Senior Chance Bayles and his Oak Park and River Forest boys cross country teammates competed with a special fire Saturday.

The 2015 Huskies were expected to qualify for the state meet, but frontrunner Irwin Loud collapsed during the sectional and they didn’t advance.

At the Class 3A Marist Sectional on Saturday, the Huskies earned the fifth and final team spot for state Nov. 5 in Peoria.

“We loved the seniors and it was really rough to see their reaction to missing out on the opportunity we have this year,” Bayles said. “It was kind of running with a chip on our shoulder. I think it really motivated us to run better.”

Senior Loud was third (14:55.80 for 3.0 miles), followed by senior Matt Politis (13th, 15:22.15), juniors Matt Vietzen (18th, 15:34.95) and Robert George (40th, 15:57.06), Bayles (61st, 16:20.59) and juniors Peter Halloran (78th, 16:37.00) and Owen Savoy (82nd, 16:43.82).

OPRF was 23 points ahead of sixth-place Plainfield South and one behind defending state champion Sandburg. This season, the Huskies were reassigned from the Niles West Sectional groupings.

“These guys adjusted to things being different and raced well,” OPRF coach Chris Baldwin said. “Especially after last year, the redemption. We had some great runs, not necessarily (personal records) but just going out there and competing.”

Only Loud and Politis returned from the 2015 sectional lineup. Bayles dropped a minute during the last month.

“We realized as we kept going that we still do have people left,” Politis said. “(2015) was a lot of motivation to get our team down and to those guys that weren’t able to get down last year.”
Loud was 11th at 2014 state and a top-four, all-state track finisher for the 3,200 and 1,600-meter runs in May.
“(I’ll) just go out there and give it all I’ve got,” Loud said. “This is definitely amazing.”

OPRF girls

OPRF senior Mahal Schroeder earned her third state trip with an impressive seventh-place 17:58.86 at the Marist Sectional.

Schroeder led the seven individual berths not among the five advancing teams. The Huskies (6th, 159) were 23 points from fifth.

Schroeder beat her personal-record 18:01.06 from regionals despite suffering an ankle injury and missing Thursday’s practice at the course.

“I was pretty nervous,” Schroeder said. “Obviously (my state goal is) to get a PR, hopefully, and go and have fun with it.”

Senior Caroline Galo (23rd, 18:30.85) was 12.47 seconds from the last qualifier and barely missed her 18:28.71 PR from regionals.

“I can’t be mad. That’s all I can ask for my senior year, to get faster and faster,” Galo said. “I’m so happy for Mahal and just so proud of my team because we all stepped up.”

Fenwick boys

Even with the Fenwick boys now in 3A, senior Alex Marks qualified again for state at the Niles West Sectional.

Marks (17th, 15:37.29 for 3.0 miles) earned the sixth of seven individual berths for those not among the five advancing teams. The Friars (12th, 287) were fifth at 2015 2A state.

“It’s going to be weird because I went last time with my team,” Marks said. “It’s kind of like freshman year, where you go all out and don’t worry about the crazy strategy, and I managed to do it, which was really awesome.”

Fenwick girls

Fenwick senior Nicole Finn (17th, 18:39.63) advanced to her second state meet as the seventh individual qualifier. The Friars (259) were eighth.

Finn barely led the next individual candidate, Evanston’s Samantha Steman (19th, 18:43.28), entering the track with 300 meters left.

“(It’s) funny because Nicole isn’t the fastest in terms of short-term speed. She showed she really wanted it,” Fenwick coach Kevin Roche said. “I’m never nervous when Nicole hits the line. She’s one of those people that performs in high pressure situations.”

Trinity

Sophomore Bridget O’Bryan certainly has improved from being Trinity’s No. 5 runner last season.

So have the Blazers, who qualified for 2A state with fourth at the Fenton Sectional.
Junior Haley Hansen (11th, 19:55.9 for 2.0 miles), O’Bryan (27th, 20:05.6), juniors Emma Creviston (25th, 20:31.7) and Alyssa Jimenez (33rd, 20:55.4), sophomore Hannah Roberts (46th, 21:25.0), junior Grace Brown (63rd, 22:18.0) and sophomore Catherine Doyle (66th, 22:25.1) comprised a non-senior lineup.

Trinity first reached state in 2013. These Blazers captured the program’s first regional title.

“It hasn’t really set in but it’s exciting because it’s the first time we’re all going down for state (cross country),” O’Bryan said. “I see my time, my place and if it’s good, it’s crazy to think about how much I’ve improved.”

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