By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
Even though Laura Link was in her first year as a coach, she knew she had inherited a good cross country team.
“I thought we could possibly be a top three team in the state,” she said.
As it turns out, she had the best team.
Along with the best runner.
Led by state champion Brian Dust, the St. Anthony Junior High Bullpups captured the IESA Class 1A Boys Cross Country state title Saturday at Maxwell Park in Normal.
SAJHS finished with 117 points, comfortably ahead of Chicago St. Benedict’s 149. Princeville was third with 201 points.
“We are so deep,” Link noted Sunday afternoon after a special reception for the undefeated team at Goff Gym. “Brian was our No. 1 runner last year, Kennan is solid and our three-four-five-six runners always finished high and always ran in a cluster.”
There were 28 teams and 241 runners that competed in the Class 1A race on the two-mile course.
“The course was beautiful,” Link said. “It started on an incline and then made a sharp turn. I told Brian and Kennan they had to get out fast or they would get caught in a bottleneck. The rest of the course was pretty flat. Both of those runners got out real well.”
In fact, Dust never trailed in the race and crossed the finish line with a time of 10:35.6, almost three seconds ahead of Chicago St. Benedict’s Kyle McGovern, who was clocked in 10:38.2. Walsh finished 10th with a time of 11:03.3.
A year ago, Dust missed most of the cross country season with a broken foot. But he responded this year in a big way.
“Brian has run good for us the entire season,” Link said. “He finished second in two races and won the rest. This is his main sport and it shows. He loves to run.”
In addition for St. Anthony, Austin Faber was 27th in 11:31.8, Mick Willenborg 39th in 11:43.4, and Drew Dust 40th in 11:44.2 to round out the team scoring. Logan Antrim (48th in 11:54.1) and Ty Wiedman (51st in 11:56.1) also participated.
Link, who has competed in 20 marathon races, implemented some of her long-distance running experience in practices.
“There is a schedule I follow and I used some of that,” she said. “We ran more miles this year than they have in the past and I think that helped.”
“These boys put in a lot of hard work the entire year,” assistant coach J.R. Elder added. “They started running in June. They didn’t lose a meet the entire year, which is amazing. We’re looking forward to seeing what these guys will do the next four years.”