It was a successful meet for the Chaparral cross country team Saturday as they traveled to Sauk Valley Community College to compete in the Region IV Championship.
The women’s team ended up placing first and was crowned team champions while the men’s team finished second behind Morton College.
On the women’s side, three Chaps runners placed in the top 15 for the race.
Ali Proffitt finished first and was named women’s regional runner of the year, and her teammates Dasha Crumrey and Claire Wilhite finished 14 and 15 respectively.
In honor of their top 15 finishes, they were also named All-Region.
The awards did not stop there for the Chaps as head coach Matt Wilhite was dubbed women’s coach of the year for their regional.
Wilhite attributed the success of his women’s team to the “pack running” technique they have been trying adopt all season long.
“We have a really strong number one, our two and three girls are pretty strong,” Wilhite said.
“But our four, five, six, seven girls really did a good job of pushing each other and adding as many points as we can onto the other team so that we had the lowest score by the end of the day.”
The men’s team was looking to equal the success of the women’s team, but fell just short of the top spot.
In the end, Morton College beat out the Chaps by a mere three points to take the first place team finish.
Individually, the Chaps had four runners finish in the top 15 including a second place finish for last year’s Region IV male champion Daniel Woldesilassie, who has been battling injury these last few weeks.
“He has been struggling with some back issues the past couple weeks,” Wilhite explained. “I know he wasn’t as happy [with second place] as he wanted to be, but still to come back and place top two is a great feat.”
With their success in the regular season and in the regional championship, both the men’s and women’s teams have qualified for Nationals for the third consecutive season.
The team will take the trip down south to Ina, Illinois Saturday Nov. 10, with dreams of placing well in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Nationals.
They will also be looking to shake off the performance in last year’s Nationals where the New Mexico weather seemingly got the best of the team.
“Last year was a tough year for both the girls and guys,” Wilhite said. “We were down in New Mexico where between extreme heat, extreme winds and very high altitude, it was really difficult to compete at a high level.”
The coach went on to describe how the men’s top runner collapsed and could not finish the race last year.
But the team has erased the hardships of last year from its memory and is going into this season’s Nationals with a clear focus on finishing strong.
Wilhite is looking for his women’s team to finish in the top 15 of the race and in the top 20 for his men’s squad.
“If [the women’s team] runs like this past weekend and work together with a couple more weeks of hard training, I think they’ve got a shot at doing some cool things,” Wilhite said.
“Since this is a really big meet, our guys’ team has a good shot at going top 20. In 2010, the men placed 20 so I’d like to hit that or higher because they’ve got the ability.”
But Wilhite’s biggest goal for his team is to place amongst the top spots for Illinois schools.
“That would be really cool if we ended up being the best Illinois school at the meet,” Wilhite said.