CARBONDALE — It was a beautiful day for running at the Carbondale Cross Country Invitational on Saturday when the Du Quoin girl’s team and Marion boy’s team took home first place plaques in the Terriers’ return to their home course near SIU’s Abe Martin Field.
Du Quoin’s cross country program showed no signs of rust in just their second contest of the season after a temporary pause to their schedule. Senior Olivia Phillips won the girl’s race with a time of 18:23.78 and helped her team to a 41-46 first place finish over Mater Dei in second.
“I felt great today, it was a great day to run,” said Phillips. “The weather was perfect, it was a beautiful morning, and Carbondale’s course was great and mapped out perfectly so you couldn’t get lost.”
Phillips ran a much smarter race according to her head coach, Eric Kirkpatrick. The senior trailed Murphysboro’s Miah Gilmore after the first mile before taking over the top spot and never slowing up.
“There was a lead girl in front of her and she didn’t panic,” said Kirkpatrick. “She kind of just worked her way through that — really for probably three-quarters of a mile — and that takes patience sometimes when you’re somebody that’s used to being in the lead.”
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Phillips got help from her teammates. Lauren Heape finished seventh at 20:31.85 and was followed by her two freshmen teammates; Issy Phillips, sister of Olivia, logged a time of 21:30.47 to finish three spots ahead of Maggie Kellerman (22:04.90) in 16th before the Lady Indians’ fifth runner, Maddie Decker (22:23.64), placed 19th for five finishes within the top 20 runners.
“We are going to need our freshmen to keep killing it so we can compete for a conference title,” said Phillips. “There are less teams at the conference meet and we’ll pack up very tightly.”
Phillips couldn’t help but notice that Mater Dei ran well in a pack which led the Lady Knights to placing four runners within the top 10.
Kirkpatrick said his team’s biggest focus moving forward is running in tighter packs while his team awaits the return of Kallie Oestreicher and Lainey Miller.
“Our pack might look a little bit different when they get back,” Kirkpatrick said of Oestricher and Miller. “That’s something we want to focus on so our No. 5 runner doesn’t get behind.”
Du Quoin’s Landon Swiney carried that momentum over to the boy’s race when the senior clocked a first place time of 15:50.55. After running a 15:55 at Herrin City Park last week, Swiney said competing against Carbondale’s Alex Partlow would have been a good challenge for him, but the Terriers top runner was sidelined on Saturday.
Instead, Swiney was pushed at the top by Mount Vernon’s Trey Mygett (16:23.29).
“(Mygett) just stuck with me the entire race,” said Swiney. “He was right on me up until that last mile. I was just aiming for about the same time I got last week and ended up running a little faster than I expected.”
Kirkpatrick made his intentions clear: he wants his runners competing against the best.
“Landon again, a lot like Olivia, just took off. We were looking forward to seeing Partlow; he was good last year, he looks stronger, looks like he’s breathing better and it looks like his form has improved. He looks like a guy that lost out on some opportunities last year and he’s ticked off about it… so I think he’s on a mission and I hope that continues for him to stay injury free and have a good finish to the season.”
Du Quoin competed without a fifth runner and didn’t qualify for the team awards that Marion dominated with a 23-64 advantage over Mater Dei. The Wildcats were led by Logan Morgan (3rd), Benja Stone (5th), Noah Gilley (9th), Christopher Lachiana (11th) and Mekye Lomax (13th) under first year head coach Mykel Gary.
The Indians behind Swiney finished Nathan Smith (6th), Connor Gross (17th) and Reid Tilley (60th). Swiney knows his team needs more numbers before the conference meet at Herrin on October 14.
“We’ll have to get a full team,” he said. “Connor and Nathan killed it, and then Reid, this is his first year, he’s kind of new to it and he’s doing good. We’re missing our fifth runner due to quarantine. He should be back sometime next week and I think he’ll be good.”
Kirkpatrick’s team returns home for the Du Quoin Invitational next Thursday. His runners are hungry for more.
“I was a little worried about my freshman running on a hilly course today but they stepped up big,” he said. “Maggie Kellerman got done and said she could have kept going, so that’s a good sign when you’ve got a freshman that says that after a race on a really tough course.”