United Township's Dalton Martin has been pointing to the last few weeks of his senior cross country season for quite some time.
It started well with him winning the Western Big Six on Oct. 12, but things took a bad turn last week when he came down with the flu. It’s also possible it’s bronchitis.
“His cough is nasty,” said UT cross country coach Chris Wallaert on Monday.
What’s at stake this week is a trip to state.
Of course, in distance running, Martin’s lungs are super-important. Besides coughing a lot, he’s battling a low energy level. Plus he’s about to run the most important race of his life. At least Martin no longer has the fever he had a week ago.
Besides trying to get a lot of sleep and taking medicine, Martin is eating a lot of dark berries because they have a lot of antioxidants in them.
But he doesn’t deny, feeling ill at such a key time is no fun.
“It really sucks mentally and physically on me,” he said Tuesday. “I wanted to end the season on the greatest note possible — go out as regional and sectional champ.”
Before the illness struck, he believed he could. His training schedule got sidetracked big time last week, not running Wednesday or Thursday and just 15 minutes on Friday.
He still did well enough to finish second at the Class 3A Minooka Regional Saturday with a time of 15:56, only four seconds out of first.
This week he ran his planned workouts of 10 miles on Monday and 7 1/2 on Tuesday.
“I am trying to feel as good as possible on Saturday for sectionals,” he said.
His most important goal is a return trip to state, where he finished seventh a year ago and eighth as a sophomore.
But he really wants that Granite City Sectional title if possible.
“Obviously I want to go to state,” Martin said. “But realistically I would like to go first or second. I think it’s possible. We have no superstar at our sectional. We have Andrew O’Keefe of Granite City; he went (15:08). I think at this point I might be strong enough to hang with him.”
Tuesday night, Martin said he felt about 65 percent. He thinks he could be 90-to-95 percent by Saturday, which is about typical for a race during the season.
He’s worried about the mental effects of the illness as much as anything.
“Being sick and stuff, it makes it hard to keep (the high expectation) mentality going,” he said. “Knowing that I am not 100 percent and not feeling the best. So, it’s hard, but it’s possible (to win it).”
Wallaert is pretty positive despite the illness.
“As long as he gets his strength back, he should be pretty good for sectionals,” the coach said. “He’s got his energy back a little bit, so we are hoping.”
Martin and Alleman’s Spencer Smith in Class 2A are the main Quad-City hopes. Smith is running in the Normal University High sectional where coach Scott Stoll believes the Pioneer team has a chance of advancing. Junior Aaron Mickelson and seniors Brendan Hird and Ben Weaver all finished in the top 10 at the Peoria Notre Dame regional with sophomore Tony VandeWalle placing 16th.
“We’re a bubble team right now,” Stoll said, “and it’s going to be tough. If they go out and have a big day, they can definitely do it.”
The Pioneer girls took sixth to qualify as a team at the regionals. They are led by regional second-place finisher Addie Pulley.
“She’s running great right now,” Stoll said. “She had been sick (before the regional), came off of a couple of days of not running at all before the race. She ran incredible and had a really good day.”
Also in contention for earning a state bid for Alleman is Alexandra Cajigal.
“She’s one that is individually is on the bubble and could make it,” Stoll said.
Moline, which qualified both its boys and girls teams is mainly hopeful of sending individuals to state, coach Tauwon Taylor admitted. Heading that group is Andrew Ellison, who took third in the regionals, just three seconds behind Martin.
“It’s going to take a quality effort like he had this past weekend,” Taylor said. “He has to bring his A-game again.”
The Moline girls, who also qualified the entire team for the sectionals, are in a similar boat. Their main hopefuls are freshmen Lylia Gomez, Kileigh Burge and Madison Lodico. Gomez finished 22nd at regionals for the Maroon girls' best finish at Minooka.
“Our girls sectional is very, very deep and talented,” Taylor said, adding it will take a similar effort to what the boys need to advance anyone to state.
UT also qualified senior Ricar Mends in Class 3A while Rock Island’s team qualified Jade Ford, Jayda Hathorn and Breanna Homan in Class 2A. Geneseo qualified its entire team in Class 2A, led by junior Josie Brown, who took fifth at the PND regional, and sophomores Lauren Belvel and Anna Girten.