WEST FRANKFORT — Saturday was a great, albeit cold and wet day, to be a member of the Benton Rangers cross country programs.
The Rangers swept top honors at the West Frankfort Class 1A regional cross country meet.
Mia McLain won her fourth straight regional title, sloshing through the puddles and muck in a time of 17:40, almost 40 seconds ahead of Massac County’s Ansley Bailey. Reece Johnson of Benton rolled to a 24-second win in the boys’ race, finishing well ahead of Carmi’s Ty Barbre.
Benton also swept team titles with Hamilton County placing second in both races. The Rangers outpaced the Foxes 23-56 in the girls race and in a nearly mirror image effort the boys took a 21-51 win over Hamilton County.
It was just the second time in school history Benton earned boys and girls regional titles. The first time was in 2005.
The conditions were less than ideal. The West Frankfort park was inundated with water well before race time, and a steady rain fell throughout both races, intensifying noticeably at the beginning of the boys race.
“It wasn’t bad,” Johnson said. “There is a stretch where it got pretty muddy, it was pretty slick, hard to go. We walked the course pretty early and our coaches did a pretty good job of letting us know where to be on the course like, left, right. We took care of that early. We knew what we were doing going in.
Both Johnson and McLain said the moments leading up to the start of the race were the worst.
Standing on the line, just waiting to actually start the race is probably the toughest part,” McLain said. “It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s everything you don’t want it to be, but now that it’s over I’m happy. “
Once the gun sounded, it was all business despite the weather.
“Everybody had to be out here,” said Benton coach Brent McLain. “We’ve been preparing for it for a few days. It’s all mental. If you’re ready for it mentally, you’re ready for it physically. It was a great day in Benton history.
“We didn’t let any of the weather factors get us. They ran tremendous. They didn’t complain. They did what they had to do. They ran hard.”
In the girls’ race, Benton placed five runners in the top seven. Hailey Wallace was fourth, Mia Wills fifth, Addisyn Miller sixth and Peyton Tieffel seventh.
Two runners separating the Benton pack were Massac County’s Bailey in second place and Maddie Karcher of Hamilton County in third.
The boys pack was similar with Brady Gischer fourth, Chase Owens fifth, Joey Sample sixth and Parker Sieveking 13th.
Again, just two runners broke up Benton’s front pack, Carmi’s Barbre and Webber Townships Seth Hamerski was third.
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The top seven teams advance to next Saturday’s sectional race in Benton.
On the girls’ side, all seven teams advance. Hamilton County was second (56); Massac County third (90), West Frankfort fourth (118); Galatia fifth (129), Pope County sixth (135) and Harrisburg seventh (137).
Carly Foster of Gallatin County, Rebeka Marlow of Webber Township, Jessie Crawford of Fairfield, Payton Dixon and Mackenzie Willis, both of Carmi, advance as individuals.
There were 11 teams in the boys race, the top seven teams were Benton (21), Hamilton County (51), Fairfield (129), NCOE (142), Gallatin County (146), Carrier Mills (152) and Crab Orchard (154).
Individuals moving on were: Barbre of Carmi, Hamerski of Webber Township, Austin Schuster of Fairfield, Ethan Williams of West Frankfort and Sean Pruitt of Harrisburg.
Prideaux wins Highland Regional
Carbondale junior Madeline Prideaux was the overall winner of the Highland Class 2A cross country regional.
Prideaux crossed the finish line in 19:07, leading the Terriers to a fourth place finish, good enough to advance to next week’s sectional.
Highland won its regional with 52 points. Carbondale finished with 84.
In addition to Prideaux’s first place finish, Anna Schurz placed third, Sadie Torre 23rd, Kara Holub 27th and Abby Menkhaus 38th.
Advancing as individuals were Brittney Brown and Summer Chelf of Mount Vernon, as well as Marion’s Mari Ray.
On the boys’ side, both Marion and Carbondale advanced as teams to the Decatur McAurthur Sectional.
Mascoutah finished first as a team, Marion was fifth at 104 and Carbondale sixth at 114.
Carbondale’s Tucker Poshard placed third overall. Jackson Watts was 10th, Ethan Stevens 26th, Jackson Beaupre 34th and Connor Twenhafel 47th.
For Marion, Isaac Donaldson was 8th, Logan Morgan 20th, Benja Stone 21st, Peyton Craig 29th and Caleb Flesch 32nd.