State Champions! Once again Unity cross-country program captures Class 1A title

Unity's Emily Decker runs in the Class 1A championship race at the IHSA State Cross Country State Finals on Saturday. Decker was the third Rocket to cross the finish line, finishing her race in 18 minutes and 22.60 seconds.
Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Class 1A Final Standings
 1. Unity 109
 2. Anna-Jonesboro 157
 3. Peoria Notre Dame 224
 4. Eureka 231
 5. Knoxville 270
 6. Chicago Christian 274
 7. Shelbyville 278
 8. Father McGivney 319
 9. Williamsville 331
10. Herscher 347
Peoria - Two weeks ago, the Unity girls cross country program cemented their place in prep sports history as a downstate running dynasty. The Rockets tallied 109 points, 48 points less than their nearest competitor to bring home the Class 1A state title for a third consecutive season.

Led by sophomore Mackenzie Pound and Erica Woodward, who finished their individual race under the 18 minute mark, Unity's three-peat performance moved the school to #5 on the IHSA's list for most-consecutive title wins.

Pound was the tenth runner in the small school race to cross the finish line at 17:36.87. Woodard, a senior, also earned All-State status, crossed over at 17:45.26.

Unity's #3 runner, Emily Decker, finished 30th behind Clinton senior MaKayla Koeppel (18:18.41) and Christ Our Rock Lutheran's Sarah McKowen, senior, at 18:20.41. Earning her third team medal, Decker turned in a time of 18:22.60.

Running neck and neck to the finish line, Ashlyn Denny held off Princeville's Bethany Sennett, who finished six-hundreth of second ahead of her stopping her race clock 18 minute, 53.38 second.

Almost a second and half later, Rocket senior Olivia Shike closed out her prep cross country career at 18:54.89 to close out the top five runners to cross the finish line.

Over the past nine season, except for a two-year hiccup from 2018 to 2019, the Class 1A state championship trophy was brought home by either Unity or St. Joseph-Ogden. Unity now ranks second in program state title victories, behind Winnebago's 13 state title, with five. Surpassing St. Teresa's four titles, Unity has won four previous state championships in 2015, 2017, 2021, and 2022. The Rockets also were runner-up back in the one class system in 1988 and again in the three-class championships in 2016.

This championship squad included:
10. Mackenzie Pound 17:36.87
14. Erica Woodard 17:45.26
30. Emily Decker 18:22.60
52. Ashlyn Denney 18:53.38
55. Olivia Shike 18:54.89
63. Camryn Reedy 19:00.12
73. Reagen Stringer 19:07.77