After following up a sensational cross country season with a solid freshman year in track and field last Spring, Jenna Schwartz of Waterloo was understandably excited as she stepped to the starting line at the Granite City Cross Country Invitational on Saturday.
Reaffirming her position as the top Class 2A runner in the metro east and one of the best in the state, Schwartz got off to a quick start and breezed to a 24 second win as she led the way for the Bulldogs in the first major competition of the year.
An all-state runner when she placed 24th at the Class 2A state finals last November at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Schwartz finished in a time of 18 minutes 10 seconds. Highly touted Edwardsville freshman Abby Korak was a distant second in 18:34 at Wilson Park in Granite City.
“It was the first big meet of the season and I was happy and exited about that. I’ve worked hard to get ready,’’ Schwartz said. “The time 18:10 was good today. My goal was to run three six minutes miles. I came close to doing that.’’
Edwardsville, led by a runner-up finish from Korak, a sixth place finish from sophomore Abby Schrobilgen and two other top 24 finishes, took the team title in the 37 team meet, finishing with 49 points. Southwestern Conference rival O’Fallon was second with 105 points, while Freeburg (124) and Waterloo (190) rounded out the top four teams.
With his young team expected to battle O’Fallon for supremacy in the Southwestern Conference all year, Edwardsville coach George Patrylak liked what he saw from his Tigers.
“It’s all about getting ready for late October and November. It was a good start to the season today, but I think one of the things we accomplished today was that we got O’Fallon mad at us,’’ Patrylak said. “But I was pleased with how we ran today. We didn’t get out to that good of a start but we found each other during the race and packed it together very well.’’
Other metro east area runners placing in the top 10 were Samantha Hengehold of Highland (fifth), Breanna Chandler of Freeburg (seventh), Seleiya Wilson of Belleville East (eighth) and Jaycie Hudson of Edwardsville who was tenth.
Flowers, O’Fallon dominate in boys race
Like Schwartz in the girls race, Jerseyville senior Ben Flowers, also picked up where he left off — in the boys race on Saturday.
A class 2A all-state performer last season, Flowers simply ran away from the field as he covered the 3 mile Wilson Park Course in just over 15 minutes to post a 24 second win over Ben Durr of Chatham-Glenwood.
“I felt good and I just went out fast today and was able to sustain it. It was a great day to run,’’Flowers said. “My goal for the season is to be in the top three at state. I’ve got a big meet next week in Peoria and that will give me an idea of where I stand in relation to some of the other top 2A runners.’’
While Flowers was the individual standout in the boys division, the O’Fallon Panthers returned to the championship circle by using their depth to score 91 points, 35 less than Chatham-Glenwood (126).
St. Louis U. High (142 points), Edwardsville (158) and Freeburg (173) rounded out the top five teams.
Senior Chris Conrad, a standout 800 meter runner in track and field, led O’Fallon by placing seventh while sophomore Kyle Dismukes was tenth. O’Fallon had five runners in the top 32.
“What was the difference today? It was our depth. In a meet with so many top teams and individuals to have five in the top 32 is good,’’ Panthers coach Jon Burnett said. :”Joey (Black) has been our No. 1 runner and today he was our No. 5.
“On any given day, any one of our top seven runners could step up as our No. 1.’’
Freeburg’s top runner — senior Charlie Parrish — was fourth, just ahead of Edwardsville’s Frankie Romano who was fifth. Granite City sophomore Andrew O’Keefe was eighth.