Highland High School freshman Samantha Hengehold impressed for the second consecutive week after prevailing on a muddy course to earn the eighth-place medal out of 157 competitors at the Edwardsville Cross Country Invitational Saturday at Edwardsville High School.
Hengehold clocked a time of 20 minutes, 32 seconds over the treacherously sloppy 3.1-mile course.
“Last week’s mud was treacherous around turns,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said. “This week’s mud was treacherous at the bottom, middle and top of hills. It was half-inch long spike mud. If they made longer spikes, we probably would’ve put them in. I was really impressed once again with Samantha Hengehold. Her natural instincts as a cross country racer are unique.
“I see her making some smart decisions each step of the way. We have to work on her endurance some but it’ll come with experience.”
Hengehold admitted that she was a bit intimidated by the Edwardsville course because all of the hills, especially with the muddy conditions.
“I haven’t ran a course yet with hills like that,” she said. “It didn’t affect my aggression against the competition though.”
Due in large part to Hengehold’s awesome performance, the Lady Bulldogs finished in seventh place out of the 18 competing teams.
Edwardsville finished with a team score of 31 points, which edged runner-up Nerinx Hall (32) by a single point.
Rounding out the top five were Mascoutah (116), Litchfield (127) and Carbondale (180).
Brittney Nigh was Highland’s next best finisher as she came in 46th place with a time of 23:04.
“The girls team is still struggling to close that gap between Sam and our next runners,” Bradley said. “Waterloo, Triad and Mascoutah have all demonstrated that they can put seven girls in that gap. I believe we can flip the script and get that gap closed but it requires more confidence and risk-taking than we’ve shown so far. I’m optimistic that the Triad (Sept. 28) meet is exactly the place for us to address these issues successfully.”
The freshman/sophomore team competed well after placing fourth out of eight squads. Leading the way were Lexy Gilliam, Lily Becker, Mackenzie Nigh and Sarah Kampwerth, who all four earned medals.
Gilliam took eighth out of 90 at 23:28. Becker finished 13th at 24:16. Nigh came in 14th at 24:28 and Kampwerth was 19th at 24:58.
“We were hoping for six medals but were happy to come away with four,” Bradley said. “Lexy Gilliam led the way in her best race of the season. Lily Becker, Mackenzie Nigh and Sarah Kampwerth picked up the other medals. Our sophomore class is pretty strong and we have high hopes for them.”
Highland travels to the Springfield Invitational this Saturday at Lincoln Park.