The top-ranked Class 1A boys cross country team in the state according to all three major rating services — Dyestat, Milesplit, and Coach's Polls — the Freeburg Midgets figure to have a huge target on their backs as the ‘16 cross country postseason begins.
Led by seniors Charlie Parrish and Alex Mack, the Midgets have won five major titles this season and recently at the Peoria Woodruff Invitational had five runners crack the 16:05 mark over three miles at the famed Detweiller Park Course.
The Midgets figure to be heavy favorites today at the Class A Freeburg Regional at Smithton Community Park and again next week at the Metro East Lutheran Sectional at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. And while a return trip to Detweiller Park for the ‘16 State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 5 is still two weeks away, Freeburg coach Carl Florczyk is constantly reminding his team what the No., 1 goal should be all about.
“I think the boys have the right mindset right now. I really don't think that they feel any extra pressure because of the ranking. I will say they do have high expectations for themselves and as a team. They have high aspirations,’’ Florczyk said. “But other than that, I don't think they are feeling any extra pressure because of the ranking.
“I just want them to enjoy the journey for the next couple of weeks, starting with a strong race at regionals, then another strong race at Sectionals, and then hopefully onto the state meet! I want them to focus on each step ... One workout at a time, One race at a time. Most of all, I want them to have fun ... this is all supposed to be fun!’’
Drew Wilkerson, Corbin Schwable, Carson Smith, Craig Collier and Blake Hatter round out the Midgets top seven runners who will battle the likes of perennial state power Mater Dei and several others when the boys begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at Smithton Community Park.
The girls race, which features nine time defending Cahokia Conference champion Freeburg, kicks off the day of running beginning at 10 a.m. The top seven teams and top five individuals not on those teams advance to the Metro East Lutheran Sectional on Oct. 29.
Marquette, Althoff, Governor French Academy, Central, Mater Dei, Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran, Columbia, Dupo, Metro-East Lutheran, Freeburg, Father McGivney, Lebanon, New Athens, O'Fallon First Baptist Academy, Roxana, Wesclin and Wood River are also in the field.
Nashville, Gibault, Sparta, Red Bud, Marissa and Valmeyer are competing at the Chester Regional which is being held at the Randolph County Conservation Area beginning at 10:15 a.m.
While the Freeburg boys team is looking to take that first step towards a possible state title, the Midgets girls team also is hoping for a top 10 finish at state in two weeks.
The Midgets have three elite runners in Breanna Chandler, Ashley Gilmore and Kayla Whitworth and four very good runners in Kristen Collier, Katherine Marler, Maddie Mense and Jessica Shepherd.
“The girls are ranked ninth right now in the dyestat and milesplit polls and 4th in the coach's polls,’’ Florczyk said. “We are shooting for a finish somewhere in the top 10, which would be a big improvement from being 16th last year’’
Class 2A and Class 3A Regionals
While Class 1A runners are competing at Smithton and Chester on Saturday, Class 2A runners are at Triad and Class 3A athletes are competing at Quincy.
At Triad, Mississippi Valley Conference powers Mascoutah, Triad and Highland will compete beginning with girls race at 9:45 a.m. East St. Louis, Cahokia and Waterloo are also in the field.
Waterloo features one of the top Class 2A runers in the state in sophomore Jenna Schwartz. The top six teams and top five infividualos from those teams advance to the Decatur MacArthur Sectional on Oct. 29.
The Class 3A Quincy Regional, which is being held at Bob Mays Park beginmning at 11 a.m. will feature perennial state powers O’Fallon and Edwardsville, along with Collinsville, Belleville East, Belleville West, Granite City and Alton. The top six teams and top five individuals not on those teams advance to the Edwardsville Sectional on Oct. 29.