Imagine getting up one crisp morning and being so determined to accomplish a goal that you decided to take a run to Chicago and back.
That’s how many miles — more than 700 — that Freeburg junior Charlie Parrish has covered in three months of training he hopes will lead him and his Midgets teammates to the Illinois Class 1A state cross country championship.
“It’s all about staying focused,” Parrish said. “It’s a matter of having your eyes on the prize, which for me and us as a team is winning the state titles. I think about state and what I want to accomplish and what I want the team to accomplish. It’s easy to stay motivated when you have the goal with you all the time.’’
Eighth in the Class 1A state finals a year ago, the Midgets have this season ranked No. 1 in the state from start to finish. They will take the final step to the state finals on Saturday when they compete at the Class 1A Metro East Lutheran Sectional at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
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The IHSA boys and girls State Cross Country Championships are on Nov. 5 in Peoria.
If some team comes out and runs better than we do that day, then so be it. But if we run like we can and have all year, there is no doubt in my mind that we can it all.
Carl Florczyk, Freeburg cross country coach
Although he’s still a junior, Parrish already has drawn interest from several NCAA Division I cross country and track and field programs. Ranked at or near the top of his class academically, Parrish will have his pick of colleges.
The trip to Detweiller Park in Peoria next week will be the third in as many years for Parrish who placed one spot short of a state medal.
“My freshman year I really didn’t know what was going on, but then last year to finish 26th, that was tough. I had people yelling at me the last part of the race and with 400 meters to go I knew I had to catch the runner in front of me to medal and I just couldn’t do it,” Parrish said. “After the race, I had people come up to me and ask me if I couldn’t have run any faster to catch the guy in front of me. I’m like, “No, I gave it everything I had coming up that last hill.’
“In a way, maybe it was good that I finished 26th because it has motivated me to work harder. I’m not one of these people who can do something half speed. If I am going to do something, I give everything I have to do it the very best that I can. Otherwise, why waste me time doing it.’’
Parrish has four wins this season — including victories at the Edwardsville, Cahokia Conference Meet and last week at the Class 1A Regional. His best time of the season — 15 minutes 3 seconds — came at the Peoria High School Invitational two weeks ago in Peoria.
Freeburg coach Carl Florczyk says he has seen Parrish develop into one of the top runners in the state during the past two years. Florczyk has little doubt that his No. 1 runner has motivated the rest of the Midgets runners.
With Parrish and others like Alex Mack, Corbin Schwable, Carson Smith, Drew Wilkerson, Craig Collier, Blake Worley and Luke Hatter leading the way, the Freeburg coach believes his team can win the state title.
“If some team comes out and runs better than we do that day, then so be it ... but if we run like we can and have all year, there is no doubt in my mind that we can it all,’’ Florczyk said. “Any trophy would be nice and it would be the first in school history. But the goal is to win the state title.”
“Charlie is just the ideal runner that as a coach you want to coach because of the way he does things. From his diet, to the way he hydrates himself to the way that he trains all year long.... he does everything the right way.’’
Parrish for his part, is partly satisfied at the season he has had in 2016.
Sometimes when I’m running I think about state and what it would mean to win the state championship as a team. That’s also motivation and I get chills when I think about it would be like.
Charlie Parrish, Freeburg junior runner
“It’s been a good year,’ Parrish said. “I’ve done some of the things I’ve wanted to do, but there are still so many things that I haven’t done. I haven’t hit some of the times that I wanted to hit. But a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish have to do with state, both with the team and as an individual.
“Sometimes when I’m running I think about state and what it would mean to win the state championship as a team. That’s also motivation and I get chills when I think about it would be like.”
The Midgets are heavy favorites to win Saturday’s sectional. But the goal is to continue to progress and get ready for the state finals.
The Midgets have run on the three-mile Detweiller Park state meet course once this season at the Peoria High School Invitational two weeks ago. Led by Parrish’s time of 15 minutes 3 seconds, seven Freeburg runners set personal records. Four Midgets had times of 16 minutes or better and a fifth runner had a time of 16 minutes 5 seconds.
“We have had the goal of winning the state title all year but I think in our own minds that day when we set seven PR’s (personal records), was the day we actually realized that we can really do this if we continue to work hard and keep our minds of the prize. We just needed to stay focused,’’ Parrish said. “This week at SIU-Edwardsville we’re going to prepare just like we would for the state finals.”