EDWARDSVILLE — Liz (Speicher) Parks pledged that she would compete in the 21st annual Mud Mountain 5K Classic on Saturday at SIUE.
And the 2008 Edwardsville High graduate did more than just run the race. She won her group.
Parks, 26, was the first female across the finish line. She turned in a time of 19 minutes, 56.02 seconds, or 54th overall. Parks shaded another EHS grad Allie Sweatt, second among females and 60th overall in 20:11.01. Sweatt runs for the SIUE Cougars.
“I hadn’t run in this race for five years, or since I was in college,” said Parks, a Southeast Missouri State graduate. “But I decided to do it this year because this is where it all started for me and I wanted to run at home.”
She quipped, “Edwardsville does that to you.”
Steve Schroeder also calls it home now. The Glen Carbon resident, a graduate of Monticello High School, finished first overall in 15:48.56. Ben Scamihorn, 20, took second in 16:20.60 while Luke Padesky, 23, of Edwardsville placed third in 16:23.05. Edwardsville High grads Brydon Groves-Scott, 20, and Wes Schoenthal, 20, were fourth and fifth, respectively, in 16:36.46 and 16:39.66.
“It was fun and good to do something different,” said Schroeder, a recent graduate of the Naval Academy and a U.S. Navy pilot. “It’s the first time I’ve run in this race and a little out of my comfort zone, but I have family in the area so I wanted to do it.
“The course was tougher than I expected.”
Groves-Scott, a runner at Alabama-Huntsville, said he thoroughly enjoyed the competition.
“It was awesome and really great to be back here,” he said. “It’s a tough course, but a little different from when I ran it in high school. The best thing was being able to see my old teammates. The atmosphere was great and it was like old times.”
Granite City High standout Will O’Keefe, 11th in 16:57.95, figured the race was a prime way to get ready for the prep season that starts next month. Younger brother Andrew O’Keefe, a sophomore at Granite City, was 12th in 17:01.01.
“I wanted to come out here, have some fun and stay relaxed,” said Will, a senior. “In high school races, you do your best to win, but this race is more about having fun in the summer and staying fresh. It’s not super serious.”
Parks made it fun with her first-place effort. She’s bracing for the fall and teaching third-grade students at Albert Cassens School in Glen Carbon.
“I was a little nervous at first and the second mile was new for me,” she said of the course. “I had a lot of fun, though.”
Sweatt and Parks battled most of the race and made it a torrid finish.
“Allie and I pushed each other and she ran an awesome race,” said Parks, intent to return in 2017 and defend her title.
Race director George Patrylak, the cross country coach at Edwardsville High, marveled at Parks’ performance.
“I think she’s a better runner now because she’s in the best shape she has been in her life,” Patrylak said. “I’m amazed by what she does and Liz is one of those competitors who is a great person for other girls to talk to about running.”
Patrylak said the Mud Mountain race continues to grow and draw runners from all areas and age groups.
“Today, we probably had the best turnout we have had in four of five years,” Patrylak said Saturday. “We had more than 400 competitors, plus 20-to-25 in the Fun Run.”
He added, “It was a record-breaking year for us in the number of sponsors and the funds raised. We raised more than $10,000. The volunteers are also the key to the success of this event. Without them, we couldn’t do it.”
The Mud Mountain Classic is the major fund-raiser for the EXCTF Booster Club, which serves nearly 1,000 athletes in track and cross country.