With his Highland girls cross country team underachieving just a bit, Bulldogs coach Doug Bradley responded with a pep talk earlier this week.
Freshman Kate Marti covered the 3-mile Triad High School course in just over 20 minutes to place fifth while four teammates finished in the top 22 as the Bulldogs eased past three Mississippi Valley Conference schools Wednesday to win the Triad Cross Country Invitational.
“We have a lot of talented runners on this team and I just felt like we hadn’t been running up to our potential. So I got on them a little bit,’’ Bradley said. “Today, I thought we ran better. I would like to have our pack time down around a minute and I think it was a little more than that today. But I was pleased. We ran well and we won the meet. It was a good day.’’
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Junior Sarah Beth Wiegman placed second for Highland and seventh overall, while Breann Wernle (ninth), Allison Zobrist (13th) and Courtney Hengehold (22nd) rounded out the Bulldogs’ attack.
Highland finished with 56 points, 28 fewer than runner-up Triad (84 points). Two other MVC schools — Mascoutah (108) and Waterloo (127) –– placed third and fourth, respectively, while Mater Dei (132) rounded out the top five schools.
Triad was led by senior Abigail Richter and sophomore Maddie Keller.
Bidding for her fifth win of the season, Richter’s late kick came up just short as she placed second behind champion Shelby Kallum of Marion. Richter finished with a time of 19:12.2. Kallum’s winning time was 19:11.1.
Keller was fourth in 19:45.57, well behind Waterloo’s outstanding freshman Jenna Schwartz, who placed third in 19:17.
Mascoutah’s top individual was MacKenzie Dixon, who was 14th in 20:40.
While Dixon led the Mascoutah girls to a fourth-place finish, it was senior Daniel Pearson and junior Ethan Price who led a sparkling effort for the Indians boys, who placed second behind Carbondale.
In the midst of one of their finest seasons in recent memory, the Terriers were led by individual champion Atlantis Green who finished the challenging course in 16:14, 12 seconds better than Brian Gichuru of Belleville West (16:27).
Micah Cherry was fifth for team champion Carbondale, which finished with 76 points, 14 fewer than Mascoutah (90).
But for first-year Mascoutah coach Darren Lathem, the efforts turned in by both his boys and girls teams were signs that the Indians are improving as the season goes on.
With the Class 2A regionals approaching, Mascoutah appears to be on pace toward a long post season run.
“I hope so,’’ Latham said about the Indians progress. “These are all great kids and I’m a lot of fun working with them.
“(Former head) Coach (Pat) Cook is still here and helping me out as my assistant, but overall the transition period has gone well. The kids are adjusting to my style of coaching very well and like I said, they’ve been great to work with.’’
Pearson was third behind Gichuru in 16:37.6. Price was eighth overall in 17:14.
Gichuru led the way for Belleville West with his second-place finish. Teammates Hunter Cason (11th) and Nate Robben (19th) also had solid effort for the Maroons, which placed third with 96. Marion (125) and East St. Louis (144) rounded out the top five teams.
Gichuru, the Belleville city champion, may not have won the title Wednesday, but he made some new friends and fans at Triad High School. After finishing the race and catching his breath, Gichuru stood at the finish line and shook the hand of all 159 runners.
“We’re all part of a team, but in reality we’re all out there competing as individuals. This is a tough sport,’’ Gichuru said. “I just wanted to congratulate all the runners and let them know that their day will come.’’