Washington girls win state trophy to lead Peoria runners at IHSA cross country finals

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

PEORIA — Sporadic rain, heavy winds and intervals of cold weren’t the most ideal cross country conditions.

Tell that to Washington.

The Panthers girls runners finished a program-best third place in the Illinois High School Association Class 2A state meet on Saturday. That trophy capped a three-week stretch during which the Panthers won the Mid-Illini Conference, as well as the Peoria Notre Dame Regional and Metamora Sectional titles.

“That was our goal,” Washington coach Troy Walcott said. “I said girls, ‘You have enough talent. You could be on the podium.’ … We’re so happy with that.

“Our aim is to run our best time at the end of the season. We’ve tried different things and we feel like we dialed it in today.”

Top teams, top times and all-staters:2022 IHSA cross country state finals

The Washington Panthers girls cross country team poses with their Class 2A state cross-country third-place trophy Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Freshman Sophia Ramirez, second from right, led the Panthers with an eleventh-place finish.

Sophia Ramirez once again paced the Panthers. The freshman ran the historic Detweiller Park 3-mile course in 18:16.85 for 11th place.

She says that the strategy for the unpredictable wind, was to draft off fellow runners, then when there was a tailwind to make a pass.

“I am really surprised at myself for even placing at all,” Ramirez said. “I knew going into it that I wasn’t going to PR, but I’m not mad with my time. I think the weather conditions and the way the course was, I’m really proud of myself.”

Olivia Nordhielm just missed out on all-state honors, taking 29th in 19:05.31. Madeleine James (38th, 19:16.78), Jayne Hermann (45th, 19:20.9) and Sophia Nordhielm (73rd, 19:44.94) rounded out the Panthers’ top five.

This put Washington’s finishing split at 1:28.9.

“We were all like really nervous,” Ramirez said, “and our end goal was to place at state, which we did and that’s so exciting.”

Washington freshman Sophia Ramirez, facing, shares a hug with sophomore Olivia Nordhielm after their Class 2A state girls cross-country race Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Detweiller Park in Peoria.  In the background is Olivia's sister, senior Sophia Nordhielm. The Panthers finished third as a team, with Ramirez as the Panthers' top finisher in 11th place. Olivia Nordhielm was 29th and Sophia Nordhielm was 75th.

With three freshmen — Ramirez, James and Hermann — set to return and graduating just one senior in Sophia Nordhielm, the Panthers are setting their sights on a bigger trophy. The next few seasons could potentially be very successful in Washington.

Ramirez says that the third-place finish is motivation for bigger things.

“We hope to get second,” she said, “and hopefully, eventually first. That would be a big step for cross country.”

Dunlap, which got a 43rd-place finish from Abby Tudeen (19:20.02), finished in sixth place. PND was 16th paced by Eileen Zopel in 68th place at 19:38.22.  Morton (19th) and Metamora (26th) rounded out the Peoria-area team finishers.

Richland County’s Tatum David was the 2A state champion in 17:05.06. Grayslake Central took home the team title.

Class 2A boys

Morton's Josh Weeks (1604) makes a move around a pack of runners during the Class 2A boys state cross-country meet Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Weeks finished in tenth-place to lead the Potters to a fifth-place team finish.

Morton teammates Josh Weeks (15:51.99) and Yonas Wuthrich (16:06.57) finished 10th and 22nd respectively, earning all-state honors. However, the Potters were shut out of a team trophy with a fifth-place finish.

“We definitely wanted to get a trophy home,” Weeks said. “That was definitely the goal. It didn’t happen this year, but every year we’re training for it, just trying to bring one home.”

More:Here are the Peoria-area cross country runners heading to the 2022 IHSA state finals

Weeks says he attempted to get out and maintain that speed through the second and third miles, but the course’s sloppy surface prevented that.

“It was like 4 inches of mud,” he said, “and it was hard to move up on those turns.”

In the team standings, PND was 16th, Dunlap 22nd and Washington 27th. Riverside-Brookfield captured the 2A team title, while Marion’s Dylon Nalley won the individual crown in 14:44.62.

Class 1A boys

Eureka's Charlie Bardwell (653) leads the Hornets to a ninth-place team finish in the Class 1A boys state cross-country meet Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Bardwell finished 24th.

Eureka’s Charlie Bardwell was an all-stater, taking 24th in 16:07.8. In his final race, the senior was in the pack of top-15 runners at the 2-mile mark before closing his career with top-25 honors.  

“I’m really happy with (my finish),” Bardwell said. “It was a tough day to compete. … The legs weren’t feeling the greatest, so I just trying to mentally focus in.

“I just feel truly blessed. My coaches, my family have pushed me. They all have encouraged me when I didn’t think I could.”

El Paso-Gridley (10th) and Elmwood/Brimfield (11th) were the area’s top-finishing teams. Sam Bushert was 26th in 16:14.1 to lead EP-G, while Elmwood’s Isaiah Hill (16:25.8) took 32nd.

More:The Peoria area's boys and girls high school cross country runners to know for 2022

Chicago DePaul College Prep won the team championship. Gavin Genisio of Benton won the 1A state title in 14:57.51.

Class 1A girls

Annawan/Wethersfield junior Kennady Anderson (450) keeps pace with the leaders of the pack during the Class 1A girls state cross-country meet Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Anderson finished in fourth place. Monticello’s Mabry Bruhn, far left, was the eventual winner.

Kennady Anderson’s fourth-place finish in 17:45.7 was tops among Peoria-area girls. The Annawan/Wethersfield junior experienced a torrential downpour midway through the race but improved on her all-state 24th-place from last season.

Monticello’s Mabry Bruhn was the 1A state champion, winning in 17:08.5 — 17.9 seconds faster than runner-up Sundara Weber of Sandwich (17:26.4). Tolono Unity repeated as the team champion with 84 points.