Fenwick High School boys cross country coach Dave Rill is the most successful state runner in school history.
For his entire lineup, however, the Class 2A state meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park Saturday was a whole new experience. The Friars finished fifth (249 points).
“(Rill) was telling us before it goes really fast,” junior Alex Marks said. “I really didn’t think about it that much. When we were in it, I thought it flew by. He was absolutely right. It was crazy.”
Junior Jack Darrow (15 minutes, 23 seconds for 3.0 miles) and Marks (15:24) were 37th and 38th. Sophomore Emmett McEnery (57th, 15:44) and senior Riley Mullen (75th, 15:52) also were among the top 75, followed by junior Patrick Barnett (136th, 16:19), freshman Joe Wermes (144th, 16:21) and senior Joseph Cozzi (199th, 17:19).
In their first team state trip since 2008, the Friars initially were a bit disappointed. The first-time sectional champs were optimistic yet unsure about expectations because they previously have been competing with the largest schools in 3A.
“It didn’t look great, but I think we did better than we think we did,” said Rill just as the official final results were being released.
“I was hoping for more guys up front. I was hoping for one or two all-staters. It was good. I was happy. We had a freshman and sophomore in there so to me, that’s huge.”
The Friars had hopes of perhaps a top-three team trophy and top-25, all-state individuals. They ended up 11 points behind fourth-place Hinsdale South and 99 from third-place, two-time defending 2A champion Yorkville (150). Grayslake Central (54), sixth in 2014, won handily over Mahomet-Seymour (121).
Darrow and Marks were 14 and 15 seconds from 25th. They got among the top 40 early but could not move significantly from there.
“We’re so excited. We know we’re going to have next year and we all know we’re going to do something special already,” Darrow said.
“We would have loved a trophy. We took fifth and you can’t argue with that. We’re really happy with that performance.”
Rill and 2010 graduate Martin Grady are the program’s only two all-staters. Rill was second in Class AA in 1986 with Fenwick’s first team state qualifier after taking 20th in 1985.
Darrow had this team’s only previous state experience in May as a preliminary 2A track competitor for the 1,600-meter run.
“There weren’t as many people there. It’s just so loud (here) and there’s never a dull moment,” Darrow said. “I’ve never been in a cross country race with so many people. You’re running so fast and not passing anybody. That’s kind of surprising.”
Marks overcame competing with a lower calf injury since just before sectionals Oct. 31. McEnery, who finished near Marks and Darrow in regionals and sectionals, wore braces Saturday for his injured ankles.
“I took a lot of this week off to recover. I think that definitely helped a lot and I didn’t really feel it at all during the race,” Marks said.