It did not go as planned when the Highland High School girls cross country team did not win the team title of the regional it hosted last Saturday at Alhambra Township Park. But the Lady Bulldogs still finished in a solid second place to easily qualify for this Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A Decatur MacArthur Sectional.
Rival Triad earned the regional team championship with a meet-low score of 72, which shaded runner-up Highland (75) by three points.
Also finishing among the top-six teams to advance to the sectional were Mascouth (85), Waterloo (94), Carbondale (100) and Mount Vernon (115). The Decatur MacArthur Sectional will be competed on Saturday at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur.
“It was a tough day for the Bulldogs, we definitely underachieved,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said. “We were at home, we had an incentive and we had a good week of practice. We just didn’t seem all that interested in competing today. The girls can learn from this and make adjustments for next week.
“The girls were simply outworked by Triad today. Triad was aggressive and we were pretty casual and let them win some key battles.”
Junior Sarah Beth Wiegman stepped up for the Lady Bulldogs as she crossed the finish line in eighth place out of 52 competitors with a time of 19 minutes, 33 seconds.
“Sarah Beth Wiegman is one tough kid,” Bradley said. “She puts herself in competition early and then contests every runner that tries to overtake her. She was our leader today and we expected her to be our No. 3 or No. 4. She is a fighter.”
Bradley said he made a critical error today with freshman Kate Marti after she came home in 10th palce at 19:38.
“She was ready to run a race that would’ve put her in the medals but he held her back for the first 1.5 miles,” he said. “It was just too late for her and it didn’t give her the room that she needed to find the medals. It was a big mistake on my part and it probably cost our team the plaque.”
Also posting finishes that counted towards Highland’s final team score were sophomore Breann Wernle (17th place, 20:12), senior Allison Zobrist (19th place, 20:27) and freshman Lily Becker (21st place, 20:46).
“Lily Becker found herself under pressure from Triad’s No. 4 and No. 5 and she did well to hold them off,” Bradley said.
Bradley said his team really missed junior Courtney Hengehold because she would have put two more points on Triad.
“I made the decision on Friday to give her a rest day to get her ready for sectionals next week,” he said. “It’s pretty clear I made some decisions that didn’t help us in the short term today. I’m hoping that they pay dividends a week from now. I’ve got my bag packed already for the state meet in Peoria and I believe in these girls and I have every expectation that they will lay it on the line Saturday in Decatur. They like flat courses, they like cool weather, and they like running in Peoria. That should be a pretty good recipe for success.”
Waterloo freshman Jenna Schwartz easily cruised to the individual title after posting a winning time of 18:15, which was 19 seconds ahead of Triad senior Abigail Richter’s second-place time of 18:34.
Marion junior Shelby Kallem finished third in 18:48.
Also scoring for the Knights were sophomore Maddie Keller (sixth place, 19:21), sophomore Madi Walter (13th place, 19:45), freshman Melissa Kafer (25th place, 21:03) and sophomore Katie Chase (26th place, 21:11).