Minooka using confidence as fuel

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Winning the Class 3A Edwardsville Sectional, Minooka’s first sectional championship, gave the Indians more than just a good reason to celebrate.

“Coach has talked all season about how we can run with the elite teams in the state,’’ senior Kaitlyn Chetney said. “That really proved to us we can.’’

Minooka, 22nd at the 2011 state meet and 19th last season, has the experience and young talent in freshmen Ashley Tutt and Mackenzie Callahan to make a bigger jump Saturday at the state final in Peoria.

“It was awesome, the first time in Minooka history we ever won a sectional title,’’ senior Caleigh Beverly said. “We were really excited about it.

“But you can’t just focus on sectional. Now we’ve got to focus on the bigger picture.’’

The way Minooka coach Kevin Gummerson sees it, the Indians won’t wonder any longer if they’re good enough when they line up in their box at Detweiller Park.

“One of the biggest challenges we’ve had is getting these kids to believe that they can compete with anybody in the state,’’ Gummerson said. “When you go to a sectional and win a championship, it’s got to do something for your confidence.’’

Minooka’s top five there were Tutt (18 minutes, 54 seconds), Callahan (19:04), Beverly (19:05), Morgan Crouch (19:16) and Chetney (19:41). Faster times loom at the flat state meet course.

“Our goal this year is to break the top 10, and I definitely think that is a reachable goal,’’ Chetney said.

Beverly and Chetney bring experience from running in the previous two state meets. Additionally, senior Haley McNamara ran downstate last season and in 2010.

Crouch was 68th last season as a freshman to lead Minooka. Moira McAsey was the Indians’ No. 2 finisher in 110th place.

This year, Beverly recovered from ankle and hip injuries to be the team’s No. 3 runner in the regional and sectional meets.

“It was really upsetting because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be out,’’ Beverly said. “I just focused on recovering, focused on doing things right, like icing and physical therapy.’’

“Each workout she’s getting stronger,’’ Gummerson said. “She had a rough couple of races trying to get things back. She’s feeling good now and she’s healthy.’’

Gummerson has a similar feeling about the entire team.

“They’re ready to go,’’ he said. “The nice thing is they’re not satisfied; they know they can run with anybody in Illinois.’’

Lockport proved it has the talent to go beyond a top-10 finish by winning the talent-rich Hinsdale Central Sectional.

Freshman Morgan Bollinger was sectional runner-up (17:28.07) for the Porters, who started rolling with victories at the SouthWest Suburban Blue meet and Plainfield South Regional.

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