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Sports

Cross Country: Daniel Occhipinti, Austin Adams lead Kaneland to dominant run in Peoria

Kaneland easily outdistances Marmion for team title; short-handed Batavia girls fifth

Daniel Occhipinti
Daniel Occhipinti

PEORIA – Daniel Occhipinti deserves at least partial credit for persuading fellow Kaneland senior and former football player Austin Adams to join the boys cross country team last year.

“At first I was kind of skeptical. That’s so many miles [of running], and then I tried it and now I like it,” Adams said.

“[Occhipinti] does get some credit. It was definitely a lot easier to join knowing that one of my good friends like Daniel was in the program.”

Another benefit this season is they’ve become training partners and a powerful 1-2 combination for Kaneland's No. 1-ranked Class 2A team by ILXCTF.com.

On Saturday at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, annual site of the state meet, Adams and Occhipinti finished third and fifth as the Knights dominated the First to the Finish Invitational 2A boys race.

Adams (15:05.0 for 3.0 miles), Occhipinti (15:16.9), junior Isaiah Dallal (15th, 15:53.6) and seniors Ethan Walker (20th, 15:57.6) and Ben Durbala (26th, 16:06.7) all posted lifetime or Detweiller-best times.

Kaneland (71 points) finished 104 points ahead of No. 10 Marmion (185).

“People can talk about rankings. It doesn’t mean anything honestly,” Kaneland coach Chad Clarey said. “It was a nice day for us but our biggest key is we have to keep focused on what we do.”

The motivated Knights return five runners from last seasons's state lineup that was one point from a third-place team trophy. Occhipinti was a team-best ninth (15:06.78), and Adams was 26th (15:19.37), one place from the last individual all-state medal.

Adams already was 14 seconds faster Saturday.

“I was super excited,” Adams said.

“Now I’m definitely more experienced when it comes to how to take care of my body and how to run the workouts and races. Last year I did not have that many miles. I feel like it’s opened a whole new door.”

Occhipinti finished third at the 2018 FTTF Invite, yet ran six seconds faster Saturday.

He’s excited that Adams has become part of the great competition.

“It’s been a great time, honestly, getting my butt whooped by him sometimes. He likes when I give it back to him,” Occhipinti said. “Just going out there with someone you like every run, holding each other accountable, it’s been great.”

In 3A boys, No. 6 Oswego East (172) finished second to No. 7 New Trier (150). No. 24 Batavia was 10th (339).

Oswego East senior Herbie Alvarez was fifth (15:03.9) with a lifetime best by six seconds. Seniors Nick Bozarth (11th, 15:13.6), Luke Wentz (23rd, 15:20.2) and Brad Wiggins (37th, 15:27.9) also were among the top 40.

Batavia seniors Adam Kennedy (26th, 15:22.3) and Eamon Samsami (47th, 15:37.2) were top-50 finishers.

The Wolves, the top-rated 3A team competing, were 10th at state in 2018.

“Definitely top 10 [I hoped individually] but we were honestly looking for more of a team win,” Alvarez said. “We’re a pack team. That’s one of our biggest things. I always try to get out hard, just try to hang on with the pack.”

In 3A girls, No. 8 Batavia finished fifth (211) without its two returning all-staters – sophomore Katrina Schlenker and senior Mia Gianfrancesco.

Junior Jenna Schifferer was 21st (18:29.3). Freshman Ava Thomas (34th, 18:51.7) and senior Katie Cole (38th, 18:56.4) also were top 40.

Closing on her fastest time from 2017, Schifferer improved 17 seconds from her 2018 invite. She hoped to pace with Gianfrancesco, but the latter was kept out after a minor injury during practice Friday.

“I feel like overall I’ve had a more positive attitude this season and focusing more on enjoying my running. It’s been helping me to run faster,” Schifferer said.

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