Cross Country: Rochelle trio medals at Matt Walter Invitational

Rochelle cross country runners Yuelma Ortiz, David Wanner and Sara Johnson (left to right) earned medals at Genoa-Kingston’s Matt Walter Invitational on Tuesday. (Courtesy photo)

Johnson, Ortiz record top-10 finishes

GENOA — Lady Hub cross country runners Sara Johnson and Yuelma Ortiz have been battling for the fastest times during practice and during meets throughout the season. The two upperclassmen have raced side-by-side for the last two years and their friendly competition has allowed both runners to continue lowering their times with the Rochelle program.

“My goal for this year was to enter the 20-minuter range and I’ve been able to do that,” Ortiz said. “Sara and I are both working really hard and we both run at about the same pace, so we’ve been pushing each other forward. It’s always fun to have a little competition between us. It’s been tough competition, but I think we can push each other to get down to 19 minutes.”

Johnson and Ortiz saw their combined efforts merit medals for the third consecutive meet on Tuesday, when the senior Johnson finished seventh with a time of 20:41.53 and the junior Ortiz took eighth with a time of 20:42.75 to lead the Lady Hub varsity team at Genoa-Kingston’s Matt Walter Invitational. Johnson and Ortiz, who each medaled at the Rock River Run in Sterling and the Byron Invitational, are looking forward to more friendly competition.

“We’re doing really well right now,” Johnson said. “We’re all dropping our times and every girl has recorded at least one PR… It’s been really exciting to have Yuelma to run with because she’s motivated me to push myself a lot harder. I’m really happy with how our season is going. I’ve already dropped a minute off my time from when the season started and I’m hoping to drop another minute before the end of the season. My goal is to enter the 19-minute range.”

The Lady Hubs did not have enough runners for a team score, but the Hubs finished sixth in the Matt Walter Invitational with 129 points. Junior David Wanner medaled in 20th place out of 62 runners with a time of 18:11.03, while sophomore Parker Lenkaitis took 26th with a time of 18:43.52. Seniors Peter Forsberg and Josue Huerta placed 34th and 38th with times of 19:30.62 and 19:40.40. Rochelle’s teams will compete at the Freeport Invitational this weekend.

“We’re working a lot harder this season,” Wanner said. “It felt good to earn that medal and I feel like my hard work is starting to pay off. My times are dropping a lot and I think the rest of my season will be really good. My goal is to finish under 18 minutes and I want to qualify for sectionals. We have a lot of juniors and seniors who are pushing each other really hard.”

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