LASALLE — Baker Lake Park set the scene for an Interstate 8 Conference cross country matchup between Rochelle Township High School and the LaSalle-Peru Cavaliers on Friday.
Junior Sara Johnson recorded her third straight race victory, leading the Lady Hubs (3-3, 1-2 Interstate 8) in a 27-30 loss to the Cavaliers. Two Hubs landed in top-5 positions for the Hubs (4-2, 1-2 Interstate 8), who fell to LaSalle-Peru 22-33 on Friday. Junior Josue Huerta and sophomore David Wanner were the top runners, taking fourth and fifth place respectively.
“I thought the kids handled the course really well and both teams were competitive,” head coach Mark Zilis said. “Even though we lost, I thought they did about as well as they could.”
Johnson set the pace early in girls race and carried her lead all the way through, finishing first with a time of 22:39. Sophomore Yuelma Ortiz surged late in the race, passing LaSalle-Peru’s top runner during the final mile to take second place, her highest finish of the season, with a time of 23:04. Sophomore Ahtziri Zepeda took sixth place with a time of 25:46.
“Sara’s determined to win every race,” Zilis said. “She has great drive and determination and she has a lot of talent. We’re less than halfway through the season, but she’s doing extremely well at this point… I think the sky is the limit for Yuelma. She really focused in and worked hard to make that final pass. She and Sara can be a great one-two punch for us in every race.”
Huerta and Wanner both clocked in under 20 minutes Friday, finishing with respective times of 19:55 and 19:56. The Hubs lost a runner roughly halfway through the race, as senior Aiden Seldal was carted off with an injury. With LaSalle-Peru placing three runners at the top of the standings, Rochelle’s boys were unable to rally with enough quality times to win.
“David’s an incredibly talented athlete and we’re really lucky to have him on our team,” Zilis said. “I think he can drop his time at least two more minutes this season… After our meet Thursday, we talked about the importance of beating the runner in front of us. I know Josue tried really hard to beat their No. 3 runner today, but he gave a great effort at the end.”
Rochelle’s teams will be back in action against Sycamore next Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.