The DeKalb boys cross country team put their hands together and closed their eyes during their workout Tuesday, taking deep breaths, mimicking Mr. Miyagi’s lesson to Daniel-san during the second “Karate Kid” movie.
As a team, the Barbs have become fans of the 80s flicks, watching one before each of their last three meets. The movies offer lessons in breathing techniques, no small thing in one of the most demanding cardiovascular sports, but there’s another reason the team gathers Fridays at a teammate’s house to watch the inspirational movies.
“It’s always good to have your team be your family,” Isaac Hietanen said. “If we are going to move on, we’re going to have to do it with points, with everyone sticking together. It’s easier when you’re all friends. When you’re off the course, you’ve got to keep the same mindset that we’re in this together.”
Six seniors and one junior ran for the Barbs when they finished third Saturday at the Class 3A Wheaton North Regional, and they’ve grown together over the last three years.
After training hard together during the summer, all six of the DeKalb runners who ran in last year’s Class 2A Kaneland Regional dropped at least 39 seconds from last year’s regional time. Hietanen, DeKalb’s No. 2 runner this year, dropped his time from 17:34 at last year’s regional to 15:56 Saturday.
On Saturday, the Barbs will compete in the Class 3A St. Charles East Sectional, where they’ll have to finish in the top five to qualify for the state meet. Each runner, Wolf said, will have to shave off time for the Barbs to advance.
“We can be fifth or we can be 10th and still run pretty strong either way,” coach Mike Wolf said. “If we can find 10 seconds or 12 seconds for each guy, that’s what we’re looking for. If we can get our top five guys doing that – not three of them or four of them – we’re going to be in the ballgame.”
Senior Marc Dubrick, who won the regional meet with a time of 15:26, thinks each of the five scoring runners will have to run below 16:00 for his team to have a chance to qualify.
Dubrick and Hietanen were the only Barbs to meet that benchmark at the regional, but he’s confident that, with the help of some deep-breathing exercises, his teammates can accomplish the feat.
“All of them are capable of doing it,” Dubrick said. “If I do some work up front and they do some work in the middle of the race, we’ll definitely have a chance.”
The Kaneland girls team won the Class 2A Kaneland Regional and look like the area team with the best chance to make it to the state meet. Led by sophomore Victoria Clinton, who won the race, the Knights beat Crystal Lake Central by one point.
Kaneland will head to the Belvidere Sectional along with the Sycamore girls, who finished fifth at the Kaneland regional.
The top area girl last weekend was DeKalb’s Kelsey Schrader, who won the Class 3A Wheaton North Regional, leading the Barbs to a fourth-place finish. They’ll run at the Class 3A St. Charles East Regional on Saturday.
Led by senior Connor Johnson, the Kaneland boys finished second at the Class 2A Kaneland Regional. The Knights were followed by Sycamore, who finished third behind a fourth-place finish from junior Mark Stice.
Genoa-Kingston seniors Zach Herrman and Renae Kurpius each qualified for the Class 1A Oregon Sectional.