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EAST PEORIA — When John Beatty arrived as a teacher at La Salle-Peru five years ago, the school did not have a girls cross country program.
There is a program now and the Lady Cavaliers have come a long way in recent years.
Sophomore Megan Krolak gave L-P a milestone accomplishment Saturday as she qualified for the IHSA Class 2A State Meet.
“This is an outstanding breakthrough for our program,” said Beatty, who is in his first season coaching L-P cross country. “Going from not having a girls team to having a state qualifier is just huge for us.”
Krolak earned her trip to Detweiller Park in Peoria this weekend by placing 19th in the Class 2A Peoria Notre Dame Sectional on the campus of Illinois Central College.
“I’m really excited because last year I missed (state in track) in the 800 (meters) by less than a second,” Krolak said.
Krolak ran a 19:02 Saturday on the 2.95-mile course.
“I just tried to stay with the lead pack,” Krolak said. “I didn’t really know how I was going to run it. I knew I had to get into like the top 15. I was going after the Geneseo girl in front of me because I race with her all the time, so I kind of knew where I was.”
Krolak earned the sixth of seven individual state berths. Galesburg’s Stephanie Saey won the girls race in 17:29, while Normal U-High claimed the team title.
“Megan got out well,” Beatty said. “It was some stiff competition. She’s still new to the sport being her first year, but I think she positioned herself well from the beginning then just ran tough the whole rest of the race. She didn’t give up a stride all the way to the finish.”
Krolak was the area’s only individual —boy or girl — to qualifier for the Class 2A state meet.
“I think at conference, breaking 19 (minutes) and getting 10th my first year running is when I really thought I could make it (to state),” Krolak said.
Teammate and classmate Lesly Rocha fell short of advancing as she placed 33rd in 19:33.
“Lesly also started well and ran really tough,” Beatty said. “I saw her really start to move toward the last quarter mile. She’s up there and as a sophomore and being her first year, she ran outstanding. She was close to qualifying. We have our eyes on the upcoming track season and next year’s cross country.”
Ottawa’s top finisher in the girls race was Megan Ward, who ran a 20:34 to place 80th.
In the boys race, Ottawa’s Adam Frick was the area’s top finisher as he placed 60th in 16:41.
Andrew Broset paced La Salle-Peru as he finished 105th in 17:34.
“The boys ran an outstanding race,” Beatty said. “Each individual set or was close to setting a personal-best time. We just had some heavy competition. We knew we had a distant chance of qualifying, (we knew) something extraordinary was going to have to happen, so running the best time possible was really our goal for the boys team.”
Normal U-High’s Brendan Hoskins won the boys race in 15:06 to lead the Pioneers to the team title.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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