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Mooseheart senior Wal Khat heads toward the finish line at the IHSA Class 1A Aurora Christian Boys Cross Country Regional. Khat won the race and advanced to the Lisle Sectional.
Aurora, IL, Oct. 26 – For two years in a row, Mooseheart senior cross country runner Wal Khat hasn't just won the IHSA Class 1A Regional title, he's coasted to victory.
Khat ran 15:19 on Saturday to win this year's race at Oakhurst Forest Preserve - a victory he claimed by 19 seconds over second-placed Tanner Chada from Aurora Christian. A year ago, Khat ran 11 seconds slower on the same course and won by 10 seconds.
"I feel much more comfortable this year than last year," Khat said.
As he moves through the cross country postseason for the final time, Khat takes aim at a second consecutive trip to the state meet. A year ago, he finished 24th in the state finals.
"He ran even faster than his state time from last year," Mooseheart coach Torinn Pope said. "He still did that, relatively speaking, by himself. When he gets in a crowd against better competition, we'll see how fast he really can run."
In Saturday's regional, Khat made moves through the opening run over open ground to position himself near the front of the pack. As the 85-runner field moved through the woods, Khat moved free of the other runners with the exception of Chada. But midway through the race, Khat began to move ahead - and by the end of the race he had a comfortable lead.
"Last year, it was a little more competitive than this year," Khat said. "Last year's other best guys graduated. The one guy I was running with was still pretty young. He's a really good runner and when he gets older, he's going to get a lot better."
Khat and Chada were the only runners to break 15:00. The third-fastest runner was Westmont's Nick Dea, who ran 16:00. Westmont won the team title 68-86 over Harvest Christian. Joliet Catholic.
"I decided that around a mile or mile and a half that it was time to run beyond (Chada)," Khat said. "I was running against time today, not to determine what place I was going to come to."
Khat was the only Ramblers runner to advance to the Nov. 2 IHSA Class 1A Lisle Sectional. Once again, he will be running on a familiar course, having finished third in the Lisle Sectional in 2012.
"What sectional's is going to do is bring in not just the fastest kids from this area, who he saw today, but the fastest from three more areas," Pope said. "The goal for him is to get to state, so he has to run to get a place to get to state."
Mooseheart had three runners competing in Saturday's regional. Josh Gordon shook off a sore ankle and finished 20th. Harley Griffin was further back in the field. Only the top five individual runners not affiliated with the top five teams advanced to the sectional.
"For (Gordon), that's not a bad placing," Pope said. "When they're young, and he's a sophomore, you want to see them improve. At the start of the year, he was a 22-minute guy. Now he’s a 17:22 guy. (Griffin) was a guy who was just here to get in shape at the start of the season. But he not only got in better shape, but he got faster and he took to the competitive nature of the sport."