BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — FORSYTH — If it wasn’t for the hundreds of fans lining the course on Saturday afternoon, most people would have thought that Danville senior Johnny Leverenz was just out for a simple training run during the IHSA Class 2A sectional meet at Hickory Point Golf Course.
Leverenz left no doubt about who was the top runner during the event. He built a 20-second lead on the first of two laps on the 1.5-mile course and cruised to the victory by 28 seconds over Murphy Affolder from Mascoutah.
“I ran just like I did during regionals last week,’’ said Leverenz, who has won his two postseason races by a combined 57 seconds. “I started strong on the first mile and then I held fast for the second and third miles.’’
Once again, Danville coach Todd Orvis was pleasantly surprised that Leverenz didn’t have any competition.
“I thought Johnny would have a close race, but he didn’t allow it,’’ Orvis said. “It was over again by the first half-mile.
“The fact that he is that far ahead of his competitors, it’s a good sign. There are some really good guys in this race from downstate.’’
But, it’s also a little bit of a concern because both Leverenz and Orvis know that the competition level is really going to pick up in next week’s IHSA Class 2A state meet at Detweiler Park in Peoria.
“Looking at the times from last year, Johnny is about 20-25 seconds faster than this year. He dropped 15 seconds from this meet to the state meet last year,’’ said Orvis as Leverenz finished ninth in the state meet last year with a time of 14:45. “I’m thinking that he will need to be under 14:30 to have an opportunity to contend for the title.’’
So, with that idea of going to a second individual state title, Leverenz, who won the Class 3A 800-meter championship at the state track meet last May, knows he needs all the preparation he can get before next Saturday’s race. And how did the sectional championship get him ready?
“I like pushing myself to see what I can do when I run by myself,’’ he said. “I also like have competition around me, so that I can see how long I can hold up, but I think I will fare well next week.
“Mentally, running by yourself is tough, you want to slow down, but you have to push yourself to hold onto your pace. I’m just trying to get the best time that I can get in every race.’’
Leverenz believes that he will be at his full potential next week as he started the tampering process this week.
“I wasn’t in very much pain at all during that race,’’ he said. “And, it was easier for me to hold onto my pace.’’
While Leverenz will be going after a second straight all-state performance next week in the boys race, Danville sophomore Sadie Elliott will be looking to repeat her all-state performance from a year ago as well.
Elliott, who won both the regional and sectional meets a year ago, was 10th on Saturday with a time of 18:38, which was good enough to qualify her for the state meet.
“I was so very excited to see my excited to see my name on the results for getting to state, I just freaked out,’’ Elliott said. “I came into the race having some serious doubts about making it back there this year. My season hasn’t gone the way that I wanted it be.’’
Orvis pointed out that it was probably Elliott’s best race of this season.
“It also wasn’t that far off her winning sectional time from last year,’’ Orvis said. “The pace was just a little different this season. She needed a confidence builder and hopefully, she can build on this one for next week.’’
When asked what has been a problem this year, Elliott wasn’t completely sure.
“The way I’ve been thinking about things hasn’t been very good,’’ she admitted. “And at the beginning of the season, I wasn’t doing what I should have been doing. Those things have hurt me.’’
But on Saturday, she showed a little bit of that energy that got her a 22nd-place finish in the Class 2A state meet.
“I finally feel like I’ve caught up,’’ she said. “Now, I’m hoping that I can back up my all-state finish. I know it’s going to be tough, but I think I can do.’’
The IHSA Class 2A girls state cross country race will begin at 11 a.m. next Saturday, while the boys Class 2A race is set to start at noon.