One final cross country kick for Eureka's state champion runner

Adam Duvall
Journal Star
Eureka's Anna Perry leads the pack in the girls Class 1A race of the First to the Finish Invitational this season at Detweiller Park. Perry leads the Hornets into the IHSA state meet this weekend back at Detweiller.

Seems like side cramps were the only thing that could slow down Anna Perry this season.

The Eureka senior finished second in last Saturday’s Class 1A Elmwood Sectional, crossing the finish line in 18 minutes, 44.56 seconds. That time was 24.8 seconds slower than the winning mark of 18:19.76 by Williamsville’s Louisa Wilson.

Perry said the cramp appeared during warmups and carried over into the 3-mile trek over the Maple Lane Country Club golf course. “I had it the entire race,” she said. “I tried to get it away. It kind of faded.”

More:Here are the Peoria-area cross country runners heading to IHSA sectionals

Hopefully for Perry’s sake, all obstacles will subside — cramps included — once Saturday comes for the Illinois High School Association Class 1A cross country state finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria. She enters the final day of the season looking to better her fourth-place performance from two years ago.

This season has been about being consistent for Perry, who the unofficial 2020 D1 5K ShaZam Racing state championship last season, in pursuit of another all-state finish this weekend.

“It’s very special,” she said of the historic 3-mile course. “At First to Finish, I didn’t do as hot as I wanted to be, but I get one more chance.”

Eureka and Olympia runners burst from their starting boxes at the start of the Girls Class 1A race of the First to the Finish Invitational this season at Detweiller Park.

Perry, whose Detweiller Park personal best is 17:08, was a member of the 2018 1A state championship Hornets team, featuring individual champ Emma Argo. Running with the caliber of runner like Argo, Perry quickly picked up on some of the then-senior’s habits.

One of the biggest takeaways was not running timid.

“Taking risky moves sometimes can benefit you,” said Perry, who holds invitational wins this season at Metamora, East Peoria, Amboy, Dunlap and Elmwood as well as the Heart of Illinois Conference title and 1A Eureka crown.

A less risky move for the Class 2A third-place 2-miler was committing to Bradley. Perry joins a program rich in tradition and success in the Missouri Valley Conference. She also plans to major in physical therapy.

More:This Limestone cross country runner is elite. Now he wants a state title

The Braves women’s team has finished in the top two at the MVC meet for nine successive seasons.

“When I did my official visit there, I hung out with the girls and guys team,” Perry said, “and I just felt like I really fit in well and I was welcomed. (BU head) coach (Darren) Gauson is an amazing coach. We talked quite a bit. Definitely, he was a big factor too.”

Perry’s prep career ends on Saturday, but not without some major aspirations for herself and the Hornets. Her team enters the weekend coming off regional and sectional wins.

Some more hardware to the Eureka trophy case and a gold medal for Perry is ultimately she wants from the weekend.

“We have big goals as a team and we individually have some big goals,” she said. “I’d like to get top (finisher) and beat my fourth-finish from my sophomore year.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.

IHSA state cross country

The time schedule for the Illinois High School Association cross country state finals Saturday morning at Detweiller Park, located at 8327 N Galena Road in Peoria.

Time schedule

Class 1A girls: Race — 9 a.m. Awards — 11 a.m.

Class 1A boys: 10 a.m. Awards — 11 a.m.

Class 2A girls: 11 a.m. Awards — 1 p.m.

Class 2A boys: 12 p.m. Awards — 1 p.m.

Class 3A girls: 1 p.m. Awards — 3 p.m.

Class 3A boys: 2 p.m. Awards — 3 p.m.

Admission

Parking prices are $15 each for cars and $25 each for 15-passenger vans and buses. Parking fees also act as an admission price.