The Freeburg Midgets worked throughout the ‘15 season to establish themselves as the premier Class 1A boys cross country team in southern Illinois. That fact was was reaffirmed at Detweiller Park in Peoria last November they coach Carl Florczyk’s team placed eighth at the Class 1A State Cross Country Meet.
In 2016, the Midgets are picking up where they left off a year ago.
Showing the form which earned him the honor as the Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A Runner of the Year last season, Midgets senior Charlie Parrish covered the 5K Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville course in 16 minutes 1 second to capture the individual championship and lead Freeburg to the team title at the First to the Finish Cross Country Kickoff Classic on Saturday.
Parrish, who just missed all-state honors a year ago, placed 38 seconds ahead of his closest rival — Josh Cable of Rochester — as he led a Midgets team which had five runners place in the top 22 finishers. Freeburg coasted to the team title with 61 points. Local power Mascoutah was a distant second with 158 points, nipping Mount Zion (162) by four points.
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Mater Dei (216) and Herrin (233) rounded out the top five teams.
The win is expected to be the first of many for Freeburg during the ‘16 season as it chases that elusive top five team finish at the state finals. If Saturday’s performance is any indication, that top five goal could be well within reach.
“I was so proud of all of our runners. We had a great summer of training and practice has been going tremendously. All of that hard work really showed on Saturday,’’ Florczyk said. “I was proud of the efforts, especially with the temperature, humidity, and course conditions. From a team perspective, I couldn't imagine a better start to the season.
“Charlie (Parrish) had a tremendous day, winning by 36 seconds. He ran a tactical first mile and then after a few surges in the second mile, won the race going away in the last mile. He has trained hard this summer, so those miles will serve him well this season. The team did excellent, with Alex Mack also in the top 10 (8th overall). Carson Smith ran strong. Senior Drew Wilkerson ran in his first race in two years, as he was coming off last year's fracture in his foot.’’
Nashville’s Brandon Schnitker placed ninth in the individual competition while Luke Goebel of Mater Dei was 12th and Ethan Price of Mascoutah was 14th. Price was the News-Democrat Class 2A Runner of the Year in 2015.
Chandler, Whitworth shine for Freeburg girls
Freeburg freshman Breanna Chandler ran her first high school cross country race on Saturday. It was an experience she won’t soon forget. Chandler covered the 5K course at SIU-Edwardsville in 21 minutes 20 seconds, placing third in the individual competiton and combining with Kayla Whitworth to help the Midgets claim the team title at the First to the Finish Cross Country Kickoff Classic.
The Midgets, who also received s ninth place finish from Whitworth, finished with 89 points — one less than Cape Girardeau (Mo.) Notre Dame. Effingham St. Anthony, led by three time state champion and one of the top 10 high school cross country runners in the nation in senior Anna Sophia Keller, placed third with 126 points, followed by Mascoutah with 148 and Decatur St Teresa with 169.
Keller finished with a time of just over 18 minutes — a mere 2 minutes 52 seconds — better than her closest rival.
Florczyk was thrilled with the win as Freeburg defeated four premier programs to take the title.
“Breanna had a great race in her high school debut,’’ Florczyk said. “ The girls ran tremendously. We had a great pack with Whitworth, Collier, Mense (another freshman), and Gilmore. Katherine Marler and Jessica Shepherd also did a great job and rounded out the top 7. ‘’
Okawville’s Mallory Unverfehrt was fourth in the individual competition while Mackenzie Dixon of Mascoutah placed fifth. Whitworth placed ninth while Althoff’s Tiffani Siekman was 11th and Mater Dei’s Elyse Faust was 13th.