The Highland High School girls cross country team’s mantra all season has been ‘take care of business.’ The Lady Bulldogs did exactly that when they won the Mississippi Valley Conference championship last Thursday at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.
“Today the girls took care of business,” Highland coach Doug Bradley said after the meet. “They didn’t have the monster race that I thought they were capable of on this course but they took care of business and accomplished the first goal that they put on their list back in August: winning the MVC title. Triad gave us all we could handle. They ran very well and put some pressure on us but the girls held their places and kept the upset from happening.”
Highland placed all five of its scorers in the top 13 and six Lady Bulldogs garnered medals for placing in the top 15 of the 39-runner field.
The Lady Bulldogs finished with a meet-low team score of 42, which nipped runner-up Triad (47) by five points.
Mascoutah finished third at 67, Waterloo placed fourth at 70, Jerseyville was fifth at 153 and Civic Memorial rounded out the field at 160.
Highland senior Allison Zobrist returned to the team’s number one position for the first time since the 2013 state meet when she finished sixth in Class 2A. She missed last season due to injury.
Zobrist crossed the finish line in fourth place with a solid time of 19:01.
“She did it by running smart early and keeping focused,” Bradley said. “. I thought, for the first time all season, she never lost her form. It was a great performance and a real confidence booster.”
Count Zobrist as also happy with her and the team’s performance.
“I’m am so happy that we could win conference my senior year and also that I could dig deep and race like the old me,” she said. “The feeling was truly amazing when I crossed the line in fourth place, especially after having a lot of poor races earlier in the season. Our team came together on a day that was really important for us and we edged Triad by five points. I’m hoping that we can do the same this Saturday at regionals and also the following Saturday at sectionals. Being able to handle the pressure in the postseason is a big deal and I think that we proved we are ready to compete against the other big schools in the state. Our goal is definitely to win regionals and also to qualify from sectionals.”
Highland hosts the IHSA Class 2A Highland Regional this Saturday at Alhambra Township Park. The girls’ race will kick things off at 10 a.m. and the boys’ race will follow at 11 a.m. The top six teams will advance to the following Saturday’s Decatur MacArthur Sectional, which will be held at Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur.
At the MVC meet, Highland junior Sarah Beth Wiegman finished only one position and just six seconds behind Zobrist in fifth place at 19:07. Wiegman left immediately following the race to compete for the HHS volleyball team at Mater Dei.
“Sarah Beth Wiegman really battled for the team today,” Bradley said. “She felt tired and had no life in her legs. Given the fact that she was fighting it, finishing fifth in this strong field is quite an accomplishment.”
HHS freshman Katelyn Marti also picked up a top-10 medal after coming in eighth place at 19:23.
“Kate Marti ran with some heart today too,” Bradley said. “She’s been sick all week. She’s been strong all season and is definitely a first-team all-conference runner when’s she feeling well.”
Also earning medals for placing in the top 15 for the Lady Bulldogs were sophomore Breann Wernle (12th place, 19:54), freshman Lily Becker (13th place, 20:01) and junior Courtney Hengehold (15th place, 20:37).
Triad senior Abigail Richter continued her fantastic season by winning the individual title. Waterloo freshman Jenna Schwartz led for all but the final 100 meters, when Richter sprinted ahead to snatch the win. Richter finished in 18:14, with Schwartz forced to settle for second at 18:18.
“This course is tough,” Richter said. “It’s hilly. I was behind the whole race until, like, the finish. I guess I had a little (kick) left, but this one was hard. She (Schwartz) always makes it tough. She has been tough in every race I’ve seen her.”
Richter, who also immediately left for a volleyball match, helped Triad earn two of the top three finishing positions and put three in the top 10, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the depth of Highland.
Sophomore Maddie Keller took third for the Knights in 18:54 and sophomore Madi Walter finished 10th in 19:43.