CLIFTON — Some people prefer the weather to be more on the warm side when they are outdoors.
That is not the case, however, for Evie Ellis, a Paxton-Buckley-Loda senior girls cross country runner who ran in 52-degree weather at Saturday’s Twin Valley Conference meet.
"I actually prefer these weather conditions," Ellis said. "I don’t really race well in the heat and under the sun. When it’s pretty chilly and cloudy is my favorite time to race. I’ve just got to put on a little bit of Under Armour and go out there and do my thing."
Ellis placed third individually with her second sub-20 minute time of the season.
"Evie ran really well at that place (considering that it was) windy," PBL head coach Dustin Franckey said. "She’s trending in the right direction."
Her overall time of 19:57.47 was third to Beecher’s Tori Fasano (19:03.15) and Hailey Janssen (19:05.56).
"I’ve been kind of stuck in the mid-20s and even running a couple of 21 (minute runs) this year, so it was really nice to be able to slide right under 20 (minutes) and get a season-best on grass," Ellis said. "I was happy with my time today."
Ellis placed ahead of Beecher’s Kasey Swanson (fourth, 20:13.72) and Clifton Central’s Kendall Antons (20:24.88).
"I think I was stuck in fourth or fifth place for most of the race, and in that last mile, I was able to close the gap in between the girl in front of me and get in third place. I was pretty with how I raced," Ellis said. "I went out with a 6:30 (mile split), which is what (head coach Dustin) Franckey wanted me to do, so I was just trying to run my pace. After I got past the second mile, I just raced and saw where I could go."
Freshman Ryder James ran his first-ever race at Clifton Central High School on Saturday, placing fourth overall in the boys’ race with his second-fastest grass-course time of 16:30.
"It’s a pretty good time," James said. "It was a nice course, for the most part. It was just kind of cold, but overall, it was a really good run."
Clifton Central’s Isaiah Ditta (15:49.23) and Jeremy Snejberg (15:52.68) surpassed the conference meet’s all-time record for fastest time, which was previously set by PBL’s Nick Porter in 2015 with a time of 16:05.
Trevor Swanson, who is also a member of the Clifton Central boys team, placed third with a time of 16:16.15.
"I was pretty happy with where I finished," James said. "It was a good race. I was hoping to (catch Swanson), but he just had too much ground, and I couldn’t make it up."
The Comets also had the fifth-place runner in Blake Stua and sixth-place runner in Jerod Snejberg as they won the team championship on the boys’ side.
"They pretty much swept it," James said.
Clifton Central claimed first place out of five teams with a score of 17. PBL placed second with a time of 58.
"Clifton Central has got a heck of a team this year," Franckey said. "Without a few of our key guys, it’s really tough (to beat them), so we concentrated this week on going out at an even pace based off their personal record from last weekend, and those guys hit the first mile, second mile and third mile perfectly, so we had some great races. We’re keeping our blinders on right now toward Clifton Central. They’re a great team with nice kids."
Most of PBL’s boys runners were coming off lifetime personal-record finishes from the previous weekend’s Spartan Classic in St. Joseph.
At the TVC Meet, Nik Schnabel finished 10th with a time of 17:17.68 while Jesse Barfield finished 14th with a time of 17:41.25. Trevor Morse and Keegan Busboom placed 18th and 19th, respectively, with times of 18:01.24 and 18:04.37.
Erik Reck finished 21st with a time of 18:10.28 while Daniel Busby placed 23rd with a time of 18:15.81.
"I was excited to see how the guys ran in the pack. We kind of gave them a split time to hit so that they wouldn’t get caught up with the Clifton Central guys, and they ran together for the first mile and a half, and then started racing, which is what we asked them to do," Franckey said. "The racing weather was pretty perfect. It was a little windy, but outside of that, we couldn’t have asked for a better day."
Unofficially, Alec St. Julien ran a time of 17:43 to win the open race while Ashton Goss (17:51 or 17:52 unofficially) ran lifetime personal record "by a lot," according to Franckey, to place second.
There are 10 guys running under 18 minutes, according to Franckey.
"That is helpful. It’s keeping everyone hungry so that," Franckey said. "As we really start to dive into our speed work, it should be interesting. All of them are hungry from top to bottom."
