Highland High School senior Jacob Plocher set the pace for the boys cross country team after picking up the varsity’s only medal with a strong 16th-place finish out of 237 runners at the Edwardsville Cross Country Invitational on Saturday at Edwardsville High School.
Plocher posted a time of 17 minutes, 36 seconds despite again battling muddy course conditions.
“Last week’s mud (in Peoria) was treacherous around turns while this week’s mud was treacherous at the bottom, middle, and top of hills,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said. “It was half-inch long spike mud. If they made longer spikes, we probably would’ve put them in.
“Jacob Plocher earned his medal this week. He was dinged up most of the week and I was quite nervous about what the terrain might do to his injuries. He ran and competed well given the conditions.”
Plocher said he was glad to get a medal but he didn’t run as well as he had hoped.
“I had bigger goals today that I didn’t accomplish so I’m disappointed,” he said.
Junior Gabe Sherrill had another strong race after coming in 36th place at 18:28.
“He was not far off the medals (top 25) in a pretty strong field and continues to grow as a runner,” Bradley said. “It was only his third race and he seems to be figuring things out pretty quickly.”
As a team, the Bulldogs finished 15th out of the 24 competing squads.
Edwardsville dominated with 51 points.
Hillsboro, Mo. was a distant runner-up with 100 points.
Rounding out the top five were Mascoutah (174), Alton (189) and Champaign Centennial (198).
Picking up medals in the freshman/sophomore race were freshmen Brylee Portell and Nick Hanratty. Portell crossed the finish line in 12th place at 19:13 and Hanratty came home in 23rd place at 20:05.
“Brylee had a very quick start on a course that gets real tough in the second mile,” Bradley said. “I thought he raced really well. It would’ve been easy to back off in the middle of the race but he kept fighting for that top 10 finish. Nick did a terrific job of holding off challengers for the last few medals. These two boys have us pretty excited. They will continue to get better with more experience.”
Bradley said he is happy the boys are making progress this season.
“We’ve seen some good things out of them in practices and meets,” he said. “The newcomers to the program — Sherrill, Portell and Hanratty — have been impactful. The next step is to get greater contributions out of our veteran junior class. They are a group that has to raise the level of their performance for us to claw out of the basement of the MVC.”
Highland travels to the Springfield Invitational this Saturday at Lincoln Park.