Festus boys and Nerinx Hall girls edge partial #1 Lafayette squads
The 2015 Missouri high school cross country season kicked off Tuesday, August 25 with the Fleet Feet Cross Country Classic at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Mo. The meet was the first of three straight that Fleet Feet St. Louis hosts every year to kick off the season. The meet at Parkway Central featured several of the best programs in the state, including the defending boys and girls state champions from Class 3 and Class 4. Despite that, it felt like a low-key affair. The atmosphere wasn’t full of pressure and athletes didn’t show signs of being stressed out. There were no big statements to be made by any team or individual in the two-mile races. This wasn’t a high stakes competition with a lot on the line, just a season opener to get one’s feet wet and then enjoy the free popsicles.
After the junior varsity races were over the varsity boys race kicked off. The meet featured two schools whose 2014 seasons were historic. The 2014 Lafayette boys squad was one of, if not the best ever in Missouri history, while the Festus boys squad was likely an all-time top-10 team and one of the top few Class 3 teams ever. Lafayette put four runners in the top 10 in the Class 4 race at the state meet last fall, totaling just 41 points, while Festus put four in the top nine, and six in the top 20 of the Class 3 race, scoring just 24 points. Lafayette return their top five from state, and graduated just one of their top-seven. Festus lost their number 1-2-4 runners to graduation.
Lafayette sat out three of their current top-seven at the Cross Country Classic, but still ran three of their all-staters, while Festus ran their reloaded top-seven.
About 150 meters in, Parkway Central junior Charlie McIntyre was in the lead just ahead of Festus’s Jacob Schweiss, and the Lafayette All-Staters: Alec Haines, Dylan Quisenberry and Austin Hindman. After a 180-meter uphill the course flattened out and near the top was the mile mark. There it was Haines with a quarter-step lead on McIntyre, with Hindman a stride back. The trio had a 20-meter lead on Quisenberry, Schweiss and Festus senior Hunter Darnell. After that, the team battle was on with two Festus runners sandwiching a Lafayette runner.
A mile later junior Austin Hindman strode down the homestretch and into the finish chute in first, clocking in at 10:05. Haines made it a 1-2 finish for Lafayette as he posted a 10:09. McIntrye held on for third in 10: 18, while Quisenberry beat a string of three Festus Tigers to the finish, clocking a 10:34. Festus’ Hunter Darnell, Noah Hunter and Jacob Schweiss went 5-6-7, while Lafayette senior Ryan Rigabar was eighth. De Smet’s Joe Reed and Webster Groves’ Lucas Bennett rounded out the top ten.
Festus took the team title with 45 points while Lafayette was second with 61 points. De Smet captured the final team trophy in third with 85 points, while Webster Groves totaled 113 for fourth. Fifteen schools were represented and 13 posted 5-person team scores.
The winning performance by Festus was impressive, especially after losing so much talent to graduation. Despite the losses, Coach Bryant Wright has appeared to simply reload with the many young men in Festus who have bought into the team and training commitment he asks.
After the race, the Lafayette trio of Hindman, Haines, and Quisenberry explained they weren’t concerned about the team results of the race, that they were happy with their results and had their sights on bigger meets later on in the season. Quisenberry said, “Our coach treated this as our tempo run for the week. We just did 3 miles afterword. We treated this as a workout. It was a good day.” Haines added, “It was fun.”
The group talked about their plans for another state title and qualifying for Nike Cross Nationals after their 4th-place finish at Nike Midwest Regionals last year. Haines said, “We want to make it to NXN, that’s a big goal of ours. Of course (we want) to win state again and maybe even put five guys in the top 10.” Hindman added, “I think that one of our main goals for sure is NXN, and then State of course, and just improving all of our runners, trying to get those PRs (personal records) down. We’re doing a couple of really fast races like Chili Pepper…” Quisenberry added, “It’s going to be a real exciting year. I know our coaches have high hopes for us.”
