NORMAL — After sweeping Saturday's boys and girls titles in the Peoria Cross Country Invitational, the hosts of Tuesday's University High Invitational used it for training.
Even that reduced effort was enough to earn first for the Pioneer boys, who ascended to No. 1 in the Class 2A state rankings on Tuesday. They scored 19 points to top a seven-team field while the No. 5 U High girls fell to No. 6 Mahomet-Seymour, 16-41.
"It was a workout day for us," said U High boys coach Lester Hampton, who watched Jared Schuckman win the 3-mile event at Maxwell Park in 15 minutes, 41 seconds despite racing in training flats.
"Our focus was tempo today, keep the pack together, try to get through the mile in 5:15, somebody take over and get us to the two-mile in 10:30 — we came close (at 10:35) — and then everybody go at the end. It worked out according to plan."
It worked so well, a few Pioneers logged season bests.
"It helps others to believe they can stick with the pack," Hampton said. "Hopefully, later in the year, once we're running at those (fast) paces we should be running, they have that same belief."
Lincoln star Blake Jones led most of the first seven minutes with seven Pioneers close behind.
"He was sitting with our pack for a while," Schuckman said. "He was really excited to finish with us at the end. I think his PR (personal record) is 15:09 so it was good for our pack to be right with him."
Jones hung on for second in 15:54.
"We had a good little pack going," he agreed. "From the two-mile to two-and-a-half, I kind of sat back and then worked on my kick at the end. We have the Metamora meet on Saturday, which is what we're training for this week."
U High's other scorers were Tanner Gillam (3rd, 15:58), Dane Alexander (4th, 16:00), Harris Porter (5th, 16:01) and Liam Vaughn (6th, 16:09). Alexander and Porter also raced in training shoes.
Clinton placed second (75) followed by Tri-Valley (89). No. 10-ranked Normal West rested its top guys while placing fourth (100).
For the girls, Mahomet-Seymour appeared to have a lock on a perfect score of 15, but fast-closing U High freshman Lyndsey Wolters rallied to nab fifth in the final 400 meters in 19:14.
Wolters' job was to run behind teammates the first two miles to encourage them. When she got the green light to go, she smoked the final mile in about 5:50.
"It was hard to hold back, but it was fun for our team," Wolters said. "I was trying to catch up that last mile."
Ahead of her were Jessica Franklin (18:35), Brisa McGrath (18:51), Megan Churm (19:02) and Madi Balbach (19:11). Maroa-Forsyth took third (103) while No. 13 Normal West, which rested its top girls, finished fourth (110).
Other Pioneers in the top 11 were Emmy Mussey (7th, 19:31), Mackie Madix (8th, 19:49), Ella Bittner (10th, 20:03) and Riley Madix (11th, 20:10).
"I told them last night if it wasn't our meet, they wouldn't be running," said U High coach John Neisler, who ordered his charges to take it easy.
They almost took it too easy.
"They came out a little bit slow at the mile (at 6:45)," Neisler said. "I'm a little bit frustrated with them. Yes, it's a workout, but sometimes I think we take it a little bit too light."
Bittner was a bright spot, lowering her career best by 30 seconds.
"Overall, it was a really solid tempo run, which is what we wanted out of this," Neisler said. "Everybody who ran this past Saturday, won't run at Metamora (on Saturday). We've got to get a weekend off."