MARISSA — The wakeup call came at 4 a.m. Saturday, a time that might even make a morning DJ or a farmer groan.
“We got on the bus and we were all tired,” said Massac County senior Ansley Bailey, “but I was ready to go.”
Bailey certainly ran like someone who was wide awake during the Class 1A Marissa Regional, cruising to a 50-second victory in the girls’ race with a clocking of 18:25.6 for her second regional title.
Du Quoin made a mockery of the team competition, taking up the next four spots behind Bailey and adding a ninth place finish. The Indians finished with just 23 points, 30 fewer than Perry County neighbor Pinckneyville. Murphysboro, Anna-Jonesboro and Carterville also earned spots in next week’s Belleville Althoff Sectional.
All of them might be chasing Bailey again. The SIU commit has won almost all her races this year, usually by wide margins, as she eagerly sets the pace and dares someone to come get her. Few can catch up.
“I start out fast to get the lead and put people behind me,” Bailey said. “I feel more comfortable going out fast, more positive about it.”
Bailey runs like her hair’s blazing, but prepares for a race with the thoroughness of a tax lawyer seeking loopholes. To wit: Her father accompanied her last Sunday on a drive of more than two hours to Marissa Recreational Area, site of Saturday’s meet, so that they could walk the course and plan her race.
“You get out of it what you put into it,” said Massac County coach Cory Hastings. “Her dedication … I’ve never seen anything like it. She puts in countless hours and it’s showing. She’s put a lot into it and she’s reaping the benefits.”
Bailey aimed to run the course at a 5:49 pace per mile. While she was slowed a little bit by temperatures in the low 40s and stiff winds that left the feels-like temp in the upper 30s, she still appeared to be running a different race from everyone else.
In fact, just minutes after crossing the finish line, Bailey looked like she could rattle off another 3.1 miles with little worry.
“If you just trust your training and go out fast, you’ll do well,” she said.
Du Quoin’s Olivia Phillips placed second at 19:15.7. Teammates Lauren Heape (20:14.3), Kallie Oestriecher (20:43.2) and Jacqueline Crain (20:44.3) followed her to insure the Indians’ regional crown.
In the boys' race, Pinckneyville freshman Isaac Teel nipped early suspense in the bud just past the halfway point. Teel pulled away from Du Quoin’s Landen Swiney to prevail in 16:00.8, backing up his SIRR Mississippi title of nine days ago.
When the runners did their first turn around the lake near the entrance to the facility, Teel had perhaps two strides on Swiney. Both appeared locked in for a tight finish.
“I think at about the 1.8-mile mark,” Teel said, “I was starting to take a little bigger stride and set my pace a little faster.”
Teel’s run to the finish presaged a regional title for his team. With their five counting scores not going any higher than 14, the Panthers collected just 34 points, less than half as many as Steeleville’s 72. Anna-Jonesboro (84), Du Quoin (86) and Vienna (123) also earned spots in next week’s sectional.
A state junior high champion last year, Teel has been overshadowed a bit by another freshman, Benton’s Gavin Genesio, on the cross country scene. But Teel has certainly come into his own down the homestretch.
“It’s been a big change from junior high,” he said. “I’ve been doing my best to get adjusted to the high school level and try to understand the competition a little better.”
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