The trio said it was nice to be ranked sixth nationally by Milesplit.com, but it wasn’t really important and that Coach Sean O’Connor made that clear to them. Quisenberry said “I definitely say that’s pretty awesome (being ranked nationally), but most certainly the first thing our coach tells us is, “’don’t care about that, don’t worry about that.”‘ None of us would let that go to our heads, but (it’s) obviously something (special), when such an awesome ranking comes out like that for us, and we weren’t entirely expecting it. We didn’t know where we were going to land. So we just had to keep the right head about it, and be like ‘yeah that’s awesome, and just use that as motivation to do even better than sixth place (potentially at Nike Cross Nationals).”
So has the group talked about what it would be like to make it to Nike Cross Nationals and join the 2006 Potosi boys squad (8th place) as the only Missouri team that’s qualified and competed in Portland? Yes, yes they have and they want more than just to make it. Quisenberry responded, “I’ll definitely say it cause I don’t think anyone else will, I think we want to go to NXN and place and actually do something. We don’t want to just make it there and call it a day, we want to make it there and do something.” He added, “I’m definitely confident in this team that we can not only make it there, but do something with it, and still keep a level head.”
On the girls side, the top two 2014 Class 4 finishers faced off. Nerinx Hall lost their best runner of the last four years and one of the best in the Midwest to graduation in Sophia Racette. Racette has moved on to USC for her college career and the defending state champions also lost their fifth finisher at state to graduation. The Markers are led by junior Erin Smith and sophomore Sloane Montgomery, who took 23rd and 26th at state last fall for Coach Gaylord Quigley.
For Lafayette, the 2014 Class 4 runners-up to Nerinx, the Lancers return their 1-2 punch of stars Anna West and Sarah Nicholson. West has become one of the best in the Midwest. West was fifth at state in 2014 and then she took 10th at Nike Cross Midwest regionals last fall before posting blazing times in the spring with a 4:52 full mile and a 10:37 3200 as well as winning the Class 5 3200-meter title.
Like the Lafayette boys, Scott Brandon’s Lafayette girls ran without a few of their top seven, more specifically their 1-2 punch of West and Nicholson. The duo got the day off from racing, but were on hand to cheer on their team.
At 150-meters, Nerinxs’ Smith had a two-step lead on Incarnate Words’ Brooke Fredrickson and teammate Montgomery. At the mile, Smith led with Montgomery just off her shoulder. Eureka’s Adyson Delaney was five meters back and got some encouragement from Coach Kally Fischer, who has spent a lot of time over the previous four years cheering on superstar Hannah Long to astonishing and historic performances. Long was on hand to cheer on her former teammates before leaving for Stanford University. Five-meters back of Delaney was Wentzville Holts’ Emily Griesenauer and Lafayettes’ Julia Romero, while Villa Duchesnes’ Hannah Deines was two strides back of them.
The finish stretch saw Montgomery and Griesenauer closing in on Smith, but a second later Smith appeared to hit a dip in the ground and took a spill. Montgomery took advantage and sprinted to the victory in 12:25, ahead of Grisenauer, who was less than a second back in 12:26. Smith recovered to take third in 12:28. Romero was fourth and Deines fifth. Nerinxs’ Emma McAtee was sixth, Webster Groves’ Emma Harrelson seventh, Lafayette’s’ Grace Breiten eighth, Eureka’s Delaney ninth and Lafayette’s Mollie Rogan and Katherine Wuesthof 10th and 11th. Runner-up Griesenaur’s twin sister Nicole was 12th for Holt.
Nerinx Halls’ three in the top six lead the Markers to victory. Their fourth runner was 16th and their fifth was sophomore Bella Racette, sister of Sophia, who finished 20th. Nerinx totaled 46 points to edge Lafayette by two. Lafayette put five in the top 15, and when you add West and Nicholson to the squad, the Lady Lancers will be hard to beat. Ryan Banta’s Parkway Central girls were third with 113 points while Wentzville Holt was fourth with 130 points. Sixteen schools posted scores in the race.
Afterwards, Smith and Montgomery talked about the race as well as the season ahead. About the competition just completed, Smith said “I was leading probably the last half-mile” while Montgomery jumped in “‘You led pretty much the whole race.”‘ Smith added, “It was back and forth the whole race. I felt people coming up on me; I was trying to kick, and just lost my legs.”
