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Du-Pec cross country succeeds with football players

Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 12:00 AM CST
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) - Without football this fall, some high school athletes decided to try something new like golf or cross country rather than staying home and sitting on the couch. For Du-Pec, it appeared to be benefit from 2020′s changed plans.

“Cross country is not a sport to just scoff at. It’s a hard sport.”

Liam Hammond is no longer just a runner, he is also a recruiter. When football was pushed back to the spring, the Du-Pec cross country athlete convinced some of those classmates to join the team.

“At first, they were like eh, I don’t know if I want to," said Hammond. "I was like, there’s no fall sports, you might as well come out and do something.”

Hammond knows first hand what it’s like to participate in both sports. He led the Rivermen last year to their first sectional appearance since 2015, while helping the football team advance to the second round of the state playoffs.

“I didn’t get to experience a lot of the things last year," explained Hammond. "Because, the weekday meets, I was at practice. But it’s been a lot of fun.”

One of his converts, Tre’von Burfield-Stifter, worked his way into Du-Pec’s top seven, finishing 74th overall at sectionals.

“I’m happy I came out for cross country," said Burfield-Stifter. "It’s been a great season. One of the best teams I’ve ever had in my high school career. Great coaches, great teammates. I loved it.”

The three-sport athlete had no idea what to expect, but learned a lot in the long run.

“A lot of it is discipline and endurance. You can’t just come out, just sprint out of the gate, how most people would do. Because if you do that, you’ll be dead. Dead the entire meet, trust me I’ve learned that the hard way.”

But the finish line to a winter and even spring season may be a little blurry, and Bufield-Stifter said it’s personally been a mental drain on him.

“Going to state, going to playoffs, regionals and all that, these are things we look forward to," said Burfield-Stifter. "And without this, everyone has been down, has no motivation, no one feels like there’s anything to work towards anymore.”

Rivermen head coach Marty Contreras has now taken his team to sectionals in 10 straight seasons, leading Du-Pec, Auburn and Belvidere.

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