It was just three weeks ago when O'Fallon High School cross country runners Alex Riba and Patrick Perrier reaffirmed their positions as two of the best in Illinois by placing in the top five at the Class 3A State Meet in Peoria.
Now, neither Perrier or Riba is showing signs of slowing down anytime soon as they take aim on the best runners in the nation.
Fresh off a win at the Nike Cross Country Midwest Regionals two weeks ago in Terre Haute, Ind., Riba will compete in the Nike Cross Country National Finals on Saturday at Portland Meadows in Portland, Oregon.
Perrier, meanwhile will compete in the Foot Locker National Championship at Balboa Park in San Diego on Saturday, Dec. 8. Perrier qualified for the nationals by placing fourth out of 235 runners at the Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wis. The top 10 runners qualified for the national finals.
The offseason success of Riba and Perrier comes as no surprise to O'Fallon high school coach Jon Burnett who watched his dynamic duo help the Panthers place second in the Class 3A State Meet the past two years.
"It's nice to see the kids take what they did during the season and take it to another level,'' Burnett said.
Riba, a senior, placed second individually in the 2011 state finals and was fourth three weeks ago at the '12 state meet held at beautiful Detweiller Park in Peoria.
A junior, Perrier placed third at the state finals this season after placing 22nd overall as a sophomore in 2011.
Competing against 600 of the top runners in the Midwest, Riba finished the 5K race with a time of 15:30. But held on the home course of Rose-Hulman College in the middle of Indiana, it proved to be a real challenge for Riba.
"It was a really windy day. I think the winds were like 30 mph. that day and because of the dynamics of the race, everybody just packed up and went really slow and were drafting behind everybody,'' Riba said. "On that last straight-away I just pulled out to the side and kicked it as hard as I could.''
Riba's time of 15 minutes 30 seconds wasn't his best, but on this day it was very good.
"I was a good time considering the conditions,'' Riba said "The course is all down hill the first mile and then just a steady incline the rest of the way. I was very pleased.''
Riba will be one of 40 individuals who will compete along with 20 teams from throughout the nation. Sponsored by Nike, the event is first class all the way.
"Nike flies us out and we'll all stay in the same hotel. Then we'll get a chance to tour the Nike headquarters, meet all the professional runners and just enjoy the experience,'' Riba said. "My goal is to be in the top 10.''
Riba is also in the midst the recruiting process and is considering Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas and Texas A & M.
College coaches are also very interested in Perrier after his fourth place finish at the Foot Locker Midwest Regionals in Kenosha, Wis.
Running in temperatures hovering just below 30 degrees at start time, Perrier was able to ignore the conditions and finish the 5K course in 15:03 to place fourth.
"It was held at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside course. I've run in cold weather before but never that cold. It was freezing. But once you got going it wasn't that bad. You got used to it.'' Perrier said.
"I ran a 21 second PR (personal record) so I guess I just ran out of my mind that day. I was just hoping to qualify, maybe finish ninth or tenth. To go up there and finish fourth is just unbelievable. I was just so excited.''
There were 235 runners from 10 states who competed in the Foot Locker Midwest Regional. Perrier was the top Illinois runner. There will be 40 runners competing at the national finals.
In 20th place after the first mile, Perrier gradually moved up the rest of the way.
"I was in seventh place coming down the straight-away and I was dying. I just told myself, "now its about how you want it', so I kept going,'' Perrier said. "I was in fourth when I realized I was going to make it. I went for third, but just fell short.
"All year long this was the race I've wanted to qualify for. My goal was to qualify. Now that I'm here? It would be nice to finish in the top 20. The top 15 are All-American, so that would be great.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org