Photo by Diane Cox
East Alton-Wood River sophomore Garrett Fulkerson is following in the footsteps of his father, 1991 EA-WR graduate Chris Fulkerson, when he laces up his running shoes and hits the trails.
With humble beginnings in his father’s shadow at the Hofbraufest 5K at the Hoyleton Community Club in Hoyleton, Fulkerson remembers his first competitive race.
“I started when I was in fourth or fifth grade with the Hofbraufest in Hoyleton,” Fulkerson said. “My dad was running the 5K and I ran the half-mile fun run. I still go back and run that race every year. Not the fun run though; I run the 5K. It kind of just stuck with me after that. I enjoyed running.”
Since his time at EA-WR, Fulkerson has taken lessons in dedication and hard work from last year’s AdVantage News Cross Country Runner of the Year, William McClemore, who now runs at McKendree University.
“Will McLemore was a very influential runner for me,” Fulkerson said. “He inspired me to put in the hard work. My family is also encouraging and constantly pushing me to do better.”
All of the encouragement and hard work helped Fulkerson earn the title of 2014 AdVantage News Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Just a sophomore at EA-WR, success isn’t new to Fulkerson, having made two appearances at the cross country state competition in as many years. He finished 82nd in 16:19 at the IHSA Class 1A state finals this season. Fulkerson also finished fourth at the Freeburg Regional in 17:03, guiding EA-WR to a sectional berth. At the Metro East Lutheran Sectional he turned in a time of 17:37 and finished 13th individually to qualify for state.
In the 2013-2014 season, the Oilers had runners qualify for a state appearance for the first time since 1998, led by seniors McLemore and Tyler Lafferty. Fulkerson said his goal sheet hasn’t shortened with his success — he’s added to it.
“I want to qualify for state in track and also again in cross country for the next two years,” he said. “I also want to leave some records behind when I graduate.”
Cross country doesn’t have an offseason; it’s a discipline that requires year-round training and conditioning. Fulkerson is led by EA-WR head coach Russ Colona in his training regimen.
“My training involved a lot of speed work and trail running,” Fulkerson said. “On any given day you can find me running the mountain biking trails at SIUE.”
Fulkerson is thrilled to follow in the footsteps of McLemore in securing the AdVantage News Cross Country Runner of the Year for the Oilers for the second consecutive season.
“It makes me feel pretty dang good,” Fulkerson said. “Being only a sophomore and getting recognized means a lot to me.”