Cross Country: Rochelle harriers split races with Plano

Lady Hubs earn narrow 27-28 victory, Hubs fall just short in 28-30 loss


PLANO — Rain fell from the sky as the Rochelle Township High School cross country team geared up for tough racing conditions against the Plano Reapers on Thursday.

Both teams ran competitive races, with the Hubs falling a little short and the Lady Hubs edging out Plano for a narrow victory. The Reaper boys snuck past Rochelle 28-30, handing the Hubs (4-1, 1-1 Interstate 8) their first defeat of the season, while the Lady Hubs (3-2, 1-1 Interstate 8) topped the Plano girls by one point, winning 27-28 behind first-place finisher Sara Johnson.

“I thought the kids handled the conditions pretty well,” head coach Mark Zilis said. “The course layout was very similar to the Belvidere High School course that we’ve run on many times. The footing wasn’t that bad, and the rain came down moderately throughout the race.”

Thursday’s meet exemplified the importance of having runners earn top placements in the new dual-team racing format that high school programs will see throughout the 2020 season. Three Plano boys separated themselves from the pack only minutes into the race, and the Reapers finished with the first, second and third-place runners to secure the team victory.

Junior Josue Huerta (20:20) took fourth, while senior Aiden Seldal (20:37) finished fifth and sophomore David Wanner (21:18) placed sixth. Freshmen Parker Lenkaitis (21:35) and Alex Burke (21:55) stepped up for the Hubs, taking seventh and eighth respectively.

“I think it’s great that Parker and Alex did so well on Thursday,” Zilis said. “They’re both great runners and they have a great future in running at our high school. Their performances are definitely going to help us in our upcoming meets. We also have several other freshmen and sophomores in our program who are doing very well to start the season.”

Johnson (22:44) spearheaded the charge for the Lady Hubs, winning her second straight race after taking first in the four-team meet at Genoa-Kingston’s home course this past week. Sophomore Yuelma Ortiz (23:05) remained consistent as Rochelle’s No. 2 runner, while sophomore Ahtziri Zepeda (24:15) has emerged as the team’s No. 3 runner early on. Ortiz finished third and Zepeda placed fifth in Thursday’s race against the Reaper girls.

“Ahtziri has worked very hard and she trained a lot over the summer,” Zilis said. “It’s really paying off and she’s already set her all-time personal record this season. I expect her to drop a few more minutes off her time and I think that will make our team much more competitive.”