BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — PEORIA — Danville senior Johnny Leverenz started his day with a cold shower.
But that was the only thing that went wrong for the area’s top distance runner on Saturday.
Leverenz finished second to Glenbard South’s John Wold in the IHSA Class 2A state cross country meet at Detweiller Park.
“I feel great. I just got second place in state. It’s awesome,’’ said the normally reserved Leverenz. “It was a tough race — it was grueling.
“That first mile (4:29) that was a hurter. After that, my legs were so dead, but I just had to keep pushing, I couldn’t give up.’’
Wold, who was also the state champion last year, opened up a sizeable lead (about 15 seconds) in the race’s second mile. It looked like Leverenz was going to have to worry about holding off Jake and Luke Hoffert from Yorkville in the final mile.
But in the race’s final 800 meters, Wold started to struggle and Leverenz closed fast, finishing just two seconds behind the state champion.
“I think if there was another 50 or 100 meters more, I might have been able to beat him,’’ said Leverenz, whose time was 14 minutes, 40 seconds. “I didn’t give up and I held my own.
“Now, my mind wanted to give up and my body wanted to give up, but I kept telling myself that I couldn’t give up.’’
Leverenz, who has cruised to a regional and sectional championship in the past two weeks. came into Saturday’s race just wanting to stay on Wold’s hip.
“My plan was to go with about 800 meters left. I was going to try to outkick him,’’ said Leverenz, who had to change his strategy on the fly. “I wasn’t expecting us to run a 4:29 opening mile. I thought we would be 4:40 at best and I could have held on with a 4:40 opening mile.
“I had a feeling that he was going to push the pace hard the whole time, but I was thinking that he would just try to run even splits.’’
Getting second in the state cross country meet is pretty much what Leverenz, the IHSA Class 3A 800-meter champion in track, was thinking coming into the year.
“I knew that Wold was the defending state champion and I was just hoping to get second with him in front of me by a bunch,’’ Leverenz said. “But as the season came around, he wasn’t that far ahead of me and my thoughts changed to possibly winning a state title.’’
And did he have any goals for Saturday?
“I wasn’t thinking about my time at all,’’ he said. “I was just thinking about place, but I thought I would be around a 14:30 if I did what I expected.’’
Leverenz is a three-time all-stater and his second-place finish is the best for a Danville High cross country runner. David Moore (1952) and Jerry George (1972) and Leverenz (last year) had shared the boys honor with ninth-place finishes respectively.
While everything went almost according to plan for Leverenz, the same couldn’t be said for Danville sophomore Sadie Elliott in the IHSA Class 2A girls cross country race on Saturday.
A year after finishing 22nd with a school-record time of 17:50, Elliott fell to a 43rd-place finish and a time of 18:41.
“My feelings right now are sadness, anger and happiness — all in one,’’ said Elliott. “I’m sad with my poor performance and I’m angry with myself, but I happy that Johnny did so well in his race.
“I just have to put this year behind me and keep going.’’
Elliott said she plans on making up for her disappointment in the upcoming track season.