On the girls’ side, the Panthers placed third with a score of 61 behind Beecher (25) and Clifton Central (42)
"We’re seeing lots of progress," Franckey said. "Girls are hitting their stride at this time of the season, so we’ll have some girls come on hot and heavy. We’re looking to get one or two girls back to racing really shortly. It’s going to be a fun last couple of weeks of the season for them as we push forward."
Gracie Smith finished 14th individually with a time of 22:46.97 while Lorena Arnett placed 15th with a time of 22:59.53 and Gina Galey finished 24:26.81.
"Gracie Smith ran an outstanding race. It’s great to see her down in the 22-minute (range) again. Lorena Arnett ran an outstanding race coming off a personal record at St. Joseph," Franckey said. "Today was another great race for her. It wasn’t quite a personal record, but the freshman is catching on. I think Gina Galey is another one who is catching on. We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out."
Olivia Wilson finished 22nd with a time of 26:59.56, followed by PBL teammates Jordan Parrish (23rd, 27:09.56) and Hope Johnson (24th, 27:16.18).
"I’m really happy with how the girls ran," Ellis said. "I was really happy with how I stuck together for most of the race and how they were able to finish strong and do their best, so I’m really happy with how our girls ran today."
PBL, Beecher and Clifton Central are assigned to the IHSA Class 1A Kankakee McNamara Regional, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 20, at Kankakee Community College.
"It’ll be fun to see how we match up as we get quicker, and I’m sure they will (get quicker), too," Franckey said.
In the meantime, the Panthers’ regular season continues with a meet hosted by Prairie Central next Saturday in Fairbury before PBL hosts its End of Season Meet in Paxton on Thursday, Oct. 11, and travels to a meet hosted by Peoria Heights on Saturday, Oct. 13.
"I hope to stay under 20 (minutes), and I’d like to see all of our girls race another personal record multiple times, if that’s possible," Ellis said. "I think at St. Joseph, a lot of our girls ran significant personal records, so if we can run that on a grass course, that would be great. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the girls’ team can see how the girls’ team can improve throughout the rest of the season. We still have a few weeks to go before regionals, so we’ve got room for improvement, and I’m excited to see what they can do."
"I want to get under 16 (minutes) on a grass course before regionals, and I hope to do that at Peoria Heights," James added.
TWIN VALLEY CONFERENCE MEET
1. Clifton Central, 17; 2. Paxton-Buckley-Loda, 58; 3. Tri-Point, 86; 4. Iroquois West, 99; 5. Gardner-South Wilmington, 120.
1. Isaiah Ditta (CC) 15:49.23; 2. Jeremy Snejberg (CC) 16:16.15; 3. Trevor Swanson (CC) 16:16.15; 4. Ryder James (PBL) 16:30; 5. Blake Stua (CC) 16:51.91; 6. Jerod Snejberg (CC) 16:55.52; 7. Connor Price (IW) 17:03.53; 8. Justin Janssen (BEE) 17:10.94; 9. Christian Ladehoff (CC) 17:14.37; 10. Nik Schnabel (PBL) 17:17.68.
Other PBL results — 14. Jesse Barfield, 17:41.25; 18. Trevor Morse, 18:01.24; 19. Keagan Busboom, 18:04.37; 21. Erik Reck, 18:10.28; 23. Daniel Busby, 18:15.81.
1. Beecher, 25; 2. Clifton Central, 42; 3. Paxton-Buckley-Loda, 61.
1. Tori Fasano (BEE) 19:03.15; 2. Hailey Janssen (BEE) 19:05.56; 3. Evie Ellis (PBL) 19:57.47; 4. Kasey Swanson (BEE) 20:13.72; 5. Kendall Antons (CC) 20:24.88; 6. Kaleigh Ladehoff (CC) 20:55.38; 7. Olzea Smolinski (CC) 21:08.62; 8. Christina Wang (BEE) 21:11.65; 9. Rylie Bond (GSW) 21:15.21; 10. Alexix Brooke (GSW) 21:24.94.
Other PBL results — 14. Gracie Smith, 22:46.97; 15. Lorena Arnett, 22:59.53; 20. Gina Galey, 24:26.81; 22. Olivia Wilson, 26:59.56; 23. Jordan Parrish, 27:09.56; 24. Hope Johnson, 27:16.18.