PEORIA, Ill. — The gloves were off, so to speak, for Sandburg against the field at the Class 3A state meet.
“They were running together, they were fighting for each other,” Sandburg coach John O’Malley said. “That’s all you can ask.”
Sandburg fought through tough competition Saturday at Detweiller Park to crack the top 10 in the 26-school race. The Eagles’ first five runners totaled 225 points, almost 100 spots lower than last season, to earn seventh place.
“Halfway through they were pretty far back, still fighting through,” O’Malley said. “Every time one guy moved, the others went with him.”
Sandburg’s first five individuals were Tom Brennan (42nd, 15 minutes, 13 seconds), Will Becker (51st, 15:17), Greg Burzinski (63rd, 15:24), Sean Torpy (70th, 15:25) and Chris Torpy (72nd, 15:27). Harry Becker (101st) and Dan Laskero (152nd) completed the Eagles’ lineup.
“We had at least four different guys lead it at some point,” Brennan said.
“Whenever someone would fall off, there would be someone to take their place. I was starting to really die with a half-mile left and Greg Burzinski came up on me. Everyone was with me at some point or another.”
“What we’ve been working on all year was running as a pack, and finally it was the first time we really ran as a pack,” Becker said. “I think we had about a 14-second split between our guys.”
Brennan, the Torpys and Laskero are part of the sophomore group O’Malley calls his “best ever.”
“We’ve got two more years to get Sandburg’s first trophy,” Brennan said. “That’s definitely the goal.”
Similar to Sandburg runners, Thornwood senior Matthew King put in plenty of mileage. Coach Brian Evans said the 1,000 miles King logged during the summer was the most ever at the school. King clocked 15:59 Saturday in his last cross country race (158th).
In Class 2A, Illiana Christian’s Nick Fiene didn’t mind the warmer-than-normal temperature for early November at the state final.
“For me, it was just about perfect,” Fiene said. “I don’t like it when it’s too cold. The last couple meets I’ve been getting a little chilly; my arms started to lock up at about the two-mile [mark] just from the cold.”
Fiene was smooth Saturday, his seventh-place finish (15:04) leading state runner-up Illiana Christian, which was two points ahead of third-place Vernon Hills.
“I found out that Mount Carmel High School, it was their first time even making it to state,” Fiene said. “We warmed up by them and they were just so excited and just so happy to be here. It’s such a blessing that they can run for their best and we can come here and run for our best.”
Mount Carmel’s runners were Dan O’Keefe (32nd), Brendan Jacobs (178th), Andrew Jacobs (202nd), Kenny Koval (221st), Nick Gallapo (215th), Mike Bradley (217th) and Alex Khong (220th).