After playing soccer last season at Plainfield East, Sergio Llanes decided to return to the cross country team for his junior year.
It turned out to be a good move.
Llanes and teammate Joseph Suarez will run at the state final in Peoria after they earned the final two individual qualifying spots Saturday in the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional at Katherine Legge Park.
Llanes placed 22nd in 15 minutes, 10.30 seconds. Suarez, who is also a junior, was right behind him at 23rd place (15:10.50).
“It means a lot to me, knowing that I came back after a full season that I was out,’’ Llanes said. “I pushed it all season long, knowing I could do this. It went down to the last few feet.
“The race was pretty packed up. With a lot of kids pushing and shoving, it was pretty difficult. With the mud, going up the hills, down the hills. It was a difficult course.’’
Llanes has a plan for what it will take leading up to the state final.
“This whole week of practice has to be tough on me,’’ he said. “No goofing around, staying on top of things, eating healthy, going to state ready.’’
Suarez earned All-State status at last year’s state meet with a 19th-place finish. Although he called his sectional finish “terrible,’’ Suarez still found a positive from the race.
“I did get some inspiration for next week,’’ he said.
Seniors Dan Lathrop and Misael Tobias will be running in the state final for Plainfield South.
Lathrop earned the first spot among individual qualifiers at the Hinsdale Central Sectional. He ran with the leaders to the end and finished third in 14:38.80.
Tobias overcame an injury suffered early in the season and placed 16th (15:08.54).
Lathrop has run impressive races all season and should be a contender at the state meet.
“Go out the first mile with the front pack, see how I can hang with them,’’ Lathrop said of his plan for Detweiller Park in Peoria. “By the end of the race, try to be in a good position for the top five places.’’
Joliet Central already had put together a good season with second-place finishes at the SouthWest Suburban Blue meet and the Class 3A Andrew Regional.
Central took an even bigger step Saturday by qualifying for the state meet with a fifth-place finish at the Edwardsville Sectional.
The top five runners for the Steelmen were Salvador Lazaro (6th, 16:13), Raul Rosendo (12th, 16:29), Vince Moreno (31st, 16:56), Jose Aguilera (47th, 17:19) and Andre Martinez (63rd, 17:37).