The Highland High girls cross country team had a banner day at the First to the Finish Invitational at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, which is the site of the state cross country meet for all three IHSA classifications.
The Lady Bulldogs earned ninth place out of 55 competing squads, which is the largest meet they will compete in all season.
In addition, Highland easily dusted its three competing Mississippi Valley Conference combatants, Waterloo (15th place), Triad (23rd place) and Jerseyville (54th place).
“The Bulldogs and the weather were terrific today,” said Highland veteran coach Doug Bradley. “I’m really pleased with the progress the girls made. Our girls had a lot of smiles to share with the few thousand fans at Detweiller Park today. They did something pretty special and they were happy to share that success. Every girl set a personal record today. Most of them set a career personal record. In addition, we had five girls under 20:00 for only the second time in school history. That’s one heck of an accomplishment.”
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Showing the way for the Lady Bulldogs was sophomore Breann Wernle, who scored the team’s lone medal by placing among the top-50 runners out of the 655 overall competitors with a 46th-place finish in a time of 18 minutes, 55 seconds.
“The only word I can come up with to describe Breann Wernle’s performance today is ‘Wow’! She was ‘off the chart’ good,” Bradley said. “Coach (Bob) Vance and I see her beautiful stride and the effortless form every day but we’ve never seen her really get aggressive with those tools. Today we saw it and it was amazing. She was blowing by opponents like they were standing still. She definitely was our number one runner today.”
Not missing out by much on a top-50 medal was junior Sarah Beth Wiegman, who completed the course in 61st place at 19:06.
“Sarah Beth Wiegman had a solid run today and she set the tone early for us,” Bradley said. “This team is young and it really helps to have a veteran presence to get the team out of the gate early.”
Freshman Katelyn Marti was Highland’s No. 3 runner in 75th place at 19:19.
“Katelyn Marti is learning,” Bradley said. “She really felt like she made a couple of tactical errors when she assessed her race today. She’s bright and has a genuine desire to get better. She felt like she wasn’t at her best today and she still managed to run a 19:19; that’s on heck of an off day.”
Senior Allison Zobrist was the Lady Bulldogs’ fourth finisher on the day after crossing the finish stripe in 95th place at 19:37, which was two minutes faster than her time from the Granite City invite the previous Saturday.
“She is getting more comfortable after a series of setbacks. Each day that she can run is a victory for her and I’m very happy to see her running again,” Bradley said.
Freshman Lily Becker rounded out the scoring for Highland in 122nd place at 19:59.
Bradley said Becker and juniors Courtney Hengehold and Sarah Jansen were very solid on the day and the fact that they keep pushing each other really helps the team grow.
Bradley said Sarah Kampwerth, Brittany Cunningham, Keely Rittenhouse, Sydney Nyquist and Hanna Rose are some of the most talented girls he has coached in high school cross country, but they just happen to be backing up some exceptional runners.
“We are really excited by what they are bringing to the table in practices and in meets,” he said.