PEORIA — La Salle-Peru junior Lesly Rocha entered her first IHSA State Cross Country Meet without a plan Saturday.
“I didn’t really have a strategy,” Rocha said. “(Teammate) Megan (Krolak) kept asking me what my strategy was, and I was just saying I was going to go out there and run.”
Rocha’s plan to have no plan worked out as she ran a 17:59 at Detweiller Park to place 20th and earn all-state honors in Class 2A.
According to information on the IHSA website, www.ihsa.org, Rocha is the first L-P runner — boy or girl — to earn all-state in cross country.
“I’m super happy,” Rocha said. “It’s an accomplishment for my season.”
Rocha said she was in the top 40 and eventually moved her way toward the front.
“I guess I just started picking off people and I didn’t even know it,” Rocha said. “I came in feeling not so good because of my shins, but it ended up being a pretty good race.”
Krolak, who ran at state for the second year in a row, finished 86th in 19:20.
Rocha wasn’t the only area girl to earn all-state status Saturday.
In Class 1A, Fieldcrest senior Maria Baldwin and Marquette senior Dani Aurit capped their stellar prep careers by placing in the top 25.
After the race was delayed 29 minutes by a power outage, Baldwin ran an 18:07 to place 21st.
“It means so much,” said Baldwin, who also earned all-state as a sophomore and junior. “I put everything I had into that race and it feels so good. With my family here, it means so much.
“It went amazing. I went out hard and I kept my position. When I felt weakness, I just kept thinking about why I’m here and all the hard work I put in to be here.”
Aurit placed in the top 25 for the first time as she finished 24th in 18:12.
“It means so much to me,” Aurit said. “It was such a great year. I worked so hard. Running that last mile, it was really hard because I was right there (in contention for all-state) and I was like, ‘I can’t give up. I have to get this and go out with a bang,’ so it was exciting. I’m so happy right now.”
Aurit made a late surge to medal.
“Everyone was screaming out stuff and I heard I was 25th,” Aurit said. “I was like, ‘I need to pass people. I need to go.’”
Aurit helped the Lady Crusaders to a 13-place finish with 320 points.
Paige Aurit was 58th in 19:08, Maria Ivanova was 108th in 20:01, Olivia Rhoades was 130th in 20:32 and McKenzie Mattes was 137th in 20:40.
Henry-Midland finished just ahead of Marquette in 12th place with 319 points.
Jillian Monier led the Lady Timberducks as she placed 42nd in 18:46. Also scoring for H-M was Erin McKee (66th, 19:19), Ronna Pettis (84th, 19:36), Melanie Yanke (131st, 20:32) and Emma Cluskey (138th, 20:41).
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.