Paige Arseneau was there for the third time. Alex Bassen, Kolton Dunkelbarger and Brody Blackwell each made their first appearance.

Four runners represented Pekin on Saturday at the Class 3A cross country state meet in Detweiller Park in Peoria, the mecca for the sport in Illinois.

Arseneau, a junior, finished 126th in the girls race in 18:24. Bassen, also a junior, was 169th in 18:47.

“Definitely a faster race this year than last year,” said Pekin girls cross country coach Erika Gilmore. “Last year Paige was 113th and she ran 18:29.

“Both of our girls had an excellent showing Saturday. The course was a little slippery in spots, especially corners, making it difficult to maintain speed.”

Running in Class 3A in cross country is a challenge.

“If Paige had run in the Class 1A or Class 2A race Saturday, she would have been in the top 30 and top 40 runners, respectively,” Gilmore said. “The Class 3A field has such an immense depth of talent.”

Gilmore said Bassen seemed a little timid during the race, which wasn’t surprising because it was her first time competing on the sport’s biggest stage.

“That’s what I saw in Paige at the state meet in her freshman year,”  Gilmore said.

After working hard since June, Gilmore said, it was a great accomplishment for the two Pekin girls to get to the state meet.

“Now we start looking ahead to track distance training, which is a different animal,” she said.

Dunkelbarger, a senior, placed 78th in the boys race in 15:20, his personal-record for three miles.

“Great finish to a great career,” said Pekin boys cross country coach Cole Stoner.

Blackwell, a junior, was 186th in 16:08.

“Brody didn’t have his best race, but he gave it what he had and enjoyed the experience,” Stoner said.

 

Steve Stein can be reached at stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.