Determined to be one of the elite cross country athletes in the metro-east, Belleville West junior Brian Gichuru ran almost everywhere this summer.
Gichuru ran through parks. He ran up hills and sometimes after lifting weights at the YMCA would run to his home on the west end of Belleville. On Tuesday, Gichuru ran to the Belleville city cross country title — and so did the rest of the Maroons.
Looking for the upper hand after losing to Amani Franklin of Belleville East in a photo finish a year ago, Gichuru took charge at the second mile and never looked back — finishing the hilly Belleville West three-mile course in 16 minutes 19 seconds — in leading the Maroons to the city championship.
Franklin, the 2014 city champion, stayed right with Gichuru through the first mile. But Gichuru made his move entering one of the more hilly parts of the course to open a sizable lead over over the Lancers top runner.
And on this day, Franklin had little response.
“I made my move at the second mile mark, about where I always do. I love running hills and I love running on this (Belleville West) course,” Gichuru said. “I trained really hard this summer and put in more miles (500) than I had ever done before.
“The objective is to keep working and hopefully be at my best when it comes time for the (Southwestern) conference, regional, sectional and then state. The goal is to get to the state finals. That is the main objective.”
Belleville West senior Hunter Cason out sprinted Franklin to the finish in the battle for second, while little known Nate Robben was fourth overall as Belleville West nipped the Lancers 25-30 for the city championship.
Gichuru finished with a time of 16 minutes 19 seconds, while Cason and Franklin both finished in a time of 16 minutes 34 seconds. Robben placed fourth in 17 minutes 18 seconds and Jackson Howell of Belleville East (17:30) rounded out the top five runners in the boys race.
Gichuru’s win gave West a sweep of the individual championships as West senior Sarah Dintelmann ran a personal best time of 19 minutes 35 seconds to win the girls championship. Belleville East, with four runners in the top seven, took the girls championship, nipping Belleville West 27-44. Althoff finished third with 53 points.
The victory by Gichuru brought a smile to the face of coach Patton Segraves, who reminded his junior standout what happened last year.
“We made sure Brian (Gichuru) remembered last year when Franklin got him at the wire,” Segraves said. “Brian is just so much stronger this year. He has put in a lot of time over the summer and now he is seeing the benefits from that hard work. He ran a great race.
“Hunter (Cason) ran a great race but I thought one of the big differences was that Nate (Robben) got fourth place for us. That was huge.”
Nick Ernst was eighth for Belleville West, while Isreal Renteria rounded out the Maroons top five runners with a tenth-place finish.
In the girls race, Belleville East received top five finishes from Sara Gompers (second), Haley Inyart (fourth) and Alexandra Mueller (fifth) as it broke a four year victory drought in the girls competition.
But the individual title went to Dintelmann who broke the race open early in the second mile and finished the three mile event in 19 minutes 35 seconds, well ahead of Gompers (20:04) and Sarozjani Hunter of Governor French Academy (20:27). Inyart was the only other runner to finish the race in under 21 minutes — finishing in 20:53.
But after finishing in the top 10 in the last couple of Belleville City championships, Dintelmann ran a personal best time on her home course as she became the top high school cross country runner in Belleville for the next year.
“I had been close a couple of times, but I was never quite able to get it (the city title). This is one that I’ve wanted to win very much. Today I felt strong and when I got the second mile and going up the hill I made my move. I love running hills. We have a hill where I live and I practice on it all the time. It paid off today.”
Alexandra Mueller of Belleville East rounded out the top five runners, finishing in 21:28. Amanda Kaltwasser of Althoff and Sydney Hartung of Belleville East rounded out the top seven runners.
Belleville East coach Bryan Mitchell said he knew his team had a chance to win coming into the meet.
“We’ve got several seniors on this team who have worked very hard the last four years and so to be able to win a city title as seniors, I know it means a great deal to them,” Mitchell said. “They came out today and ran well as a pack. We knew we could do this if we ran like we could and today we did.”