Stronger and faster then ever before, Red Bud junior Keri Burmester is in her big sister Britni's shadows no longer.
Ignoring steamy hot and humid conditions and the absolute brilliance of Effingham St. Anthony sophomore Anna Sophia Keller, Burmester breezed to a second-place finish at the season-opening Metro East Lutheran Cross Country Invitational on Saturday at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.
The reigning Class 1A state champion and regarded as one of the top young distance runners in the Midwest, Keller covered the 5K course in 18 minutes, 4 seconds. That time was 1:32 seconds faster Burmester who finished in 19:36.
Red Bud teammate Deanna Deterding was third in 19:49.
Britni Burmester graduated from Red Bud two years ago and is a former Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A Runner of the Year.
But on Saturday is was Keri Burmester who led the way for local harriers.
"I felt good for most of the race. The heat got to me at about the two-mile mark, but I got my second wind and I was able to finish strong. She (Keller) is just in another league," Burmester said. "(I think) 19:36 is a good time to start the season. My goal is a top 10 finish at the state finals. This is a good start."
It was also a good start for the Freeburg Midgets on Saturday. One of the top Class A programs in the state, the Midgets placed second in the team competition with 101 points. Perennial Class A state title contender Decatur St. Teresa won the meet with 57 points.
Rochester (131), Mater Dei (171) and Carterville (222) rounded out the top five teams in the 33 team field.
Freshman Kayla Whitworth led the way for the Midgets, placing 11th overall in a time of 21:29.
Also claiming top 20 finishes for Freeburg were Ashley Gilmore (15th) and Emily Marler (17th).
The Freeburg girls' second-place finish was just the start of a good day for the Midgets, who also placed second in the boys competition.
"I'm ecstatic. I wasn't sure where we finished in the team competitions. I was hoping we'd be in the top five in both,'' Midgets coach Carl Florczyk said. "We had a couple of freshmen step up in the girls race and we had some of the girl who have been in the program for a couple of years also run great races. It was a great effort by everybody.''
Fourth place Mater Dei was led by Sarah Faust and Amy Krebs who were 26th and 27th respectively.''
Two other local runners Ashley Brenning of Sparta (12th) and (O'Fallon) First Baptist Academy senior Becca Starett (16th) placed in the top 20.
In the boys race, Freeburg got a seventh-place finish from Jonathan Kraus and a 10th-place finish from Alex Mack as the squad placed second with 74 points.
Rochester was the team champion with 59 points, while Freeburg, Salem (95), Mater Dei (179) and Mascoutah (195) rounded out the top five teams.
Luke Goebel (19th place) paced Mater Dei while Mascoutah got a sixth-place finish from Ethan Price and a 15th place effort from Nate Montemayor.
Fairfield senior Corbin Kakac was the individual champion in 16:29. Harrison Thomas of Carterville was second in 16:37.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org