Smith continued, “The two of us have been training together all summer, along with the rest of our team, so it was a goal of ours to run together and just have fun with it. Even though I was hoping to win, at least when I fell, I had a teammate coming in right behind me.” Montgomery commented on season goals: “We’ve definitely been training hard. We’re working on making the podium at state again, and just all of our races are hopefully going to be leading up to that…”
Smith talked about what it’s like not having Sophia Racette around anymore. “Sophia is awesome, she is definitely a big loss, we’ll miss her, but we also have two great seniors who are captains leading us this year. We’ve just been spending a lot of time training together. Mostly the two of us lead by example, not being seniors, but together as a team, everyone is pulling their weight so far.”
So what is it like working with such a successful coach in Coach Quigley? “He makes sure we have fun. We never take things too seriously. We always have a contest back and forth, pranks going, we just have a lot of fun,” Smith said. In addition, what’s it like having Coach’s daughter Colleen be an alum and such a successful college and now professional runner? “She makes sure before state, both my freshman year and sophomore year and before track, to make videos and calls us and I’ve gotten a chance to run with her. She knows every time I get around her I get so nervous and excited. She is doing awesome and it’s so cool. She’s going to be home in a few weeks to run with us, so that will be awesome,” Smith said.
The Lancers may not have won but all signs point to a great season ahead. They got a big boost to their state championship hopes with the return of Grace Breiten, who was eighth in the race. Breiten was an all-stater with a 22nd place finish in 2013, before skipping the 2014 season to focus on soccer. Her return has improved the Lafayette squad and added reasoning for their #1 state ranking by MoMilesplit.com.
Battle of third-year programs: Wilmes’ Battle Spartans versus Glavin’s Liberty Eagles
Liberty (Wentzville School District) and Battle (Columbia School District) high schools are in their third year of existence and have strong leadership from cross country and track head coaches Toby Glavin and Rebecca Wilmes. On the girls’ side at Parkway Central, Glavin’s Liberty squad got the best of Battle, taking ninth while Battle was 14th. On the boys side Wilmes’ Battle Spartans edged the Liberty Eagles by one place, 11th to 12th.
Battle is Columbia School District’s third large public high school. They opened with three classes, freshman, sophomores, and juniors, many of which were transfers from Hickman, and possibly some from Rock Bridge. That gave Battle four classes and a senior class last year. Liberty is the Wentzville School District’s third large high school to go along with Holt and Timberland High School. Liberty is located in Lake St. Louis. It opened with just one single class, freshman, and have added one class each year, giving them a first senior class next year.
Glavin was a part of three cross county state trophy teams including a state title while running at Jefferson City High School in the late 1990’s, before competing in college at the University of Missouri-Rolla, and Southwest Missouri State University (SMS). He has previously coached at Greenwood Academy (Springfield) and Jefferson City High School before getting hired as the head cross country and track coach by former Francis Howell and Lindenwood University runner and coach Cary Eldredge, the athletic director at Liberty. Glavin is married to Laura Glavin (Schafluetzel), a standout distance runner at Ritenour High School and SMS.
Wilmes won a state cross country title as Rebecca Davis while running for her father Ray at Parkway West High School in the early 1990’s before an outstanding college career for Jeff Pigg at the University of Missouri where she earned All-American honors and was a standout in the 800 and 1500-meters. Wilmes qualified and competed in the 1500 at the 2000 USA Olympic Team Trials while competing post-collegiately. Wilmes went on to coach at Mizzou after graduation and was there until the 2012-2013. Wilmes is married to fellow middle-distance Mizzou All-American Jared, who also coached at Mizzou, until around 2011. Wilmes led a group of four Missouri native women to the 2001 NCAA Distance Medley national title at the Indoor National Championships.
Glavin competed for two Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame members in Jim Marshall and Dennis Licklider while at Jefferson City High School, while Wilmes did the same, running for her father Ray at Parkway West and Coach Rick McGuire at The University of Missouri.