Vikings On The Run


Photo courtesy of H-F Boys Cross Country

Senior Trip Shonkwiler running in the Peoria Invite at Detweiller Park on Oct. 2.

Andrew Hale, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The H-F boys and girls Cross Country teams had a very successful 2021-22 season with impressive performances from both a team and individual standpoint. 

After only having seven meets in the 2020-21 season, the Cross Country teams were relieved to finally have a full season of competition. 

“This season has had so many more competitive and large invitationals which makes it easier to go out fast and stay with the top group,” junior Caroline Schoen said. “We also have a state meet this year which we didn’t have last year which is a huge motivator and goal for me this season.”

Last season, in Illinois, a majority of Cross Country meets consisted of dual meets in which one team would face off against one other team. With few large meets and no state competitions, runners had very little motivation to run faster times. 

Now that there was a semi-normal season with postseason ambitions on the line, the team entered the 2021 season refreshed after losing some motivation during last year’s unconventional season. 

“I think the knowledge that there will be a State Championship this season has added to the motivation of our athletes,” Head Boy’s Cross Country Coach Brian O’Donnell said. “I know they appreciate the opportunity to compete at Invitationals and earn medals and team awards.”

Throughout the season, the boy’s Cross Country team showed major improvements. In the Vikings first meet on Aug. 28, the boys competed in the Boilermaker Invitational, where they were able to place first as a team. 

Sophomore Habtamu Epley and junior Dane Ivancevic placed first and second, respectively. Seniors Denzel Lee and Trip Shonkwiler placed seventh and eighth, along with sophomore John Hockenberry coming in 10th place to secure the victory for H-F at the Bradley-Bourbonnais Invite. 

In their following meet on Aug. 30, the Vikings once again were able to place first in the SWSC Pre-Conference Meet.

Epley and Ivancevic one again led the pack, placing third and fourth, respectively. 

One of the most memorable meets of the season came on Sept. 11 during the Reavis Running Ram Invitational. With a second place finish by Epley, a sixth place finish by Ivancevic, a 12th place finish by Lee, a 16th place finish by Hockenberry and a 22nd place by Shonkwiler, the Vikings, yet again, came in first ahead of the competition. 

“My favorite moment of this season was our First Place finish at the Reavis Invitational,” O’Donnell said. “The team ran with incredible heart and were able to narrowly defeat a couple of very talented teams.”

While the boys cross country team showed great improvements as a team, the girls cross country team also had some notable individual performances throughout the season. 

Three year runner and junior on the girls cross country team, Caroline Schoen, placed first in the Bradley-Bourbonnais Invite with a time of 18:36 and SWSC Pre-Conference Meet with a time of 17:41. 

At the Reavis Running Ram Invitational, not only did Schoen place first, but she also broke the course record with a time of 18:14. Not only has Schoen seen improvement with her physical times, but she also has a different mentality when it comes to races this season. 

“I have dropped my PR by nearly 45 seconds and have been focusing on pushing through the mentally challenging parts in the race and overcoming them rather than giving into them,” Schoen said. “On days when I push through the mental toughness is when I see my best times.”

Both the boys and girls Cross Country teams have had to rely on seniors to lead and advise the rest of the team based on the fact that both teams mostly consist of sophomores and juniors. 

Senior runners like Trinity Mitchell and Trip Shonkwiler focused on giving advice and assistance to the younger runners as well as incorporating them into the team dynamic throughout the season.

“I am not necessarily the fastest runner on the squad despite being one of the only seniors but I am one of the most dedicated and love to help out the younger runners whenever I can,” Mitchell said. “I like to volunteer to help the Freshman and Sophomore team on longer runs and off campus runs to keep them from getting lost and to keep up with my pace.”

For the few Seniors on the boys and girls teams, they have encountered some unique challenges but that hasn’t affected their mindset throughout these past few years.

“I’m proud of the achievements of the team and how well we have grown since my first year on the team,” Shonkwiler said. “The teammates and coaches have created a great environment and I’ve had a great time running.”

The Vikings Cross Country teams look to continue their success heading into next season with 12 runners returning to the boys team and seven runners returning to the girls squad.