NORMAL — In the 47 years the state cross country meet has been contested over three miles at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, only 15 boys have posted times under 14 minutes, 10 seconds.

On Nov. 9, Charlie Wetzel wants to join the club.

Anyone foolish enough to bet against the Normal West High School senior must have forgotten he clocked a school record 14:30 on that course last year while placing seventh in the Class 3A state meet.

Last spring, he lowered West’s school record for 3,200 meters to 9:14.44, the 11th best time in Pantagraph area history, before placing sixth in the state track meet.

“If I run (sub-14:10) at state and don’t even place top three, I won’t be mad,” promised Wetzel, who has narrowed his college choices to Illinois State and Alabama.

Wildcat coach Chad Aubin believes sub-14:10 — which would require a sub-4:43.3 per mile pace — is a good target.

“Do I think he has the potential to do that? Yes,” Aubin said. “Do I think he can go faster than that? Yes.”

Wetzel enters this cross country season having logged an injury free summer in which he topped out at between 40 and 50 miles of training per week.

“It all went very well,” he said. “Our coach had us meeting since basically school got out. He wasn’t there every day since he’s not allowed to be, but he still had stuff for us to do every day. It set a good base for the season.”

Wetzel placed third in the July 4 Park 2 Park five-mile road race in 27:40 behind Butler recruit Nick Doud (26:41) of Bloomington and Iowa State redshirt freshman Jared Schuckman (27:18), a University High graduate.

In the July 26 Detweiller at Dark three-miler, Wetzel was second in 15:04, 12 seconds and seven places better than the year before.

“I felt a lot better than I did last year,” said Wetzel, who tabs reigning Class 3A state cross country and 3,200 champion Josh Methner of Hersey as the man to beat this fall.

“There are a lot of us who want to beat him, but I don’t think any of us really believe that right now we’re a favorite over him.”

Although he wants to peak at state, Wetzel is also targeting the Sept. 14 First to the Finish Invitational and the Oct. 5 Peoria Invitational — both at Detweiller. The Peoria Invite, where he placed seventh in 3A last year in 14:34, is his favorite race.

“I’ve always had a gorgeous day to run and it’s at Detweiller, so it’s fast,” he said.

Aubin knows a lot of hard training lays between Wetzel, the two-time defending Big 12 Conference cross country champion, and his goals.

“We’ve got to just keep plugging away at the process that we’ve been sticking with because it’s worked for the last three (years),” Aubin said. “His workout intensity will increase a little bit. His volume will increase a little bit, but other than that, there are not a lot of drastic changes that are being made.

“He just needs to continue to focus on entering each race with the confidence that he can compete with anybody.”

Team wise, Wetzel has high hopes.

“There is the belief that we can win both the Intercity title and the conference title,” he said. “We believe it’s us versus Bloomington and we want to win.”

Aubin says teammates gravitate to Wetzel.

“He started coming into his own as a leader last year,” Aubin said. “Whenever you get to a certain performance level, the other kids start looking at you for what to do. He’s kind of naturally fallen into that role.”

And if his time falls below 14:10, he'll naturally rank among the best in state history.

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Contact Randy Sharer at (309) 820-3405. Follow him on Twitter: @PG_sharer



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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