COLLINSVILLE — Soft-spoken and unassuming O'Fallon senior distance runner Alex Riba admits he isn't all that concerned with breaking records.
But Saturday at the Collinsville Track and Field Invitational, Riba didn't just break the seven-year-old 1,600-meter record. He shattered it.
Running off the shoulder of elite Panthers teammate Patrick Perrier for nearly 3 1/2 laps, Riba took the lead with 200 meters remaining and sprinted to the finish line in a time of 4 minutes, 10 seconds, breaking the mark of 4:14.1 set in 2006 by former Nashville state champion Charlie Hatch.
"I'm not one who really focuses much on breaking records. I just go out and try to run a better time than I have before,'' a still-winded Riba said. "It helped knowing that this was going to be our (Perrier's and Riba's) only event of the day. We were fresh and ready to go.''
Riba and Perrier were just two of the state's best thinclads using the 23-team Collinsville Invitational as a final warm-up for the conference and sectional meets that will be upcoming over the next two weeks.
Waterloo senior Brendan Duncan had a throw of 190 feet to win the discus while also winning the shot put (55-7). Teammate and defending Class 2A state champion Justin Kretchmer cleared 6-8 to win the high jump, while Triad's Eddie Lusk (100 and 200) and Cahokia's Chris Moore (long jump and triple jump) both won two events.
Making its first appearance in the meet, Chicago suburban power (LaGrange) Lyons won the team title with 111 points over fellow state championship contenders Cahokia (98 points) and Edwardsville (95).
But the lone record was set by Riba.
A Texas A&M University recruit, Riba was competing in his third meet and in just his fourth event of the spring after aggravating his Achilles tendon before the start of the indoor season.
Perrier, one of the state's top junior distance runners, also bettered Hatch's old mark finishing in a time of 4:13.6.
With both of its top distance runners healthy, to go along with a solid group of athletes in the field events and on the track, O'Fallon may also be in the trophy hunt at the Class 3A state meet in three weeks.
"Having Alex back and healthy is huge,'' Perrier said. "It's great to have each other to push each other, to train with and to compete with each day. We make each other better.''
Moore led the way for Cahokia with wins in the long jump (22-6) and triple jump (45-11). Expected to be one of the competitors to beat for the state title in both events, Moore was coming off a St. Clair County Meet on Tuesday where he reached 24-8 in the long jump and 48-6 in the triple jump.
But although temperatures were more than 30 degrees cooler Saturday, the Comanche still won his events.
"I'm happy I won. But I could have done better. Some days are just like that,'' Moore said. "The goal is to be at my best for the state meet. I've two weeks to get there.''
Teammates Gary Hickman (110 hurdles) and Marlin Brady (400) also won titles for the Comanches, who got a big scare when freshman standout Ja'Mari Ward suffered an ankle injury in the preliminaries of the long jump.
Following the meet, a relieved coach Leroy Millsap said Ward appeared to be fine.
"That really scared me. I thought he (Ward) might have really been hurt bad. But he's fine. He's up running around,'' Millsap said. "This is always a tough meet for us, because we have prom the night before and the kids don't get to bed until 3 or 4 in the morning.
"It was cold and wet, too. We're just glad to get out of here without any injuries."
Edwardsville's third-place effort was led by Julian Harvey, who took second in the high jump and triple jump and placed third in the long jump.
Other local winners included Jack Klopfenstein of O'Fallon (pole vault) and Marcus Greer of East St. Louis (300 meter hurdles).
Edwardsville won the 400 relay (42.72), Belleville West won the 3,200 relay (7:59.8) and 1,600 relay (3:23.3).