It may not be clearly represented in the outcome, but Highland High cross country coach Doug Bradley said the boys team ran its best race of the season as far as teamwork, execution and effort last Thursday at the Mississippi Valley Conference Championships at Principia College in Elsah.
The Bulldogs finished last in the six-team conference with a meet-high 122 points, but they were only five points behind Civic Memorial (117) and just seven back of fourth-place Triad (115).
The Mascoutah boys won its first MVC title in 31 years after posting a meet-low team score of 34 points to beat out runner-up Jerseyvlle (54). It was the first time the Indians had hoisted the conference crown since 1984. Waterloo (69) placed third.
“I was really pleased with their efforts,” Bradley said of his Highland squad. “On paper, the results don’t tell the story about how close they were to finishing in fourth. They were right there and just got outran at the end of the race.”
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The Bulldogs were paced by junior Jacob Plocher, who collected the lone medal for the Highland boys after coming home in 11th place oiut of 42 harriers with a time of 16 minutes, 56 seconds.
“Jacob Plocher wanted a top-seven finish and he ran exceptionally well to earn that,” Bradley said. “He was in fifth place at the two-mile mark but got swarmed by a pack of chasers right before the finish line. It was a tough finish for him. He went from fifth to 11th in mere moments.”
Also finishing in the top 30 for the Bulldogs were freshman Joe Gallo in 18th place at 17:28 and sophomore Caleb Machuca in 29th place at 18:04.
“Joe Gallo did exactly what he was asked to do,” Bradley said. “He targeted a couple of opponents who have gotten the better of him all season and picked them off near the finish line. He’s been a real bright spot for this team. Caleb Machuca is fighting bronchitis and shin splints and, if feeling his best, he probably challenges for an all-conference spot today but he was really gritty today and battled to the very end.”
Highland has not had a boys team qualify for sectionals since the fall of 2012 and Bradley said his boys certainly won’t be among the favorites to do so when they host the IHSA Class 2A Highland Regional this Saturday at Alhambra Township Park.
“After the way they ran today though, I’m sure that some other teams took notice,” Bradley said. “If they can put together another solid race, they can put themselves in the hunt for the last sectional-qualifying spot.”
Jerseyville junior Ben Flowers won the individual boys’ title .
Mascoutah was led by the second- and third-place finishes of junior Ethan Price (16 minutes, 5 seconds) and senior Daniel Pearson (16:29). Freshman Casmir Cozzi was seventh (16:53) and senior Parker Zurgrugg was eighth (16:53).
Triad’s No. 1 runner was senior Joey Ramsey in 12th place at 16:57.