Photo by Tayhlor Sims
WOOD RIVER – William McLemore put his best foot forward for the East Alton-Wood River Oilers this fall and took a giant step in his cross country career.
The senior won four major races and paced the Oilers, who qualified as a team for the IHSA finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria. It was only the second time in school history that EA-WR runners advanced to state.
For his efforts in pacing the Oilers, McLemore has been selected as the AdVantage News’ Male Prep Cross Country Runner of the Year.
“I had more confidence in myself this year and I was more relaxed,” McLemore said. “I knew the competition and set goals to do better. I thought I had a good senior season and I really liked it.”
EA-WR cross country coach Russ Colona seconds that emotion.
“Will worked as hard or harder than anyone I ever coached in any sport,” he said.
“His work ethics and enthusiasm inspired his teammates to work very hard and reach for the ultimate goal of going to state.”
It seemed as if McLemore was determined to make his senior season his best one. He experienced a frustrating junior season that was marked by injuries.
“I ran more this past summer than I did the summer before my junior season,” McLemore said. “I had a hamstring injury my junior season and that hampered me. I was healthier this season.”
He was healthy enough to win the New Athens Class 1A Regional, place first in invitationals at Jerseyville, Wood River and the Madison County Meet. He emerged as a multiple small-school champ at MadCo.
Overall, McLemore’s top time was 15 minutes, 33 seconds, which he registered at Jacksonville. He also took fourth the sectional and finished 46th at state.
“The big thing was the wins gave me more confidence,” McLemore said. “My main goal was to get better, make sure I had a good season and have fun with it.”
He did all of that and more.
“It was a fun season,” McLemore said. “It was also great that the entire team got to go to state. We really enjoyed that.”
Colona added, “He was not a natural runner coming in as a freshman and did what was necessary to make himself better. He did not shy away from doing the work and studied his sport, taking in all the information he could find in many ways.
“It was great to see the respect he earned from other schools runners and coaches. He was not only a great runner for EA-WR but a great leader and ambassador for his sport. I enjoyed coaching him.”
There’s more running ahead for McLemore. Track season is set for the spring and he plans to compete in college running and focus his education on becoming a physical therapist.
“My goals for the track season are to get under 10 minutes in the 3,200-meters and make it to the state finals,” he said of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. After that, college should come calling.
McLemore said, “I want to run in college and try to become a good all-around runner for the team.”
He has already been there and done that in high school.