BY CHAD DARE
Danville freshman Sadie Elliott had very modest goals when the cross country season started.
Elliott never dreamt of qualifying for state, setting a school record or winning a sectional title.
“I was just hoping that I could run under 20 minutes in my first season,’’ she said.
That’s probably why she had tears in her eyes as she claimed the IHSA Class 2A Decatur MacArthur Sectional title on Saturday at Hickory Pointe Golf Course in Forsyth.
And not only did Elliott easily qualify for next week’s state meet at Detweiler Park in Peoria, she also set a new school record with a winning time of 18 minutes, 24 seconds.
“No. I wouldn’t have believed that I was going to be running near 18 minutes when the year started,’’ Elliott said. “I wouldn’t have believed that I was going to win a sectional title or even make it to state.
“When I got done, I was actually crying. I didn’t believe that I would get first. I was really, really happy.’’
Danville coach Todd Orvis said that Elliott’s goals starting the year were a little understated, but he is still very impressed with her freshman-year performance.
“She has exceeded all expectations,’’ Orvis said. “Sadie has a ton of talent, and I just think she is just scratching the surface.’’
That was very evident in Saturday’s race was Lindsay Rogers of Chatham Glenwood actually took the lead from Elliott at the halfway point.
“On the first loop, she passed me and I heard coach Orvis telling me to stick with her,’’ Elliott said. “If I would have let her get away — she would have won the race, and I would have finished second.’’
The freshman came right back and took the lead before the runners got to the 2-mile mark. In that final mile, Elliott never let Rogers get close enough to take the lead and she won the race by 8 seconds.
“I was worried about her start, I thought Sadie might have gone out too fast,’’ Orvis said. “But, anytime that girl got close, Sadie responded with another gap. Sadie eventually wore her down and gapped her.
“That’s pretty impressive — especially for a freshman. It’s very uncharacteristic.’’
Elliott is the first Danville girl to qualify for state in more than a decade, and Orvis wasn’t sure if any Viking girl has won a sectional title before Saturday.
Elliott will not be the only Danville runner making the trip to state.
Junior Johnny Leverenz qualified for his second straight state meet with a fourth-place finish in the boys IHSA Class 2A sectional.
“My goal was to get into the top five, which I did,’’ said Leverenz, who finished fourth thanks to a great kick in the final 100 yards. “I was really hoping to get second, but things don’t always work out the way you want.
“The most important thing is that I have another shot next weekend.’’
Unlike the girls race where just two runners were battling for the lead, Leverenz was one of five boys in a lead pack after the first of two loops on the course.
“It was a very close race and it could have been anyone’s race,’’ Leverenz said. “I just had to get into that top pack, stay in the top pace, and hopefully, finish in the top pack.’’
Leverenz sprinted past Samuel Welbourne of Jerseyville Jersey to finish fourth in a time of 15 minutes, 14 seconds.
“The main thing was qualifying,’’ Orvis said. “We will get a good taper with Johnny this week and he should be ready for a good run next week at State.’’
Leverenz has had three really good races in a row, starting with the Big 12 Championships at Kennekuk County Park.
“I just hope I can carry this over into State,’’ he said.
The Danville boys team finished 18th, failing to reach the state meet as a team.