After missing the state meet last year, Jack Keelan made his next visit count in a very big way Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
The St. Ignatius senior became the school’s second boys cross country champion when he completed the three-mile Class 3A race in 14 minutes, 5 seconds to beat Prospect senior Quentin Shaffer (14:14). Keelan, a La Grange Park resident, and Mike Patton (1980) are St. Ignatius’ only boys cross country state champions and two-time state medalists.
“My goal was to win state ever since I was there my sophomore year,” Keelan said. “I was 12th overall, but I was the fastest sophomore.”
Keelan was considered the pre-race favorite by the Illinois Prep Harrier website after he won seven meets this season, including the Niles West Sectional and the Catholic League championship. His lone runner-up came at the Palatine Invitational Sept. 22, when he finished behind eventual Class 1A state champion Grant Nykaza of Beecher.
In a state meet preview, Keelan won Sept. 8 at Detweiller Park in the Peoria Woodruff Invitational.
Keelan missed advancing downstate last year from the Niles West Sectional. This year, Keelan planned to take the ACT the same day as sectionals, so he signed up for the test at Niles West earlier in the day and had an hour to prepare for the race. He clocked 14:44.86 to finish ahead of York senior Scott Milling (14:53.83), who wound up sixth at state.
Keelan said he wanted to take charge early in Saturday’s race.
“The plan, which I did, was to make a move at one mile,” said Keelan, who kept pace with O’Fallon senior Alex Riba, who finished fourth. “After that, with 800 (yards left) I got to go to my second move.”
Keelan will run in regional meets over the next few weeks, starting with Sunday’s Nike Cross Midwest in Terre Haute, Ind. On Nov. 24, Keelan will compete in the Foot Locker Midwest Regional at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha.
He was 15th in the Nike regional last year and fell one spot short of qualifying for the national meet in Portland, Ore.