EDWARDSVILLE — After a month, Granite City cross country coach Richie Skirball is pleased with the way brothers Will and Andrew O’Keefe have been performing.
“Will is so meticulous and he has a plan in place,” Skirball said. “Andrew is coming in right there and running almost effortlessly.”
Will and Andrew finished 1-2 in the boys race of the Madison County championship meet on Tuesday at SIUE. Will, a junior, placed first in 16 minutes, 42 seconds and Andrew, a freshman, finished second in 16:52.
“It means a lot to us because we knew that if we ran good, we would go 1-2,” Will said. “We were pretty confident about that. We didn’t count anybody out. We talked about the competition on who’s going to be running. But we were pretty confident that we could do it and we executed well.”
Will became the first Granite City runner since Aaron Werths in 2007 to win the county championship. Ironically, Werths, who is now the Warriors’ assistant coach, won the county title in his junior year at the SIUE course.
“It’s always nice to come out and get a win,” Will said. “It’s really a confidence booster knowing that I can run up front and I can run by myself. That’s always a good feeling. Hopefully, it helps me mentally to go into the big races to know that I can run up front.”
Andrew said he was pleased with his second-place finish in his first county meet.
“I like to run with Will in front of me,” the freshman said. “It really made my time a lot faster.”
A year ago, Will placed eighth at the county meet in Collinsville. On Tuesday, the junior took over first place after the second mile.
“In the second mile, Will just kind of took off and I was with an Edwardsville kid (Franky Romano) for a while,” Andrew said. “When I saw Will doing that, I better break off now too and try to keep it within reason in between me and Will, not letting him get too far away.”
The O’Keefe brothers helped the Warriors place second in the large-school division with 46 points. Edwardsville, which had five runners place in the top 10, won the division title with 27.
“Edwardsville keeps reloading,” Skirball said. “They’re well-coached and they’re well-trained and they have talented kids. For us to be right there, I’m pretty happy with that.”
Will and Andrew have two victories apiece this year. Besides Tuesday’s victory at the county meet, Will also won the Collinsville Invitational. Andrew won the Belleville West Invitational and the Tiger Classic.
“I’m really proud of those boys,” Skirball said.
Also on Tuesday, East Alton-Wood River swept the individual county titles in the small-school division. Senior Haley Kerpan placed first in 20:12 in the girls' race and junior Brendon Springman won the boys' race in 17:51.84.
“It’s cool to get both wins,” said Springman, who had the 10th best overall time.
Kerpan, who finished second overall in the county meet, received a T-shirt for her first-place finish in the small-school division.
“It’s kind of a result of all of my hard work,” Kerpan said. “I’m really proud to say that I got it.”
Civic Memorial won the small-school boys' division title with 35 points. Sophomore Cohl Callies finished third in 18:12, senior Frank Trost placed fourth in 18:22, senior Jarrett Lacquement was seventh in 19:23 and senior Weihua Li finished eighth in 19:24.
“Ever since my freshman year, my one goal was to do this (win the small-school title) and we pulled through,” Trost said. “We've won it two years in a row now. Give credit to my teammates. We’ve all been working hard. We’ve all put in the miles with blood and sweat and all of it.”
Roxana won the small-school girls' division championship with 19 points. Senior Kryston Scifres was the Shells’ top finisher, placing second in 20:45. Roxana also had top 10 finishes from junior Shalyn Edwards (fifth), freshman Michaela Tarpley (sixth), freshman Victoria Tarpley (seventh), senior Alexis Stumpf (eighth) and freshman Sarah Stover (10th).
“It’s pretty cool,” Scifres said. “It’s a great top five team. I’m lucky to have them. We’re hoping that we finish the year off and make it to state and bond together even more.”
CM's Alex Singleton was third in the girls' race with a time of 21:32.02. As a team the Eagles finished second in the small-school standings with 43 points.
Alton finished fourth with 103 points in the boys' race and sixth with 148 points in the girls' race in the large-school division. Junior Arie Macias was the Redbirds’ top finisher in the boys' race, placing sixth in 17:36. Junior Tayton Kuebli led the Alton girls with a 26th-place finish and a time of 25:08.
“We didn’t take any time off for this meet,” Alton coach Vernon Curvey said. “We trained really hard yesterday. Our vision is (getting to) regionals to get to sectionals on the boys' side. We weren’t keying on this race.”
The Granite City girls' squad finished fifth with 117 points. The Warriors were led by Kori Nesbit, who finished 15th in 22:24.71.
Marquette got a fourth-place finish by senior Natalie Halliday in the small-school girls' race. She finished with a 21:40.
The Explorers entered four in the boys' race. They were led by Tommy DeClue, who was 13th at 20:01.78.
The Roxana boys' team finished fourth with 91 points and they were paced by Nathan Lowe, who was 11th in 20:00.50.