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KANKAKEE — Entering his senior season, Herscher’s Drew Rogers already had won nearly every achievement known to man since his freshman campaign except for one — The Irish Conditioner.

On Wednesday evening, he and his partner, Ben Morgan, were able to cross that one off the list, as the dynamic duo dominated the 4-mile race with a time of 19 minutes and 58 seconds, which was a minute and four seconds faster than second-place finishers Josiah Jones and Jeremiah Lanum, of Bradley-Bourbonnais.

“This is something we’ve been going after for a long time,” Morgan said. “...[Rogers and I] have been hunting to win the Irish conditioner and the Bobcat Breakout, which is a race just like this one, for six years now, and we finally got it now in our senior years. It feels amazing to finally win it.”

The conditioner is an annual event hosted by McNamara in which runners race in pairs in a relay race-type format. Runners have to pass a baton to their partner after running in mile intervals. It’s a completely different look than a typical cross-country meet, during which runners usually run as individuals and race on a 3-mile course. Most teams open the season with the meet because it widely is seen as a tune-up so runners can get a feel for racing early on in the season.

“This is a fun meet because the kids like to run this race,” Irish coach Haven Provost said. “It’s a nightmare for the people hosting it, but for us, it’s the first meet of the year, and it lets us know kind of where we are before we get into our 3-mile runs.”

Although it was Morgan and Rogers who took home the individual win, Bradley-Bourbonnais was the squad that walked away victorious as a team for the boys’ side. The Boilermakers took first overall in the team awards, finishing with 13 points. Herscher finished just two points behind for second place, followed by Bishop McNamara, which ended up six points behind for third place. Morris took fourth with 70 points, which was 29 points less than Manteno, which finished in fifth place.

On the girls’ side, it was Morris that walked away with a first-place victory with 15 team points. They were followed by Bradley-Bourbonnais (24 points, 2nd), Chicago Christian (40 points, 3rd), Beecher (51 points, 4th), Herscher (55 points, 5th) and Manteno (65 points, 6th).

The Boilermakers managed to secure the area’s best time on the girls’ side with a third-place individual finish from the pairing of Mady Dykstra and Madelin Mellin, who totaled a combined time of 25 minutes and 30 seconds for the race.

Cody is a sports journalist who's been with the Daily Journal since 2020. He's been a sports reporter since his days at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 2019.