After a hard week of training, Granite City junior Will O’Keefe didn’t want to push too hard Saturday at the Class 3A Edwardsville Regional cross country meet.
And on a cool and windy fall morning on the challenging 5K course at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, nobody pushed O’Keefe either.
The dominant Class 3A harrier in Southern Illinois, O’Keefe jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back as he posted a six-second win over Franky Romano, of Edwardsville, in the boys division.
The win is the second in 10 days for O’Keefe who also won the Southwestern Conference title at Belleville West. But with the Normal Sectional next week and hopefully a trip to the Claass 3A state finals in Peoria in two weeks, O’Keefe was just happy with his performance
“To win conference and now the regional is a great feeling. It was one of my goals this year,” O’Keefe said. “We worked hard in practice this week and so I didn’t really push it that hard today. We weren’t rreally looking at any certain time today. It’s all about getting ready for sectional and then if I qualify, running the best I can at state in a couple weeks.”
O’Keefe finished the course in 16 minutes, 25.2 seconds, a full six seconds better then Romano (16:31.7) and eight seconds better than younger brother Andrew O’Keefe (16:33.7). Belleville city and St. Clair County champion Brian Gichuru of Belleville West (16:34.9) and Edwardsville freshman Dan Powell (16.44) rounded out the top five placewinners.
Edwardsville also got a sixth-place finish from Roland Prenzler and an eighth-place performance from Max Hartmann — both freshmen — as they romped to a 32-point win over O’Fallon. Belleville East, led by Amani Franklin’s 12th-place finish, was third as a team with 99 points, while Belleville West (103), Granite City (107) and Quincy (138) also advanced to the Normal Sectional at Maswell Park on Saturday.
O’Fallon’s top harrier was Joshua Kolb who was ninth overall.
Coupled with the Tigers’ 17-point win over O’Fallon (24-41) in the girls race, the boys’ victory gave Edwardsville a seeep of the regional competition.
“I’m very pleased. The goal in the boys division was to try and split up the O’Keefe brothers and Gichuru and Franky (Romano) did that. I thought our girls team ran well together,” Tigers coach George Patrylak said.
“But I know the scores today are not reflective on how close the two teams (O’Fallon and Edwardsville) are because the O’Fallon girls didn’t run Caitlyn (Clinton) today O’Fallon (boys) coach Jon Burnett uses this meet as a way to focus on his 5-7 runners. I don’t think he ran any of his top four or five boys today.”
In the girls race, O’Fallon sophomore Brooke Witzel took the lead at the mile mark and stretched it out the rest of the way as she finished with a time of 19:32, a full 15 seconds better then Rachel Schoenecker of Edwardsville, who finished in 19:47
“Actually, it was a little past the mile mark when I took the lead. I like this course. It’s a tough course and while I haven’t run here a lot, I do remember running here when I was in junior high,” Witzel said. “The time was good today and I felt strong. The goal is to help the team get to state.’’
Edwardsville freshman Maddie Miller placed third in 20:05, while a third Tigers runner, Colleen Corkery, was fourth in 20:10.
O’Fallon’s Hannah Nabb and Belleville West senior Sarah Dintelmann rounded out the top six runners.
Belleville East, led by an 11th-place finish from Sarah Gompers, was third in the team race with 96 points. Quincy (104), Belleville West (140) and Collinsvile (155) also advanced on to the sectional.