CENTRALIA — A pair of Carbondale runners, Alex Partlow and Madeline Prideaux, were the top individual finishers at the South Seven Conference cross country meet on Thursday at Foundation Park.
Prideaux's fourth conference championship helped Carbondale's girls win the team title with 40 points, but even with Partlow and teammate Tucker Poshard crossing first in the boys race, Marion used its overwhelming strength in numbers to score just 41 points and take the team trophy.
Carbondale had four girls place in the top 10 to earn all-conference medals, led by senior Prideaux who cruised to the finish in 18:44.5 ahead of Belleville Althoff's Julia O'Neill, clocked at 18:52.3, and Mount Vernon's Britney Brown (19:21.8).
"Having competition really helped me today," Prideaux said. "People have been at least a minute back all season."
Prideaux stayed behind O'Neill for about two miles before making her move — "I think she could hear me breathing in her ear," Prideaux joked — and even won easily after rolling her ankle on the course.
"There were some rocks and I wasn't paying attention," Prideaux said. "It was right before we hit two miles. My adrenaline just kept me going."
Carbondale's Kara Holub was fifth (21:16.7), with Sadie Torre sixth (21:16.7) and Olivia Mathia in 10th (21:47.9) for the Terriers, but it was Prideaux that took the top prize.
"She's a four-time champion and she hasn't been faced with too much competition this year," said Carbondale coach Greg Storm. "She's worked extremely hard at her training. She dropped over a minute off her fastest time to date just by having someone to run with. She really showed out today and I'm proud of her."
Storm was happy to see his team's depth also show out. And it was aided by Althoff having one of its top runners have to leave the course during the race.
"It's unfortunate but I still think our girls were right there to capitalize," Storm said. "We still had two more right behind her and our fourth girl was coming on pretty hard at the end. Even with her in the mix I think it would've been a good battle."
Then in the boys race, Carbondale's Partlow and Poshard held off Marion freshman Dylon Nalley for the top two spots. Partlow's official time was 15:01.8, while Poshard was clocked at 15:08.9 and Nalley next at 15:10.0.
The fourth runner, Althoff's Jack Hiller, didn't cross until 33 seconds later.
Partlow's strategy was basically to use Poshard like a semi-truck on the interstate.
"I always run with Tucker because he's a tall guy," Partlow said. "Especially on windy days. I just love running with him. Basically I just got behind him and stayed behind him.
"I'm not really good with courses so I didn't know when to go. I didn't know how long was left until the finish line but I remembered there was a big rock at the end and when I saw it I figured I should get going."
But it was Marion claiming the team trophy with junior Logan Morgan placing seventh (16:05.4), junior Jack Gregory taking ninth (16:07.2) and freshman Cade Parks coming in 10th (16:28.3).
"It shows our depth," said Marion coach Eli Baker. "I've got to hand it to Carbondale. They've got three really fast guys and when you take first, second and eighth, and that's hard to beat.
"Our guys came to race today and they were excited about it. We thought we had a chance to win it and we had a lot of personal best times so I can't complain about anything."
The Wildcats did it with senior Isaac Donaldson, usually their No. 2 runner, having a rough day and placing 27th overall. But with Benja Stone placing 12th and two more Marion runners right behind — after putting two freshmen in the top 10 — the score was held low.
"The nice thing about the depth of our team is we can have a guy have a day that's not great and the other guys pick him up," Baker said. "They did that today."
Carbondale, Marion, Centralia and Mount Vernon will all compete in the Highland 2A Regional on Saturday, Oct. 24, Alhambra Fireman and Legion Park with hopes of advancing to the Olney Sectional to complete the postseason on Oct. 31.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!