Effingham Daily News
Though no local teams advanced to Saturday’s Class 1A state cross country championships at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Altamont’s Andrew Sharp and Cumberland’s Leah Hutchison will represent the area as individuals.
Hutchison, a sophomore runner for the Pirates, is no stranger to the state meet, having finished 25th as a freshman. Sharp, a junior, will be making his first trip to state.
Sharp advanced via a seventh-place finish at the St. Anthony Sectional, where he completed the 3-mile course in 15 minutes, 55.95 seconds.
Hutchison finished with a time of 19:25.53, good for a 16th-place finish in the girls’ race.
Nikki Bloemer, coach of the Altamont cross country team, said Sharp’s performance at sectionals was one of his best of the year.
“He ran very well at sectionals,” she said. “He did everything he’s supposed to do.”
Sharp was also pleased with his performance, gaining some confidence heading into state.
“I was pretty happy,” he said. “It was the best time I’d laid down all year.”
He added that the strong performance has inspired him to practice even harder this week.
“I’m pretty confident after sectionals,” he said. “I’ve been getting after it in practice this week.”
Bloemer said Sharp’s strong work ethic would be the key to whether or not he manages to finish among the leaders on Saturday.
“I expect him to place. I know he can do it,” she said. “He has the desire to bring home that medal.”
“Anything less than my best won’t fly,” Sharp added.
Hutchison, on the other hand, will rely on her experience to perform well in Peoria.
“I think it will help me a lot,” she said. “Last year I was really nervous, but this year I know how fast I need to go and where to speed up.”
Her coach, Jim Miller, said her strong sectional performance would help her compete in an even tougher 1A final than she experienced last year.
“She ran one of her better races,” he said. “(State) is going to be tough. Competition is tough because they’ve dropped three more teams into Class 1A from 2A.”
After finishing 25th last year, Hutchison said she wants to at least match that performance in 2012.
“I’m going to go for the top 25, if not the top 20,” she said.
After competing on a flat, open St. Anthony Sectional course, the two runners should be prepared for a similar course in Peoria.
“It’s about the same — pretty flat and open,” Sharp said.
“There’s a sharp turn in the first 400 meters,” Bloemer said. “He’s going to have to get out fast and stay at that pace.”
“It’s a little bit more incline and decline than St. Anthony,” Miller said. “But it’s just going to take a good performance.”