BELVIDERE — Lady Hub cross country standout Sara Johnson had a tremendous start to her junior season before a brief illness slowed her down a few weeks before the IHSA 2A Belvidere Regionals on Saturday. Despite missing some time, Johnson was determined to push through the course at Belvidere High School and earn her third consecutive trip to the sectional round.
Johnson ran for both Lady Hub teams that qualified for sectionals over her freshman and sophomore seasons. Now an upperclassman and leader of a rebuilding roster, Johnson recorded the fastest time for the Rochelle girls on Saturday, finishing strong with a time of 21:49.87 and edging out Belvidere North’s Samantha Slife by 0.78 seconds for the fifth and final sectional-qualifying slot for individuals on non-advancing teams. Johnson will be the lone harrier representing Rochelle at the IHSA 2A Lake Villa (Lakes) Sectional next Saturday, Oct. 31.
“I thought I ran pretty well,” Johnson said. “My times have definitely dropped from where I was running a few weeks ago and I’m back to running in the 21-minute range. I thought I managed the course well. There were a few challenging hills I needed to push through. I think my previous experience will help with how I prepare for the sectional meet next weekend.”
Johnson placed 26th overall for the Lady Hubs, who took eighth place out of 10 schools on Saturday. Sophomore Yuelma Ortiz finished 31st with respective times of 22:15.50. Sophomore David Wanner was the top runner for the Hubs, setting a new personal record with a time of 18:31.77 after a fast finish in which he passed two other runners over the final stretch.
“It was a pretty flat course so I knew the times would be fast,” Wanner said. “My finish was great and I felt like I sprinted over the final 400 meters. I was really happy with my performance. I saw a few kids in front of me who were slowing down and I told myself that I couldn’t slow down. I thought my time helped reassure me that I improved as the season went on.”
Wanner finished as the highest-placing individual for the Hubs, who placed 10th as a team. Wanner ended the race in 49th place, while juniors Luke Orlikowski and Josue Huerta finished 56th and 58th with respective times of 19:01.23 and 19:13.37. Freshmen Parker Lenkaitis and Alex Burke placed 59th and 62nd with respective times of 19:17.30 and 19:23.03.