Photo by Bill Roseberry
The Civic Memorial girls’ cross country team takes off from the starting line in its first race of the season at the Metro East Lutheran Invite at SIUE on Aug. 29.
EDWARDSVILLE — The Metro East Lutheran Invitational at the SIUE cross country course is always a good barometer for the season.
On Aug. 29 the Civic Memorial Eagles and Roxana Shells competed in the annual grueling field and did just that. They got an early indication of where they are as teams.
With the amount of competitors, the heat and the quality of the competition, it’s well worth it for the teams to compete there.
“We treat it as a practice meet,” Roxana head coach Scott Edwards said. “It’s a benchmark for our season to see where we are because it is always so hot and humid and it’s a grueling race. This is one of the toughest courses in the state of Illinois.”
CM head coach Clint Walters added, “It’s a great race and I tell all the kids to manage their race and get a feel for it. It’s great for that. There are a lot of people out there doing the same, so it’s really nice for them to get an idea about what kind of legs they’ve got under them for the year. It’s a great barometer.”
The girls’ race included the defending Class 1A state championship team in Decatur St. Teresa and the defending Class 1A individual state champion in Anna Sophia Keller from Effingham St. Anthony.
Overall there were three all-state runners from 2013 competing in the MELHS Invite, all from Class 1A.
Alex Singleton would have liked to say she was one of the all-staters, but the CM junior runner finished in 27th place in Class 2A in ‘13 with a time of 18:13. The top 25 at the state race earn all-state honors.
Singleton finished sixth at SIUE on Aug. 29, clocked at 20:22.54. Her goal is to be an all-state runner in 2014 and she admitted the MELHS Invite is a good preparatory race. There were 289 runners in the girls’ race.
“It helps you prepare for regionals, sectionals, state,” Singleton said. “Especially state because at state there are so many people there. This race helps you learn to get out faster.
“I want to get down in the 17:00s and I want to get top 10 at state; those are my goals. This is the only race I have a hard time getting under 20:00; usually I’m in the low 19:00s or even in the 18:00s.”
As for the boys’ race, there were 361 entries and it also had three returning all-state runners from Class 1A, so it was plenty tough, too.
For the Shells and the Eagles, the plan for the MELHS Invite was just to start steering themselves toward their goals and the coaches thought for the most part that happened.
“On the boys’ team we’re just trying to take that next step — we’re so young,” Edwards said. “On the girls’ side we’re setting our standards high. Our biggest goal is we want to make it to state and of course county and conference are in there, but those things don’t mean anything if you don’t go to state and our goal is to get back to state like we were two years ago.”
Walters added, “We had some kids that were managing that first mile and seeing how they felt in mile two and three on this course, and that’s kind of what I told them to do. Alex Singleton is kind of more of that top 10 type and Ryan Gunter on our boys’ side made some huge strides over the summer and he was in the upper 50 today, so it was good to see those guys up front and helping us out.”
Next up for Roxana and CM is the Granite City Invite at 8:30 a.m. Saturday inside Wilson Park in Granite City. The Shells and Eagles will be joined by fellow local programs Alton and East Alton-Wood River.
It will be the first meet for the Redbirds this season, while the Oilers competed in the New Athens Invite on Aug. 26. EA-WR is looking to follow up a 20th-place finish at state on the boys’ side in 2013. Sophomore Garrett Fulkerson will be the top returning runner for the Oiler boys’ squad from state.