Runners are a different breed and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you want to set their sport to music, sing about them born to run. Or perhaps shout that they are born free to gallop across the local landscape. Wild horses couldn’t drag them away from their favorite trails.
They’ll endure heat, rain and cold to do what they love best. Sometimes you can even visualize them making a run through the jungle. There’s always somewhere to run, even if there’s nowhere to hide in a 5K race.
The Alton Road Runners appreciate them and that’s why the organization sponsors its Runners of the Year banquet. The 11th annual one played out Sunday at the Alton Eagles Club and competitors from 14 high schools, covering 5 counties, shared the spotlight.
“It’s a small club, but we do a lot of events,” said Road Runners’ president Russ Colona, also alluding to last month’s 56th annual River Road Run.
Prep runners honored at the group’s fête included:
Taylor Kuebli and Arie Macias of Alton, Natalie Halliday and Adam Sanders of Marquette Catholic, Haley Kerpan and Brenden Springman of East Alton-Wood River, Kyrston Scifres and James Henseler of Roxana, Alexanda Singleton and Frank Trost of CM, Jacey Roper and Cory Landon of Carlinville, Maddie Miller and Franky Romano of Edwardsville, Lily Baumgartner and Madlyn Custer of Carrollton, Kiara Chapman and Ben Flowers of Jersey, Erin Laubscher and Caden Bohn of Southwestern, Samantha Alepra and Brandon Slone of Gillespie, Alexandra Quarton and Ryan Poggenpohl of Litchfield, Jaria Hardaway and Javon Watkins of Metro East Lutheran, plus Abigail Richter and Joey Ramsey of Triad.
In addition, the Road Runners saluted youth runners Grace Carter, Madison Ingram, Addison Miller, Nicholas Ritchie and Ryne White.
Longtime official Loyd Grafford, an EA-WR graduate, received the Allen B. Tuetken award for meritorious service. Grafford has been a regular worker at track events for years and is the unofficial caretaker of the Madison County Meet.
“Loyd has been an IHSA official for 48 years and he helps me with our summer track series,” Colona said. “He’s always there and he does a fantastic job with the kids.”
Former MELHS director of athletics Dave Redden, a graduate of Roxana High and SIUE, served as featured speaker. Redden’s extensive knowledge of the local scene proved a high point of the festivities. The guy knows what he’s talking about when it comes to running.
Redden is retired, though still interested in coaching. He would be a good fit for an area high school seeking an experienced track or cross country coach. Be advised: His resumé is updated.
“Athletics are an extension of the educational process,” he said. “It takes several years to develop a productive program and we (coaches) understand what it takes to do the job well.”
Redden added, “It’s imperative to have a team leader that is a liaison to you because they can dilute the negative concepts and show enthusiasm for their teammates’ efforts.
“All it takes is one person to be a good leader for positive direction and optimum optimism. One person can make a difference and I hope I made a difference.”
Colona, the EA-WR coach, has made a difference in directing the Oilers’ program for 26 years. Coaching cross country and track puts pep in his step and makes him percolate.
“There is a lot to be said about pride and the tradition, which is what I think we have,” Colona said of EA-WR cross country. “There have also been a million laughs and stories to go along with the ride.”
He added, “I have two of the best assistant coaches a person could have in my wife, Kathy, and my son, Nick. They are very big contributors to the program. We live and breathe Oilers’ cross country and track in the Colona household.”
It’s with every breath they take, I imagine. Nobody is running on empty.
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