East Peoria senior qualifies for state

Bryan Veginski
East Peoria senior Jacob Vangunten made the Illinois High School Association Class 2A boys cross country state final after a high finish Saturday at the Notre Dame Sectional. He placed 12th overall in a time of 15:41.

Jacob Vangunten qualified for the Illinois High School Association Class 2A boys cross country state final for the first time.

The East Peoria senior placed 12th overall in a time of 15:41 Saturday at the Notre Dame Sectional on his home course at Illinois Central College.

He grabbed the fourth of seven spots available to individuals not on a state-qualifying team.

"The last mile-and-a-half he ran unbelievable," said elated EPCHS boys head coach Scott Peterson. "He does over what you expect of a student-athlete. He is a role model in terms of what you want for a leader."

Vangunten said since his freshman year he wanted to make it to state. He said he just wanted to push through while on the course for the 2.95-mile race.

"Everything just paid off," Vangunten said. "It feels so good."

He said the state berth was like an early present for his birthday, which is Wednesday.

The Raiders were 10th as a team at the sectional with 274 points. They improved by five spots from last season.

"As a team, we ran better," Peterson said. "We beat teams that beat us at the regional."

Matt Church was 42nd overall in 16:19. Cody Giebelhausen also broke the 17-minute mark in 16:55 to place 70th.

East Peoria's Jake Roberts and Nick Hiller placed 75th and 95th, respectively.

Normal University was the boys' sectional champion with 59 points.

Notre Dame, East Moline United, Pontiac and Metamora also made it to state as teams.

On the girls' side, the Raiders were 14th with 337 points.

Ally Watson narrowly missed an individual state bid with a 20th-place time of 19:18.

The junior was the No. 8 individual not on a qualifying team, three seconds off the final slot. Ashlee Knott of Washington, in 18th overall, captured the last position in 19:15.

Brian Disney's East Peoria girls team had just one senior in its top seven.

Heather Jones ran her final race for the Raiders in 53rd place in 20:01.

Morgan Skaggs was 77th, while Ellie Peterson finished 90th.

Rounding out East Peoria's effort was Marissa Alcaraz.

By 73 points, U-High won the girls' sectional crown.

Notre Dame, Geneseo, Morton and Galesburg also reached as teams.

State: The final races of the IHSA season will occur Saturday at Detweiller Park.

The Class 2A girls begin at 11 a.m., with the 2A boys at noon.

"I'm going to try to lower my time and get a PR," said Vangunten of his state aspirations.

The awards ceremony for 2A girls and boys is set for 1 p.m. at the park.