The longest active streak among metro east area schools of trips to the IHSA State Cross Country Championship will be on the line when the O’Fallon boys team competes with 17 other schools on Saturday at the Class 3A Edwardsville Sectional.
O’Fallon, the most successful program outside of the Chicago area with a pair of second place Class 3A state meet trophies to its credit in the last five years, will compete against the likes of state powers Minooka, Yorkville and regional champion Edwardsville, among others at SIU-Edwardsville in the final of four sectional races which will be on campus on Saturday.
But competing without one of its top runners in sophomore Kyle Dismukes (injury), makes a 14th straight trip to Detweiller Park in Peoria next Saturday, hardly a lock for coach Jon Burnett’s team.
“We are hoping to be in the top five but we never count anyone out,’’ Burnett said. “Losing a runner of Kyle’s caliber hurts. We are fortunate to have depth. Lucas Capistrant and Matt Gilster have been running well and each has made positive contributions to the team.
“But for the second year in a row there are several teams that are similar in ability. Minooka is the defending champions and they have several guys back from last season. Lincoln-Way East has improved greatly over last season. Yorkville was a Class 2A state power that has been bumped up to Class 3A. Edwardsville has improved a lot over the course of this season and is peaking at the right time.’’
Second behind Edwardsville at the Quincy Regional a week ago, O’Fallon will rely heavily on Joey Black, Chris Conrad, and Will VanAlstin when the boys race begins at 2 p.m. at SIU-Edwardsville.
The girls race will be held at 1 p.m. with both Edwardsville and O’Fallon expected to contend. The Class 3A Sectional will be he second of the day at SIU-Edwardsville. The Metro East Lutheran Class 1A Sectional will be held on the same three mile course beginning with the girls race at 10 a.m..
The Class 2A Sectional involving local teams is being hosted by Decatur MacArthur and is being held at Hickory Point Golf Gourse beginning at 2 p.m. All state runners Jenna Schwartz of Waterloo and Ben Flowers of Jerseyville are the top local indiviuals who will compete in Class 2A.
The top five teams and top seven individuals not on those teams at sectional meets around the state will advance to the ‘16 IHSA State Cross Country Meet on Nov. 5 at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
While O’Fallon leads the local contingent into battle today, it was Edwardsville which used its depth to win the Quincy Regional last week.
The Tigers, led by highly successful coach George Patrylak, should be fighting for the title.
“We have the possibility to have multiple runners in the top ten, including Franky (Romano) and Roland Prenzler. The race will come down to how close our pack can be,’’ Patrylak said. “Dan Powell, Jack Pifer, and Max Hartmann have been closing the gap and will probably be the key to the race. We will also need big points from Zach Walters and Todd Baxter. We will be racing with one junior, four sophomores and two freshman on Saturday. If they can deep their nerves and remain confident, this team can make it to State’’
The Tigers girls, although also in a highly competitive field, may have a better chance of adavcing than the boys.
Calling it ‘maybe the fastest team we’ve ever had on the girls side’, Patrylak watched his girls win theregional title last Saturday.
“We are fast but unfortunately we have Minooka and Yorkville (two of the best teams in the state) in our Sectional. We will need to be at our best, as O'Fallon looked stronger last weekend and are poised to keep their state qualifying streak alive. If our ladies run well, they should earn a shot to Peoria next weekend,’’ Patrylak said.
“ Our goal is to get all 5 of our scorers in the top 25. Melissa Spencer, Jaycie Hudson, and Abby Schrobilgen have been interchangeable all season and we look forward to that pack working well together. Maddie Miller has looked the best she has all season and we are encouraged about the possibility of her joining that pack for the entire race. ‘’
O”Fallon has perhaps the top local individual in Brook Witzel but after that coach Neil James will be relying on a young group of runners to get the Panhers through.
“ We ran one of best races of the year last Saturday at the regional. We did hold out Katie Mank who has been consistently in our top 5. Brooke and our freshmen, Kaitlyn Walker, Sophie Wichlac, Madeline McKittrick, and Emma Jordan really are coming on and ran well at Quincy,’’ James said.
“We know that are Minooka and Yorkville are the top teams and then after that four or five teams battling for 3 spots. We will have to run well to advance. We are ready for he challenge and look forward to Saturday.
At the Class 1A Metro East Lutheran Sectional it should be the Freeburg Midgets show. The Freeburg boys team has been ranked No. 1 in the state all season and the girls team has been ranked anywehre from fifth to eighth.