The graduation of two All-State runners left Lockport with a lot of work to do this season to return to state meet form.
“At the beginning of the year there were a lot of people who doubted us,’’ said Kimberly Johnson, one of two seniors on the squad. “That was kind of our rallying cry throughout the year, to say that we can do it.’’
They sure did. Lockport overcame the loss of Megan O’Brien and Stephanie Sanders and earned a return trip to Peoria for the Class 3A state meet Saturday at Detweiller Park.
What’s even more impressive is the Porters did it without top runner Haley Beaumont, who suffered a leg injury late in the season and didn’t run in the state series.
“We all try to share the responsibility around, and try to make sure there’s not too much pressure on one person,’’ Johnson said. “We don’t really have a lead runner who can go out and score really low. Our strength this year is definitely getting all of us in together at the end of the race.’’
Lockport has finished among the top 20 teams three straight years, including a 14th-place finish last season.
“We have been very fortunate the past few years to have some runners who were just blistering fast, All-Staters who were in the top 25 in the state,’’ coach Evon Marie Schlotter said.
“This year, we knew we did not have that right off the bat. What we’ve done instead is it’s a true cross country team. We are running a tight pack.’’
Minooka’s pack led the Indians to second place at the Normal Sectional. Freshman Morgan Crouch was seventh and the next four Minooka runners were packed 14th through 19th.
Experience should help Minooka at Detweiller with Laura Simon, Kaitlyn Chetney, Caleigh Beverly and Haley Renison back from the 2011 team that finished 22nd.
Glenbard West’s Madeline Perez has the top 3A time of 16 minutes, 38.58 seconds and will be tough to beat considering she went unchallenged at the Niles West Sectional.
In Class 2A, Lincoln-Way West’s Natalie Waters enters the state meet with the fourth-best sectional time (17:39). Waters finished 31st (18:15) in the 2011 state final.