While Rochelle Township High School’s cross country program continues rebuilding its varsity lineup, there was tremendous success from the team’s freshman and sophomore harriers during the 2020 season. One of those runners was freshman Parker Lenkaitis, who immediately emerged as a varsity contributor in only his first high school season with the Hubs.
Lenkaitis stepped up in Rochelle’s first dual meet of the season, recording a top-8 finish to help the Hubs defeat Ottawa for one of the team’s five victories in 2020. The speedy freshman lowered his season-best time nearly three minutes from the start of the year, ultimately clocking in with a personal-record time of 19:17.3 during the IHSA 2A Belvidere Regional.
“I felt it was a great start,” Lenkaitis said. “I knocked a lot of time off from the beginning of the season to the end. I focused on eating healthy, practicing hard and improving my time during every meet. The team improved as a whole and we pushed each other to do well.”
Lenkaitis, who has been running cross country since sixth grade, routinely finished in the 19-to-20-minute range toward the end of his freshman season. His seventh-place performance helped the Hubs score a road win against Oregon, and his top-15 outing at the Interstate 8 Conference Championships led Rochelle’s fresh-soph boys to a third-place finish.
Lenkaitis was one of several freshmen on the Hub cross country team who head coach Mark Zilis will look to for fast times in the near future. For Lenkaitis, the mental challenge of racing has motivated him to continue improving his times.
“My expectations are to keep improving individually and as a team,” Lenkaitis said. “We have upperclassmen who will be able to lead by example. Staying mentally focused will be our goal for next season. I want to pick up where I left off and knock off a noticeable amount of time off my personal record. I want to represent RTHS and become a leader for my team.”