EDWARDSVILLE -- Javon Watkins is off to a flying start in his junior season with the Metro-East Lutheran boys cross country team.
Watkins has competed in two races and earned medals in both of them. He finished third in the New Athens Invitational and placed 16th at the Kickoff Meet on Saturday at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
In Saturday’s Kickoff Meet, Watkins finished with a time of 18 minutes, four seconds. He was the lone MELHS runner to earn a medal at the Kickoff Meet. The top 100 finishers receive medals.
“Javon had a fabulous race,” MELHS coach Ruth Thompson said. “It’s probably one of the best races I’ve seen him run in the two years that I’ve been coaching him. He started off strong and he was able to maintain that. If he keeps working this hard, I expect to see some really good things from him this season.”
Marquette Catholic freshman Riley Vickrey also earned a medal at the Kickoff Meet, placing 27th with a 22:36 in the girls race. It was her first high school cross country race.
“It’s tremendous,” Marquette coach Mike Brooks said. “What a great time, a great place and finish for her in her first cross country race. She’s run 5K races on the road, but not on the grass on a course like this. This is probably the toughest course we’ll run all year here at SIUE. I can’t say enough about her. She’s going to be the one to keep an eye on because she will continue to improve over the course of the season.”
Vickrey was the only Marquette runner in the girls race. The Explorers had just two runners -- senior Adam Sanders and junior Chris Hellrumg – in the boys race.
“I didn’t run everybody here today because the competition is so big and so strong,” Brooks said. “I knew it was going to be a hot and humid day and I’ve got some kids who are not ready to run that three-mile course yet.”
Freeburg won team titles in the boys and girls divisions. The Midgets’ Charlie Parrish won the boys’ race and Anna Sophia Keller of St. Anthony came out on top in the girls’ race.
The Kickoff Meet, which is hosted by MELHS, completed its eighth year. There are 52 teams that competed in the meet.
“It has grown and grown and grown every year,” Thompson said. “Last year, First To The Finish sponsored it. Now since they’ve been out here, I think that’s an added touch. The kids obviously seem to love it.”
A year ago, Watkins placed 42nd in the Kickoff Meet. He also helped the Knights’ boys team qualify for sectionals.
Watkins attends Madison High. MELHS and Madison are combining their cross country programs for the second straight year.
The Knights placed 28th with 706 points. Sophomore Jonah Wilson placed 117th with a 21:12, junior Eli Harding placed 248th with a 24:14 and sophomore Nathaniel Perry came in 251st with a 24:17.
MELHS had just three runners in the girls race. Freshman Nura Freese was the Knights’ top finisher, placing 167th with a 28:26.
“I’m very pleased with her,” Thompson said. “She’s just a freshman for us and I see a lot of great things. I don’t think she knows how fast she’s going to be yet. I think she ran faster here than she did down in New Athens. This course is a lot tougher. Once I help her figure out how fast she can go, I’ll look for a lot of good things from her.”
Freese finished 73rd with a 28:32 in the New Athens meet on Monday.
Brooks said he’s happy to have Vickery on the team.
“She went to a Marquette recruiting event and she loved what she saw,” the Marquette coach said. “She made friends with Natalie Halliday, who ran for me last year and is now running at Murray State. They ran in a road race together and they talked a lot. We were very fortunate to be able to pick up a talent like that.”
Sanders finished 162nd with a 22:14. He placed 257th with a 23:05 in last year’s meet.
“I was really excited for this season,” the Marquette senior said. “I was excited coming in as a captain and as a leader. We have some new people on the team this year. I’m also excited about the freshman girl (Vickrey). She’s outstanding.”
In the middle school meet, Roxana placed second with 103 points in the girls race. Gabrielle Woodruff, a sixth-grader, was the Vikings’ top finisher with a 14:31 in the 1.8-mile race.