This past weekend, we took 45 athletes on a road trip to St. Louis for the Forest Park Invitational. When other coaches hear that we take this trip with such a large team, they cannot believe it. They worry about the risks, but we think about the benefits. For us, this trip gets us ready for travels in the future, for example, to Peoria for the State Meet. There is something magical about being removed from your usual surroundings. It levels the playing field for everyone and allows our team to bond during an adventure and the challenge of a race.
Unlike our first trip last year, this year was not marked by a mud fest on the course. This year, we had dry conditions and the presence of the Sun, nearly guaranteeing better times than last year.
The Varsity team went first and had a plan. Nicolas Dovalovky (Jr.) would do his own thing and the rest of the group would get out quicker than last week, pack up as a group and run hard through the last mile. While we did not out as quickly as we would have liked, we did pack up well and race the last part of the race. At the first mile, the team was in 10th place but by the second mile, we had moved into 2nd place. In the end, Nicolas Dovalovsky (16:03.1) would take 4th overall and after moving from the pack after 1.5 miles, Aidan Stone (Jr.) (16:51.2) charged during the last mile to take 15th. The leader of the pack, Quinn Kennedy (Sr.) (17:14.8) took 40th and was followed closely by Leif Anderson (Jr.) (17:17.2) in 42nd place, Stephen Smilie (Jr.) (17:17.4) in 43rd place and Vasant Fong (Jr.) (17:18.1) in 44th place. Luke Mennecke (Jr.) (17:29.1) would round out the Top 7 in 54th place. The team race came down to three teams, Liberty, Neuqua Valley and St. Louis University within two points of each other. Liberty took the win with 140 points followed by a two-way tie with us and St. Louis University at 142 points which was decided by the 6th man tiebreaker, giving us the advantage and 2nd place.
In the Junior Varsity race, it was obvious from the beginning that Neuqua Valley would be at the top of the team race with so many of our athletes near the front. We did just that with a winning 28 point total compared to Liberty’s 49 point total for 2nd place. After about 1.5 miles, Noah Schalliol (So.) pulled away from the rest of the group and never looked back. Noah finished nearly 35 seconds ahead of 2nd place for the win in a time of 16:53.0. Luke Suman (Jr.) (17:40.7), Josh Rodriguez (Sr.) (17:46.1) and Brian Jett (Jr.) (17:55.9) would all place in the top 10 with places of 3rd, 4th and 8th, respectively. The remaining members of the top 7 included Charlie Rook (So.) (18:07.3) in 12th place, JD Hastings (Jr.) (18:12.4) in 17th place and Sam Stuart (Sr.) (18:22.2) in 22nd place.
When the Freshmen began, we were not sure what to expect, but it was obvious that the Freshman group from Kickapoo was solid. As their young runners passed us, they were moving like Varsity runners. But then, we saw our Freshmen chasing them down. Our Freshmen runners were running without fear and kept looking forward trying to pass the next place. While they beat us in the end, our Freshman were excited by what they had been able to accomplish in their first time racing in Missouri and were already looking forward to returning in a year. Our top 7 Freshmen all placed in the top 20 overall. Nico Castrillon (Fr.) (10:45.1) and Connelly Corbin (Fr.) (10:46.9) took 6th and 7th place while the trio of Joseph Cyrus (Fr.) (10:50.4), Ryan Palmer (Fr.) (11:01.1) and Andres Lopez (Fr.) (11:03.7) took 9th, 10th and 11th keeping our scoring runners in the top 11. Logan Brown (Fr.) (11:10.2) and Matthew Gutierrez (Fr.) (11:16.9) would finish 16th and 17th and complete the top 7.
As we look toward next week and the Richard Spring Invitational at the State course in Peoria, it is time reflect on the lessons that this trip has taught us as we prepare to take another trip. However, this time it will be to run on the fabled course in Detweiller Park and take another step forward toward the end of the season.
Complete results from the meet can be found at the link below.