The annual Spartan Classic cross country meet in September is usually a good indicator of what will happen at state in November.
During the last three years, seven runners who placed in the top 10 at St. Joseph-Ogden's street race finished in the top six in Class 1A at state. The same goes for teams -- eight which placed in the top three at SJO ended up finishing in the top five at state more than a month later. The Spartan Classic included each of the last two 1A state championship teams, Tolono Unity and Monticello, and was very well-backed in 2015 when the first, second, and third-place teams also ran at SJO.
So, it has a lot of history, and it's all good news for Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond's Logan Hall, who won the Spartan Classic a month ago.
In fact, Hall has won every meet he's raced this season except one.
That was the Richard Spring Invitational, hosted by Peoria Notre Dame, and ALAH didn't even go. The Knights sent Hall alone as a sort of scouting trip because it's at Detweiller Park, the site of the state meet.
He placed 23rd, finishing in 15:16.5 against mostly 2A and 3A runners.
All the experience is adding up to a promising postseason series for Hall, beginning Saturday at the Carlinville Regional.
"He's had a plan ever since track season ended, and he's put that plan into motion," ALAH coach Derik Eaton said. "It's a total commitment to getting better. I've been around a lot of kids who really want to get better. Logan, he just doesn't leave any stone unturned. Whether it's diet, rest, running, relaxation, he tries to cover all the bases.
"He's confident in what he's put into it. We're pretty excited to see what ends up happening here in a couple weeks."
Whatever happens, it'll be the result of what Hall has done this season. It started with winning in Sullivan in late August and has continued.
The race in Peoria wasn't his best, he said, but it was good exposure to the "pushing, shoving" of a big-time meet. Still, he was the second-best finisher from a 1A school, seven seconds behind Tanner Chada of Hinckley-Big Rock.
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Hall has also picked up impressive victories at Sullivan, Cumberland and Effingham St. Anthony, along with SJO.
At Sullivan on Oct. 4, Hall ran a 16:21 to beat out three Shelbyville chasers, including Tyler Pasley, the Central Illinois Conference's individual champ.
At Cumberland on Oct. 10, Hall ran a 14:58.31 to win a loaded field including runners from SJO, Tolono Unity and Tuscola.
At St. Anthony on Oct. 15, Hall cruised to victory over Cumberland's Kort McClellan by close to 50 seconds.
No doubt, though, Hall's victory at the Spartan Classic was his biggest yet, not only because he beat SJO's Justin Phillips.
"I run against him a lot. I knew I'd have to have a good race because who doesn't want to win their home invitational," Hall said. "Justin's buddy (was) cheering in the pace car for him to pick it up."
"I broke 15 (minutes), and that was a big accomplishment. I ran 14:48 there and I'd like to go even lower."
Hall beat Phillips by 15 seconds.
He makes it look so easy.
"He just flew through the streets of St. Joe," Eaton said. "If you do well at St. Joe, you should feel good about your chances of doing well at state.
"He's a beautiful runner. He's a smaller guy but very, very strong. When people call you a natural, he actually works really hard. He can run at a certain pace other runners can't."