DANVILLE -- Only 45 seconds separated the top individual competitor and Rend Lake College’s No. 7 runner Saturday morning in the Region XXIV Cross-Country Championships.
Nobody representing the opposition separated Warrior teammates from one another.
Total domination was the order of the day as Coach Brent McLain’s two-time defending National Champions finished 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 (only five count toward the team total) in a four-team field to compile the lowest possible point-total, 15.
Double-trouble for Illinois Central College (58 points), Danville Area Community College (72) and Lincoln College (103) appeared in the form of pacesetting Rey Alvarez and his twin brother, Ricky Alvarez. Before harrier fans could even do a double-take, Freshman Rey broke the tape in 25 minutes 42 seconds and classmate Ricky wasn’t far behind in 25:52.
The Brothers Alvarez enjoyed a triumphant return to their hometown of Danville, much to the chagrin of the DACC Jaguars, who were outrecruited for their services.
Yet another Warrior freshman, Lafayette, IN / Jefferson High School product Jason Phillips, was third in 26:03, followed by RLC sophomore Justin Crain (McLeansboro) in 26:07, and three more first-year Warriors, Jeremy Kunz (Lebanon) in 26:09, Tim Clark (Indianapolis, IN / Franklin Central H.S.) in 26:26 and twin Justin Kunz (Lebanon) in 26:27.
Their impressive showing did not come as any great surprise, considering all but Crain were All-Staters last season in either Illinois or Indiana. Rend Lake College has been ranked No. 1 all fall among National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II contenders.
Could it have been any better? Probably. Sophomore Thomas McQuade (Berrie, Ontario), First-Team All-America a year ago after finishing third overall and the team frontrunner in this fall’s second meet, learned the hard way: you can’t miss study hall without paying the consequences.
Absent this past Saturday, McQuade will be counted on for the return trip to the NJCAA Championships on Saturday, November 8, at the Kansas University facilities in Lawrence.
Ironically, Saturday’s victory marked the first of the season for McLain’s charges after runner-up showings in three meets which featured strong, four-year rivals -- the 20-team Hanover (IN)College Invitational September 6, won by Wisconsin-Stevens Point (33) over RLC (72) and Washington University (78); the 32-team prelude to the NAIA National Finals, the Greater Louisville Classic, where Wayne State was first with 42 points, RLC was next at 99 and Azusa Pacific was third with 122; the Illinois/Missouri Border Wars hosted October 11 by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where the University of Southern Indiana edged the Warriors, 73-87, the U. of Indianapolis was third (99), Paradise Valley Community College was fourth (122) and Johnson County C.C. was 12th (302) in a 22-team field.
When the defending champs return to the NJCAA D-II Finals in two weeks, they will be without two-time individual medalist Ian Hornabrook, of course. The talented Australian, who took over for 2000 individual runner-up Francisco Tomas for the Warriors, is now on scholarship at the University of Florida. Rob Duncan, a sidekick of Hornabrook, is now on scholarship at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.
Former Fox Crain was 18th overall in last fall’s NJCAA D-II Championships, in addition to McQuade’s performance.
A third sophomore on this year’s squad, Chris Herren of Harrisburg, placed 23rd at Nationals a year ago but was unable to crack the top seven of this season’s juggernaut. The same is true for another ex-Indiana All-Stater, freshman Bryce Smith (Brazil, IN), and Nashville Freshman Lucas Roethlisberger.