The drought is over.
There was a time when Sandburg High School regularly celebrated Illinois High School Association state championships in sports.
From 1998 to 2015, athletic teams brought 18 state titles home to the Orland Park campus.
But after the boys cross country team won its first title in program history in 2015, things slowed down. Sure, there were some Top-4 finishes, but no state championship hardware.
The 2021 boys cross country team ended that skid Nov. 6. The Eagles won the Class 3A championship at Detweiller Park in Peoria, scoring 130 points while Hinsdale Central took second with 175.
Senior Declan Tunney led the Eagles with a fifth-place finish in 14 minutes, 29.28 seconds. Brock Rice took 19th; Sean Marquardt, 20th; Grant Giblin, 49th; and Trent Anderson, 58th.
With their top-25 finishes, Tunney, Rice and Marquardt were named all-state.
For Coach John O’Malley, it was a nearly stress-free day despite the fact that the Eagles were ranked No. 1 in the state since the start of the season by the MileSplit Illinois website.
“I had a strange calm come over me in the last hour before the race,” he said. “The week leading up to it was anxious, and there was a lot of noise in my head.
“But an hour before the race, I had a deep calm, and I was so confident in these guys and it was because of their demeanor and their character.”
Unlike the week before, when the Eagles beat Downers Grove North by just 15 points to win the Hinsdale Central Sectional, the coach watched the race unfold and felt good about what he saw.
“You eyeball it and see where the competition is,” he said. “I was more confident at state than at the sectional.”
According to Sandburg records, Tunney’s time is the fifth-best in school history at the Detweiller Park course behind Lukas Verzbicas, Tom Graves, Dylan Jacobs and Sean Torpy.
Tunney said that when he was a freshman, he wasn’t fully committed to running and he looked at his teammates and would have never guessed this group would bring home a state championship.
“It just shows how great the coaches are and the culture is with this program,” Tunney said.
That was evident when many alumni, including members of the 2015 state title team, made the trip to Peoria to cheer the team on.
“We had four who ran on that 2015 team who made it and several more,” O’Malley said. “That made it super-special.
“They were as excited for this one as they were for their own.”
One of those 2015 champs there was Tom Brennan and he said he had a good time watching the race.
“We were yelling and screaming,” he said. “We might have been some of the most obnoxious fans there, even though we’re in our mid-20s. We’re supposed to be more mature. I was confident with this team.”
The Southland Your Times area had a contingent of runners at the state meet.
Aside from the Sandburg boys team, the Class 3A race found Lincoln-Way Central’s Caden Simone earning all-state with a ninth-place finish.
Lincoln-Way East finished 27th with Nolan Rogers leading the way at 39th place.
In the girls 3A race, Lockport finished 27th and Lincoln-Way West 28th.
Lockport was led by junior Kayla Shea, who placed 109th and East’s top runner was freshman Kara Waishwell, who finished 105th.
The future looks bright in the Class 3A girls division because of two young individual runners: Sandburg sophomore Ava Giblin finished 86th and Andrew freshman Paige Swaw was 87th.