SOMERS — In what was a record-setting morning at UW-Parkside, Milo Altamirano liked where he was standing at the end of a slippery journey.
That was in fourth place at the Horlick Rebel Invitational, where circumstances made that finish even more impressive than usual for the senior on the Case High School boys cross country team.
Because of intermittent rain showers and the threat of lightning Saturday morning, race director Pete Henkes decided to compress the five scheduled races into just two. The girls ran a combined junior varsity and varsity four-kilometer race and the boys’ freshman, junior varsity and varsity races were combined into one 5K event.
By 11:50, the original time of the boys varsity race, the course was all but empty.
Henkes’ decision created a course record in the illustrious history of the Wayne E. Dannehl National Cross Country Course. There were 625 boys finishers, shattering the previous record of 511 who finished in the 2011 Case Eagle JV Invitational.
Altamirano feels his finish in such a large field will set the tone for what he plans to make a senior statement season. His time of 17:02 — 51 seconds behind champion Alexander Vance of Oconomowoc — was not quite what he was looking for, he’ll take it for now.
“I’m racing against big people, like kids from Illinois,” Altamirano said. “My goal was to go sub-16:50, but obviously that didn’t happen with all the stuff going on today, but this means a lot. I was racing at the top with the leaders.”
Behind Altamirano, Case was 18th in the 24-team boys meet with 500 points. Union Grove was 10th with 292, Waterford 11th with 294 and Horlick 21st with 586. Park did not field a complete team.
Ocononmowoc, which placed four runners among the top 25, was the boys champion with 80 points.
On the girls’ side, Kelsey Radobicky placed sixth in 15:41.6 to lead Waterford to a seventh-place finish with 221 points. Horlick (352) was 13th, Case (470) was 15th and Union Grove (470) was 16th.
Oswego placed all seven of its runners in the top 28 to win the girls championship with 48 points.
Call Altamirano a new runner because a lot happened in the offseason. He underwent surgery last December to repair a deviated septum, correcting a condition he had since kindergarten that affected his breathing during races. The hip flexor injury that hindered him as a junior is now also ancient history.
He also committed himself to doing the little things, such as eating breakfast regularly, stretching before running, and drinking much more water daily.
What he accomplished Saturday morning suggested that a number of factors are making him the runner he wants to be.
“Now I’m healthier, I’m eating better, I’m staying hydrated, it’s just small things that are building up help me become a better runner.” he said.
The next-highest finisher by a Racine County runner after Altamirano was Kevin Hall of Union Grove, who was 20th in 17:29.1. Ian Williams of Waterford was 21st in 17:29.9 and Steven Cannalte of Horlick was 93rd in 19:02.9.
Similar to Altamirano’s situation, Radobicky is also looking for a comeback season — even though she was a state qualifier last season. It’s just that how she finished her freshman season last year — she didn’t — left a bad taste in her mouth.
“Before the race, I was throwing up, I was sneezing ... phlegm, and I just couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I was congested and at the mile-and-a-half mark, my legs just gave out. I couldn’t go. And then they carted me to the finish line on a golf cart.
“I couldn’t really do anything about being sick, but, this year, it’s my goal to make to back to state and PR.”
Waterford coach Nate Schreiber feels she’s well on her way after winning the freshman-sophomore race of the Racine Invitational last week followed by Saturday’s performance.
“I think she’s definitely ready to redeem herself for the end of last season,” Schreiber said. “She’s grown physically and mentally.”
After Radobicky, the the top county finishers were Jayda Obluck of Waterford, who was 15th in 16:15.6, Olivia Pitrof of Horlick, who was 38th in 17:04.4, and Kaitlyn Francis of Case, who was 39th in 17:05.6.
Francis, who was 81st at the state meet as a freshman last year, is another runner who expects to make a big jump this season. Saturday offered a big test.
“When they said how many people were running, I was a little nervous,” she said. “But it’s a race, you get your time and that’s it. I want to hopefully make it back to state.”
Pitrof’s goal, she said, “I want to hopefully break 20 (minutes) by the end of the year.”
Union Grove’s top finisher was Karly Martinez, who was 94th in 18:22.7.
Freshman Brielle Rochester of Libertyville won the race in 15:52.1.
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