Now a senior and one of the unquestioned leaders of a somewhat inexperienced O’Fallon cross country team, Caitlyn Clinton intends on making every race count during the 2015 season.
On a hot, humid and sweltering Saturday morning, Clinton did just that at the 42nd annual Granite City Cross Country Invitational.
Running stride-for-stride with Hannah Deines, of Villa Duchesne, for much of the three-mile race, Clinton’s championship hopes fell just short as she placed second in the season-opening competition for girls at Wilson Park.
One of the top runners in the St. Louis area, Deines finished in a time of 18 minutes, 36.43 seconds, just ahead of Clinton’s runner-up time of 18:38.5.
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“I almost caught her (Deines),” a smiling Clinton said. “I can’t be disappointed though. I ran a P.R. (personal record) and I felt strong the entire race. I really think the flat course helped me. I like flat courses and this one was fast.
“My goal for the season is to run at the state meet in November. I’ve been in the top 12 on the team the last two years, which means I’ve been at the state meet. But my times haven’t been good enough for me to be able to run. I want to be able to compete this year.’’
And if their second-place finish is indication, the Edwardsville Tigers are also a good bet to make their seemingly annual trip to the Class 3A state finals in Peoria in early November.
Perennial Class 2A state qualifier Chatham-Glenwood had five runners place in the top 20 to finish with 63 points. The Edwardsville (82) harriers nipped O’Fallon (111) for second.
Chatham-Glenwood later made it a clean sweep later when its boys team won the title.
In the girls race, Edwardsville was led by Honor Dimick, who placed eighth (19:27) while freshman Payton Flowers placed 14th (19:36).
Despite the second-place finish, Tigers coach George Patrylak said he wasn’t completely pleased by what he saw from his girls team.
“I thought Honor (Dimick) had a good race and that Payton (Flowers) also ran well today, but overall as a team, we could have done better,” Patrylak said. “We’ve got some things to work on and that’s fine. It’s early. We’ve come here (Granite City) and ran very well before, but when it was time for the state finals in Peoria, we haven’t done as well as we would like. It’s all about getting ready for the state meet and today was the first big test.”
Triad senior Abigail Richter placed third in 18:49, followed by Waterloo freshman Jenna Schwartz (18:55). Sara Beth Wiegman of Highland rounded out the top 5 in 19:19.
Ben Flowers, of Jerseyville, won the boys’ individual championship.
The individual title in the boys division also went down to the wire with Jerseyville’s Flowers outkicking hometown runner Will O’Keefe in the the final mile for the victory.
A returning Class 2A all-state runner, Flowers finished the 3-mile Wilson Park trek in 15:32. O’Keefe was second in 15:36. O’Fallon’s Joey Black rounded out the top three as he finished in 15:46. All three of the runners are talented juniors.
In nearly a dead heat at the two-mile mark, Flowers made his move against O’Keefe then held off the strong late charge from the Warriors’ standout.
“We were right there together for the first two miles when he (Flowers) broke out. It was a good race. I was right where I wanted to be and the time of 15:36 is good for this time of year,” O’Keefe said. “The goal is to keep training hard and improving as the season goes on. I would like to think I can place in the top 25 at state. I know I’ve got to keep training hard to get to that level.”
Chatham-Glenwood won the title with a score of 103, followed by De Smet, of St. Louis, with 117 points and Salem with 170. O’Fallon had the best finish of any metro-east school, by placing fifth with 216 points.
Other local runners in the top 10 were Brian Gichuru, of Belleville West, who came in eighth, and Charlie Parish, of Freeburg, was ninth.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.