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Mooseheart's Wal Khat (No. 718) moves through traffic at the start of the IHSA Class 1A Boys Cross Country race. Khat finished fourth in the race.
Mooseheart's Wal Khat (red jacket) poses with other state placewinners in the IHSA Class 1A Boys Cross Country race. He is between Tuscola's Eric Ponder, who finished fifth and Kewanee Wethersfield's Michael Cook, who placed third.
Peoria, IL Nov. 9 – A year after becoming Mooseheart's first All-State cross country runner, Wal Khat became the Ramblers' first Top Five finisher in the IHSA Class 1A Cross Country finals.
Khat achieved that milestone when he finished fourth in Saturday's finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria after he covered the three-mile course in 15:09.
"I feel good, but it's bad for me because it's my last year," Khat said. "I'm disappointed. But I'm so excited for my time. My time was good."
In one sense, Khat's strategy was relatively simple: get to the front of the pack, stay there and push to try to win the race.
"It's something that he struggles with, getting out quickly in that first 100 meters," Mooseheart coach Torinn Pope said. "If he gets into that pack, then he has to use his energy to move up to the front. This week, he did much better getting up there."
Khat moved effectively through traffic at the start of Saturday's race at Detweiller Park, established himself among the top quartet of runners and then looked for openings to move up places.
That was where things started to not go accodring to plan. Race winner Jon Davis from Oakwood wasn't going to let anyone catch him, covering the 3.1-mile course in 14:47. And when Davis and Champaign St. Thomas More's Nick Hess broke two-thirds through the race, Khat did not move with them. Hess finished second and ran 15:03.
"Running is mentality," Khat said. "If your legs are tired, even though you want to do it, your legs are tight and you can't really move. What I put in mind was 'just let me do this, let me do my best.'"
As he made the final turn before the long straight to the finish line, Khat stood third, but Kewanee Wethersfield's Michael Cook charged and caught Khat roughly 300 yards from the finish. Cook nearly caught Hess but finished in 15:04, five seconds ahead of Khat, who consolidated fourth place and was seven seconds ahead of Tuscola's Eric Ponder, who completed the fastest five finishers in the race.
"I feel bad because the one guy came from behind to beat me," Khat said. "I tried to race him and then my legs got tired. Those last 400 meters were hard to the finish line."
Khat's cross counry career is finished, though he still has the spring track season before completing his athletic eligibility at Mooseheart.
"Track is coming up and we'll try to set him up to be a state champion in track," Pope said.