NORMAL — After taking a race off to rest a tight hip and then suffering through an off day during the Corn Belt Conference Meet, Jack Franklin had his fans concerned.
The University High School senior allayed their worries during Saturday's U High Class 2A Cross Country Regional by winning on Maxwell Park's 3-mile layout in 14 minutes, 46 seconds.
"I still knew I had it," said Franklin after posting a 13-second margin of victory over Metamora runner-up Jake Gillum. "I never felt like I was dying."
No. 2-state ranked U High advanced second to next Saturday's Metamora Sectional despite resting No. 3 man Zach Wolford.
No. 1-ranked Mahomet-Seymour, which rested four of its top seven, topped the Pioneers, 39-53. No. 5 Metamora took third with 76. Bloomington grabbed the sixth and final qualifying spot with 149 points, edging Washington by five.
"Next week I think we'll run everybody and try to make another run at Mahomet, which is obviously a really good team, probably the best I've ever raced against," Franklin said.
The Bulldogs packed five in the top 16 led by Brian Butcher in third (15:03) and Corn Belt champion Gabe Pommier in fourth (15:06).
"Brian Butcher really stepped it up and we needed him to," said Mahomet-Seymour coach Neal Garrison, whose team is ranked 15th nationally. "It's probably the first time he's placed first for his team."
U High's Jared Schuckman rounded out the top five in 15:08. Schuckman was by Franklin's side through opening miles of 4:55 and 5:06.
"I think the two of them being able to run together as far as they did gave (Jack) the confidence to finally say 'hey, now I can go,'" said U High coach Lester Hampton.
Coach John Szabo said BHS turned in a team effort that was aided by No. 3 man Jack Doud's season best of 16:32 in 29th. It was only his third race of the year due to injury. The Purple Raiders were led by Nick Doud (17th, 15:59). The team's five-man finishing split was a season-best 74 seconds.
Eighth-place Lincoln (213) saw junior Blake Jones qualify individually in 18th (16:00).
In the girls race, No. 9 Mahomet-Seymour qualified third (59) ahead of No. 8 U High (85). No. 7 Metamora, led by individual champion Kari Lalumandier (17:58), topped No. 16 Washington for first, 45-56.
Freshman Megan Churm led Mahomet-Seymour in second (18:03).
"She's just a giant heart with two legs," said Bulldog coach Bonnie Moxley.
Corn Belt champion U High was led by freshman Katy Clausen in third (18:04). Her previous best on that course was 18:20.
"We didn't look very good today," said Pioneer coach John Neisler. "I would have liked to see a little more competitiveness from them, but we get to race next week and that's really all that matters."
Seventh-place Lincoln (189) advanced Morgan Bogdanic (22nd, 19:31) and Ashlyn Boyer (34th, 20:26) while eighth-place BHS (213) qualified Brooke Misukonis (38th, 21:21), Kirsten Nafziger (40th, 21:32) and Millicent Clay (41st, 21:37).
West advances 2 teams, NCHS 1: In the Normal Community Class 3A Regional at Maxwell Park, the Normal West girls advanced third (132) while the boys qualified fourth (102) for next Saturday's Edwardsville Sectional.
The NCHS girls grabbed the sixth and final qualifying spot ahead of Pekin, 150-185.
Sophomore Mara Smith finished ninth, tying her season best of 18:08 to lead the Normal West girls, who trailed only No. 2-ranked Minooka (28) and No. 3 Yorkville (32). Minooka's Mackenzie Callahan won in 17:04.
"I was just super excited about the girls race," said West coach Chad Aubin. "They all ran some of their best times of the season."
Lauren Feldner led NCHS in 22nd (19:28).
"I'm glad they made it," said NCHS coach Tom Patten. "We were hoping we would get stronger races as a group."
For the boys, West was led by Gabe Bush (10th, 16:03) and Charlie Wetzel (12th, 16:07). Big 12 Conference runner-up Tyler Dunn rested an injury, but hopes to return next week.
"They raced smart," Aubin said. "They got out nice and conservative and were able to move through the pack over that second mile."
NCHS finished eighth (185), 29 points away from qualifying, but the Ironmen did advance sophomore Jacob Myers (23rd, 16:31) individually.
No. 20 Minooka, led by course record setter Soren Knudsen (14:29), won with 47 points.