Photo by Theo Tate
Brothers Andrew (left) and Will O’Keefe chat after the boys’ race of the Madison County championship meet on Oct. 6 at SIUE. Will finished first and Andrew placed second at the county meet.
After finishing 1-2 in the boys’ race of the Madison County cross country championship meet on Oct. 6 at SIUE, Granite City brothers Will and Andrew O’Keefe gave themselves a high-five and a hug at the finish line.
“It’s a good feeling because we train together and it’s fun,” Andrew said.
Will, a junior, won the first county championship of his high school cross country career by placing first with a time of 16 minutes, 42 seconds. Andrew, a freshman, was second with a 16:52. The O’Keefe brothers helped the Warriors finish second to Edwardsville in the large-school division of the county meet.
“I’m really proud of those boys,” Granite City coach Richie Skirball said. “They had a terrific race today.”’
Now, the O’Keefe brothers are focused on turning in another strong effort at the Southwestern Conference championship meet Friday at Belleville West. Will is competing in the conference meet for the third time, while Andrew will participate in his first SWC race.
“My main goal is to win conference,” Will said. “That’s what my main focus is on right now.”
Last year, the Warriors finished third in the boys’ race of the conference meet. O’Keefe earned first-team all-league honors after placing sixth with a 15:48. The top 21 finishers in the conference meet earn all-conference honors.
Granite City placed seventh in last year’s SWC girls’ race. Sophomore Alyssa Comer led the Warriors with a 27th-place finish.
So far, the O’Keefe brothers have been the top performers for the Granite City boys’ cross country team. Will and Andrew each have two victories and they also earned medals Sept. 5 at the Granite City Invitational.
Skirball said he wasn’t surprised that the O’Keefe brothers finished 1-2 at the county meet.
“I definitely think it was a possibility to go 1-2 because of their workouts and the way they’ve trained and the way they’ve raced has been excellent,” the Granite City coach said.
Will is in his third season with the Granite City boys’ cross country team. Last year, he competed at the state meet for the first time.
Will began his junior season with a second-place finish at the Granite City Invitational.
He got a win at the Collinsville Invitational on Sept. 16. By winning the Madison County meet, Will became the first Granite City runner in eight years to capture a county championship.
Will credits Skirball for his outstanding junior season.
“Skirball really helps me get my stuff together,” Will said. “He lets me help a little bit on the plan, but it’s mostly his plan and it’s worked so far.”
Will said he’s setting his sights on going back to Peoria on Nov. 7.
“My ultimate goal is getting all-state,” the Granite City junior said. “But I try not to talk myself up too much because it’s going to take some hard workouts and take some good races to get me there.”
Andrew was coming off an outstanding junior high track season at Coolidge Junior High last spring. He earned all-state honors in the 800 and 1,600 at the Illinois Elementary School Association state meet.
Andrew said after a month, he’s enjoying high school cross country.
“It’s a lot more fun than middle school,” the Granite City freshman said. “There’s more competition and more teams and bigger races.”
Andrew turned in a strong debut at the Granite City Invitational, placing 11th with a 16:09. He was the only freshman to earn a medal at the Granite City meet.
Andrew won the Tiger Classic on Sept. 9 at SIUE and the Belleville West Invitational three days later.
“It’s fun getting a win and it always inspires me,” Andrew said.
Will said he’s pleased with the way his younger brother is performing this fall.
“It’s great,” he said. “Coming out every day and knowing that he’s going to work just as hard and even harder than me, it’s a good feeling. It makes our team work harder to know that we have a couple of guys up front working hard and it shows.”
Will said he enjoys working out with Andrew.
“We don’t train together like every day, but usually on Sunday, when I’m going to do my long run, which is about 12 miles, he does about 7 or 8 with me,” Will said. “We do a lot of our easy runs together. In our workouts, our goal paces are different, but we’re always right there helping each other out.”
Will is already excited for the 2016 season. The Warriors have four juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen in their varsity roster.
“Next year, we’re going to have a really great season,” Will said. “We have a lot of guys who are willing to work hard and we’re going to get some stuff done with hopefully me and Andrew still in the front.”