A single obstacle kept Brother Rice’s James Durkin from getting to the state cross country meet last season.
If Brother Rice was in any Class 3A sectional other than Marist, Durkin’s time of 15 minutes, 18 seconds had him headed to the state final in Peoria.
Durkin would have been the No. 1 runner not on a qualifying team at the Normal Sectional, second-best at Niles West, fourth at Schaumburg and sixth at the St. Charles East Sectional.
Even with the tough individual competition at the Marist Sectional, he missed qualifying for the state meet by only one place. Shepard’s Abel Hernandez (15:16.7) got the seventh and final individual spot.
Durkin was next in line.
“That was my one goal for last year, to make state,’’ he said. “When I missed it, I was upset. This year I’m coming back that much harder.’’
A senior at Brother Rice, Durkin won the individual title at the Sept. 14 Reavis Invitational and ran a strong race a week later at the Peoria Notre Dame Invitational. His 15:23 placed him 46th out of 553 runners.
His personal best 15:11 came at the 2012 Peoria Notre Dame meet, proof that the Detweiller Park layout has been a good course for him in the past and hopefully next month at the state meet.
“At practice, that’s when I’m thinking about it,’’ Durkin said. “It’s like, ‘I need this practice. I’m making up two seconds.’ ’’
Durkin was encouraged to get into running by his sister, Susan, who ran cross country at Mother McAuley. His interest grew after he ran a 2-mile race for eighth graders at McAuley.
Durkin was an average freshman at the start of his high school career, but he eventually made the varsity top seven that year and ran on the regional championship team.
“You could see he had the talent by the third week of the season,’’ Rice coach Tom Wazio said of Durkin’s first year. “It seems like we always had one guy, by the time they were a sophomore, who was trying to win races.
He was the next guy in that line.’’
Durkin cited Rice graduates Tom Condreva and Dan Caddigan as older runners who set a good example for him when it came to work ethic and training. Rice 2013 graduates Pat Maguire and Anthony Maciag also fit that role.
“On training days, even when you’re not feeling good, if you let it go and don’t think about anything, that’s when your training gets easy,’’ Durkin said.
His goal this season is to run under 15 minutes, maybe 14:45 to 14:40. Hitting that at the state meet would be the best ending to the season.
“He put in all the work,’’ Wazio said. “I think he’s going to be there come November.’’