The Roxana girls’ cross country team qualified for the Class 1A state race after finishing fifth at the Metro East Lutheran Sectional at SIUE on Oct. 31. The state race is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
The trail to Peoria is a welcome trek for the Roxana High girls’ cross country team. The Shells are poised to run at Detweiller Park, on the banks of the Illinois River, come Saturday morning. It’s a 9 a.m. start for them in the Class 1A competition, which includes individual participant Haley Kerpan of East Alton-Wood River.
“It’s the third time in five years that we’ve gone to state as a team and we’re excited about it,” Roxana coach Scott Edwards said. “Finishing fifth in the (Metro East Lutheran) Sectional was our Super Bowl.
“Just going to state means everything. It’s a big deal for us.”
Take it from senior Kyrston Scifres, leader of the Shells’ pack. The opportunity to run again in the small-school state finals offers Roxana a chance for a fitting finish. They finished 23rd in 2011 and 22nd in 2012.
“Going to state is awesome,” said Scifres, ninth in the MELHS Sectional on Oct. 31 at the SIUE course. Her time was 20 minutes, 30.81 seconds. She took third in the New Athens Regional on Oct. 24.
Scifres added, “I had a good finishing kick and left everything I had out there in the sectional. It was one of my better races of the year.
“I wanted a top 10 finish and I did that. I was really hoping for a top 5 finish, but that was tough to do.”
Edwards is counting on Scifres for another stellar showing when the Shells play in Peoria.
“Kyrston really has come on at the end of the season,” he said. “If she can run a time between 18:25 and 18:30 at state, she will be on the bubble for a Top 25 finish and a chance to be an All-Stater.”
Tori Fulgham is Roxana’s only girl to snare All-State honors. She placed 18th as a sophomore in 2011. Fulgham of East Alton is completing her junior season at McKendree University in Lebanon. This spring, she will run track and then prepare for her senior year in both sports.
Shalyn Edwards, 31st in 21:46.82; Michaela Tarpley, 32nd in 21:57.80; Victoria Tarpley, 52nd in 22:46.26; and Alexis Stumpf, 64th in 23:14.64; also figured in the Roxana scoring. The Tarpleys are freshmen twins.
Two more freshmen — Sarah Stover and Jaidyn Peebles — added to the Shells’ depth.
“Four of our top seven runners are freshmen, so we could be just as good, if not better, next year,” Edwards said.
For the moment, he’s concerned about this season. The Shells are aiming for their best showing in school history.
“I’d love to be 21st in the state and I would be elated if we could finish in the top 20 places. We want to do better than we have ever done at state. Absolutely,” Edwards said. “We did what we needed to do in the sectional, where every runner ran her best time. We had a great day and we want to have that same kind of effort at state.”
He pointed out that the Shells are peaking at the right time.
“The girls worked so hard in the summer and they have continued to do that during the season,” he said. “They are coming together and doing everything right at the right time.”
EA-WR coach Russ Colona can say the same thing about Kerpan, a senior who has enjoyed her best season. She won the New Athens Regional and finished 12th in 20:43.96 at the MELHS Sectional.
“She’s a great kid and an honor-roll student,” Colona said. “Haley has had an outstanding year.”
Kerpan is striving to become the first female Oiler to snag All-State honors. The only guy to do it was Ron Evans, 10th in 1959 and ninth in 1960.
No Greater Alton competitors will be running in any other state races. The Class 1A boys follow the girls at 10 a.m. Next come the 2A girls at 11 a.m., with the 2A boys going at noon. The 3A girls and 3A boys, set to start at 1 and 2 p.m. respectively, complete the day of running for the 75th IHSA finals. It’s a state tradition since 1946.
Colona, president of the Alton Road Runners, also said the organization’s Runners of the Year banquet is set for Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Eagles Club in Alton. Former MELHS director of athletics and coach Dave Redden, a Roxana High graduate, will serve as the keynote speaker.
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