PEORIA | At Mount Carmel, running has generally been associated with crashing through the line and reaching the end zone.
Then there's Dan O'Keefe and his fellow cross country runners. O'Keefe was in the Class 2A race last year, but this year, he brought the rest of the team along. And while he's a senior, he thinks this will not be a unique experience for the Caravan.
"We lose four guys out of our top seven, but our team's really young," O'Keefe said. "But we had the most freshmen we've ever had on the team this year, and they're all running hard. You're going to see the Caravan downstate again. This is not a one-time thing."
As the veteran of the Detweiller Park experience, O'Keefe had sage advice for his teammates before the race.
"I told them, 'When you get on the starting line, look out and know you're at the state meet. Don't worry about place, about time. Run it, experience it, have fun.' "
O'Keefe finished in 15:35, placing 32nd overall and 21st in the team scoring. Mount Carmel finished 25th of 27 teams.
"I was a little slow, 30 places higher than I was last year but a couple of seconds slower," O'Keefe said. "I was hoping to be higher. I'm still happy with my performance."
New Era At Beecher: Grant Nykaza's graduation left an opening for a new leader at Beecher, and sophomore Nathan Swanson has filled it. Swanson, the Bobcats' best finisher much of the time this season, was the leader again Saturday, taking 64th place in Class 1A. Fellow sophomore Josh Nehmer was 82 places behind, in 146th.
"It was a tough race," Swanson said. "I ran a PR (16:15, eight seconds ahead of his previous best), and I guess I'm happy with my time. The competition was because it was so much harder. For the first mile, we were within 40 seconds of each other."
Without Nykaza, some expected the Bobcats to falter, but here they were at Detweiller again. And while the team finish was 23rd, 413 points behind winner Elmwood, this is the post-Nykaza era, and Beecher is rebuilding.
"It was different, because we could pretty much rely on his one point before," Swanson said. "It was nice having it for almost every meet. We all had to pick it up."
Beezhold runs for seven: It was obvious that Illiana Christian senior Alexa Beezhold wanted to do better than her 48th place Class 2A finish in 18:51. Last year, she led the Vikings downstate and took 15th, earning all-state recognition. This year?
"I got really tired," Beezhold said. "My mind wanted to go faster so bad, but I felt so tired. Everyone told me I didn't have a lot of pressure on, but because the team didn't go, I felt I had a lot of pressure from the team to do well.
"It's not what I wanted, but it's done now. God has a plan for everything."
Around the circuit: Homewood-Flossmoor's Matt Anyiwo ran in 15:49 to finish 131st, 1:28 behind Class 3A winner Patrick Perrier of O'Fallon. Teammate Kevin Anderson was another 18 seconds back. Thornwood's Matthew King was between them, clocked in 15:59. King's training regimen for this season might have been the most arduous of anyone in any of the six races. He ran 1,000 miles over the spring, summer and season, including 26 on one day. And he wasn't in a marathon. ... T.F. North junior Monica Munoz was 170th in Class 2A, finishing in 20:42, the first Meteor to qualify for state in memory. ... Several obstacles complicated the day. The first race was delayed 29 minutes by a power failure, and then scoring was delayed throughout by the video confirming the automatic chip timing. The IHSA's explanation: The gray numbers on white were hard to read on the screen, and made harder to read because of the sun.