PEORIA | Add "distance program" to Thornwood's tradition of sprint and relay success in track.
The Thunderbirds have begun to build the former to go with the latter. Senior Ken Allen is sure of it. He led a trio of Thornwood runners to Detweiller Park for the Class 3A championship race.
Allen's time of 15:32.47 was good only for 122nd in the field of 210 runners, but it was a career best by about 20 seconds. Besides, the point was to get here. He, junior Kahlil Lightborne and senior Jesse Unzueta did.
"It's just exciting, the whole state atmosphere," Allen said. "And to have my teammates here, we were pushing each other all the time. We came in thinking around 15:20 to 15:30, and we came in 15:30 to 15:40."
Lightborne finished in 15:39.15, Unzueta in 15:42.37.
"Brian Evans built this from the ground up," said Allen, referring to the Thunderbirds' head coach. "We were seventh in our conference two years ago, and have won conference two years in a row. He told us he could give us the workouts, but we had to do it, to put the effort in. He gave us 100 percent, and we gave him 100 percent back.
"Today we did it not only for ourselves, but for him."
Now the key is to build on Saturday.
"That was our goal," Allen said. "They say the hardest part is to get to state, but once you break that barrier, it can keep going. We took huge steps for the program, and hopefully next year, the whole team is here. I won't be on it, but I'll be here to watch."
Around Detweiller Park: York won its record 28th boys title, taking the 3A crown. ... Homewood-Flossmoor's Matt Anyiwo finished 94th in 3A, in 15:22. ... Mt. Carmel's Dan O'Keefe collected 63rd in 2A, running in 15:32. Marian Catholic's Camren Howard was 136th in 2A (16:10). ... Grant Nykaza's winning time of 14:21.62 erased the Class 1A record time of 16:28 by Monticello's Steve Schroeder, set last year. It was also 16 seconds better than Nykaza's pace last year. ... Madeline Perez's winning time of 16:02 in the 3A race set a record for any girls class. York's Emma Fisher finished second in 16:15 and also surpassed the old mark of 16:22, posted by Woodstock's Kayla Beattie in 2010. Perez helped lift Glenbard West to a third place finish.