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Murray set to lead talented Riverdale runners
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PREP BOYS CROSS COUNTRY

Murray set to lead talented Riverdale runners

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Tommy Murray, left, is back to lead a talented Riverdale High School cross country team this fall. In this file photo, Murray is battling United Township’s Logan Veloz during a meet at Sylvan Island in Moline last fall.

PORT BYRON — Under normal circumstances, the 2020 prep cross country season would have been an historic one for the Riverdale boys' squad.

But, with their entire roster returning for the fall of '21, the Rams firmly believe that this is the time to achieve what last year's abbreviated season hinted at.

"This is our third year together as a full team, and it feels like that each summer, the guys have done a better job preparing for the fall season," said Riverdale head coach Kevin Claus. "We've got 13 boys, the biggest team we've had, and they've been running together pretty consistently throughout the summer.

"Last year was such a weird season, it feels like that for a lot of our newer guys, they don't know what a big cross country meet looks like. They were surprised to hear we'd be going to meets with 50 or more schools this season."

Set to open its season Monday afternoon at East Moline's Empire Park as part of the Moline Invitational, Riverdale has plenty of reason to believe it will be a force to reckon with at a good share of those larger meets this season.

After finishing as runners-up behind Three Rivers Conference rival Sherrard at the IHSA Class 1A Alleman Regional, the Rams' subsequent fourth-place effort at the Seneca Sectional would have been good enough to earn them a spot at the state meet in Peoria, but COVID-19 resulted in state being shelved for a year.

"Last year would've been the first time in Riverdale history that we had a cross country team make it to state," Claus stated.

Now, the goal is to make happen this season what could have happened last year. With all of Riverdale's runners back and the bulk of Sherrard's roster having graduated, the expectations are already high.

"All of us are completely ready to go to state. I've almost accomplished it in my mind," said the Rams' top runner, junior Tommy Murray. "Between us not going last year and this being our two seniors' (Caden Ludin and Cameron Overton) last year, that's motivated us, and we've all worked hard for it."

During last year's postseason, Murray posted a P.R. of 15:27 to earn third at the regionals, following that up with a 16:54.8 sectional clocking to earn another bronze medal. Fellow junior Landis Musser also had a strong regional run, finishing fifth in 16:17.

"I'm feeling pretty confident (about the upcoming season)," Musser said. "We've gained a lot of people, and all of us have had a good summer; I'd say our third and fourth runners (junior Peyton Sand and Ludin) can give Tommy and me a good run. I feel like last year, we would've made our mark.

"This year, we're definitely going to do it; we're going to put Riverdale's name out there for cross country."

Several of the Ram harriers also played key roles for Riverdale's boys' track and field squad, which won the West Division portion of the Three Rivers Conference meet this past spring and finished second -- again, behind another senior-dominated Sherrard squad -- at the 1A Erie Sectional.

"Getting to state for track was a first for me, and it was definitely a special thing," said Murray. "It's helped motivate all of us to want to do it in cross country."

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