Liam Newhart (Courtesy of runnerspace.com)

Oak Park and River Forest High School senior boys cross country runner Nick Parrell followed sixth at regionals with an all-sectional seventh at the IHSA Class 3A Waubonsie Valley Sectional, the state’s toughest sectional, on Oct. 29. 

“I’m very pumped, very pumped. I was thinking top 15, especially going into the first mile. People were taking it out really fast,” Parrell said. “Seventh I’ll take. I’m staying consistent. I like that.” 

The Huskies once again rose to the occasion. They finished third (99 points) as a team to earn their first team berth to the IHSA Class 3A state meet since 2016 and only their second since 2010.

Senior Liam Newhart was the lone OPRF state individual qualifier in 2021, but this season any loneliness is because he’s among the state’s frontrunners. He won the 3.0-mile sectional (14 minutes, 44.0 seconds) by 4.5 seconds.

Parrell (14:58.9) also broke 15 minutes. Junior Michael Michelotti (11th, 15:05.1) was not 100 percent yet missed all-sectional by just 0.3, followed by senior Owen Augustine (36th, 15:40.1), juniors Daniel Johnson (51st, 15:53.6) and Lewis O’Connor (56th, 15:57.5) and sophomore Andrew Harmon (60th, 15:59.4). Johnson rejoined the lineup since dropping out of the West Suburban Conference Silver meet, battling sickness.

“We’re super excited. Our team’s really improving, just looking to stay consistent and get a little better going into state,” Newhart said. 

The Huskies are thinking a top-five state finish at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, if not their first top-three state trophy. 

The last time they competed at Detweiller Park in September, they won Peoria-Notre Dame’s 71-team Richard Spring Invitational with many personal-best times.

WSC Silver rivals Downers Grove North (75) and Hinsdale Central (78), the conference champion, were first and second on Oct. 29. They and Plainfield South are the favorites.

“I believe in those guys. I know they can get a trophy. They have a commitment to each other,” OPRF coach Chris Baldwin said. 

Newhart, 45th at state last year (15:09.27), also should contend for top five, if not become the program’s first state champion. He only has been beaten by three Illinois runners and beat two of them in other races. Hinsdale Central senior Dan Watcke, who beat Newhart for the WSC Silver title, was second at sectional (14:48.5) and fell while ascending a large hill.

“That’s my goal [top five] and maybe even better than that,” Newhart said. “I just beat one of the top athletes in the state. I’ve got a lot going for me into state.”

Last year, the Huskies were 10th at sectionals with Newhart (26th), Augustine (51st), Parrell (16:35.44), Michelotti (73rd) and Johnson (118th).

“Our improvement is just astronomical I’d say,” Parrell said. “I’m really proud to have made it to state, because last year I know was a horrible feeling.” 

Sterritt OPRF’s lone girls’ qualifier

In the girls race, OPRF junior Lenny Sterritt will be adding to her state meet experience – and her wardrobe.

“I’m excited to keep going,” Sterritt said. “I like to go to state just to get the sweatshirts. I have five of them [including] from middle school so I want another one.”  

Sterritt (39th, 19:00.9) was the Huskies’ top finisher and their lone qualifier by being among the top 10 individuals not from the seven qualifying teams. The Huskies (283) were 12th as a team.

“I didn’t honestly expect [qualifying] at all. I wasn’t paying attention to the results,” Sterritt said.  

Senior Avery Minnis was 46th (19:07.3), 0.5 seconds from the last individual qualifying spot. Junior Katie Stabb was 60th (19:28.1) after being top 10 halfway through the race before collapsing near the finish. Senior Natalie Quinn (71st, 19:45.7) rejoined the lineup, followed by senior Malie Cassel (79th, 20:10.3), junior Anne Lynch (88th, 20:33.0) and senior Abby Lofgren (97th, 20:51.2).

Fenwick boys advance downstate

The Fenwick High School boys cross country team will get to defend its IHSA Class 2A championship Nov. 5 in Peoria.

The Friars finished seventh with 176 points at the Class 2A Kaneland Sectional on Oct. 29. The top seven teams in a sectional advance downstate.

Junior Nathan McKillop led Fenwick, coming in eighth in a time of 15:24.70. Senior Grayden Rill (13th, 15:39,04) and junior Dean O’Bryan (25th, 15:56.08) also finished in the top 25.

Sophomores Finn Munley (54th, 16:37.08) and Benicio Carideo (90th, 17:10.81), junior Chris Badja (104th, 17:29.88) and senior Jake Leonardi (105th, 17:30.10) rounded out the Friars’ lineup.

Daley, McGreal qualify as individuals

Neither Fenwick nor Trinity High School qualified for downstate in the girls team competition at the Class 2A Kaneland Sectional on Oct. 29. The Blazers were ninth with 250 points while the Friars came in 14th with 352 points.

However, each school had an individual qualifier, finishing among the top 10 individuals from teams not advancing.

Fenwick senior Bella Daley, who was all-state last fall, will get the opportunity to repeat the honor after placing fifth at Kaneland with a time of 18:20.34.

Also advancing downstate is Trinity freshman Molly McGreal. She came in 21st with a time of 19:00.44.

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