach Neil James.
Walker, this week’s O’Fallon Progress Athlete of the Week, was one three Panthers from the OTHS girls cross country team to run as individuals in the state meet on Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria. (The Panthers missed advancing out of the sectional as a team by just four points.)
Walker, 15, who began running cross country in sixth grade, said she finds “running and racing a very enjoyable activity.”
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And she’s pretty good at it.
At state, Walker was the top performer for OTHS. She finished 57th out of 210 runners, with a time of 17:52. Brooke Witzel, a senior, and Sophie Wichlac, a sophomore, were the other two OTHS runners. Witzel crossed the finish line in 66th place, with a time of 17:55. 168. Wichlac as the 168th runner to finish with a time of 18:47.
“Kaitlyn does a great job of pushing herself each time she runs. She is very consistent in workouts, but takes her running to a higher level in races,” James said.
Walker, the daughter of Marty and Becky Walker, finished fifth (18:41) at the Southwestern Conference Championships on Oct. 13.
At the Belleville West Regional on Oct. 21, Walker finished sixth (18:22), helping her team to a second-place medal along the way.
At the sectional on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Wilson Park in Granite City, Walker finished 18th (18:12), which is what punched her ticket to Peoria. Her run that day was 40 seconds better than Sept. 2, when she finished the course in 18:52 during the 44th Granite City Invitational.
“Even though she is only a sophomore, she is a very experienced and focused runner. She is a great teammate and encourages others to be better,” her coach said.
“A major reason I’ve enjoyed this sport is a great team and a great coach, who pushes me every day,” said Walker.