EDWARDSVILLE – Will O’Keefe of Granite City added another accomplishment to his growing running resume Saturday.
The talented junior finished first in the boys’ 5K race during the Class 3A Edwardsville Cross Country Regional at SIUE. His winning time was 16 minutes, 25.26 seconds, more than six seconds quicker than runner-up Franky Romano of Edwardsville.
“One of my goals was to win the regional and I was happy about achieving that,” said O’Keefe, also the Southwestern Conference champion. “I wanted to hang in there and get the win.”
Alton coach Vernon Curvey noted, “He is just a strong runner and his foot speed is incredible.”
O'Keefe's brother Andrew, a freshman, finished third in 16:3.7.
“It means a lot that we finished first and third,” Will said. “I thought he definitely ran a better race than I did.”
Alton's Arie Macias, a junior, also ran a quality race. He took seventh in 16:50.56, following an 11th place finish in the SWC race at Belleville West.
“I was happy with what I did,” Macias said. “I’m moving on to the sectional and that’s all that matters.”
The top six teams and five finishers not on those squads advanced to the Normal Sectional, set for Oct. 31 at Maxwell Park. The three-class state finals unfold Nov. 7 at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
“My goal is to get through the sectional and go to state,” Macias said. “I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been running this year and I hope I can run the race of my life next week.”
Jett Durr, Sam Gentelin and Kelvin Cummings of the Redbirds also made it as individual sectional qualifiers. Durr is a senior, Gentelin a junior and Cummings a sophomore. Alton had 143 points overall and was seventh as a team in the eight-school field.
Granite City finished fifth as a team with 107 points and will be sending its entire squad to the sectional. Edwardsville tallied 38 points for team honors, followed by O’Fallon with 70 points. Belleville East (99 points), Belleville West (103) and Quincy (138) also advanced their teams to Normal.
The Tigers logged 24 points for the girls’ team title. O’Fallon (41 points), Belleville East (96), Quincy (104), Belleville West (140) and Collinsville (155) also qualified their teams for the sectional. Granite City had 165 points and Alton had just two finishers, not enough for team scoring.
“As far as team places go, we accomplished our goals with a sweep,” Edwardsville coach George Patrylak said.
Sophomore Brooke Witzel of O’Fallon won the 5K girls’ run in 19:32.72. Senior Rachel Schoenecker of Edwardsville took second in 19:47.54 and freshman teammate Maddie Miller was third in 20:05.24. The Tigers had six runners finish in the top nine places.
Alyssa Comer, a sophomore from Granite City, finished 23rd in 22:11.62 and led the five individual qualifiers. Teammates Kori Nesbit, Alexandra McLaren and Tara Khousana also advanced, as did Alton’s Tayton Kuebli. The Redbirds’ junior came in 36th at 23:42.67.
“I was definitely trying to qualify for the sectional and it’s the highlight of my career,” said Kuebli, who now will take aim on bigger and better things. “I definitely want to go to state.”
Comer is dreaming the same dream.
“I think I ran pretty well today on a tough course. It was one of my better races of the year,” she said. “Getting to the sectional is what I have been shooting for all season and now I’ll try and get through to state.”
Will O’Keefe has more than a goal of getting to Peoria. He wants to show that he’s one of the best runners in the state.
“I’m going to go for the win in the sectional and then try to do my best in the state meet,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to get in the top 25 runners and be All-State.”
Patrylak said that O’Keefe, sometimes overlooked because he’s outside of Chicagoland, shouldn’t be underestimated in the mix of Illinois’ best large-school runners.
“His coach, Richie Skirball, knows what he’s doing and has the experience of working with him,” Patrylak said. “Will is a bigger, stronger guy with speed. He also has a chip on his shoulder — like a lot of runners from our area — and rightfully so.”
Macias pointed out, “He (Will O’Keefe) sets the pace for guys from our conference.”
Class 1A New Athens Regional
Haley Kerpan, a senior form East Alton-Wood River, outdistanced the field and snared first in the girls' race at 19:45. She finished 13 seconds in front of runner-up Kyrston Scifres of Roxana.
"I think that's the first female runner from our school to win a regional title," 26th-year Oilers' coach Russ Colona said of Kerpan. "She's a really competitive runner. Haley was in 11th place at the mile, then she took off and had a good finishing kick."
Kerpan finished second overall and first among small-school competitors earlier this season in the Madison County Meet. Next up is the Metro East Lutheran Sectional on Oct. 31 at the SIUE course.
Scifres' second-place effort enabled the Shells to finish third with 97 points and qualify the team for the sectional. Freshman Michaela Tarpley took 14th in 21:27 and sister Victoria Tarpley was 23rd at 22:01. Shalyn Edwards, 26th in 22:16 and Alexis Stumpf, 32nd in 22:49; also figured in the Shells' scoring.
Marquette Catholic's Natalie Halliday, eighth in 20:35; also qualified individually for the MELHS Sectional.
Breese Mater Dei won the girls' team title with 34 points. Freeburg was runner-up with 46 points and then came Roxana, five points ahead of fourth-place finisher Lebanon.
In the boys' competition, EA-WR wound up third with 117 points and qualified for the sectional. Junior Brenden Springman, seventh in 17:19, led the Oilers. Matthew Shea, 21st in 18:20; Andrew Noack, 28th in 18:57; Chase Wallendorff, 29th in 18:59 and Ryne White, 32nd in 19:07; also boosted EA-WR.
"It's a young group and they really did well," Colona said.
Roxana placed seventh with 181 points and advanced its team to the sectional. James Henseler of the Shells was 17th in 18:02 to lead them. Cree Stumpf, 34th in 19:20; Will Cotter, 37 in 19:35; Dakota Stumpf, 40th in 20:00 and Zach Frey, 52nd in 20:50; complemented Henseler in the Shells' totals.
Freeburg won the boys' run with 22 points and sophomore Charlie Parrish of the Midgets finished first individually in 16:17.
Class 2A Jacksonville Regional
Alexis Singleton and Chol Callies of Civic Memorial advanced individually to the Decatur MacArthur Sectional, slated for Oct. 31.
Singleton, a senior, finished 20th at 19:20 in the girls' race. Callies, a sophomore, placed 28th in 16:30 during the boys' run.
Rochester scored 40 points to edge Chatham Glenwood by four points for the girls' team championship. Freshman Katherine Perry of Rochester won the race in 17:02, Aly Goff of Springfield was second in 17:31. Jersey's Kiara Chapman and Kaleigh Grace advanced to the sectional.
Ben Flowers of Jersey emerged the regional champ in 14:49. The Panthers finished fourth in the team competition and moved on to the sectional. Springfield scored 39 points for the team title. The Senators finished two points ahead of Chatham Glenwood.