MURPHYSBORO — The heat was certainly on in Wednesday's coed Murphysboro Cross Country Invitational at Riverside Park. Runners didn’t have the luxury of running under cloud cover, but managed to keep their cool on the 3-mile course.
Benton senior Mia McLain finished first in the girls bracket with a time of 18.54.47. Her time helped the Rangers finish second with a score of 64.
“I think my time could have been a little better, but it was right around where I was at this course last year,” said McLain. “This course is difficult because you’ve got the combination of hills, uneven roads, and the difference between road and grass that made it difficult to hit that full stride.”
McLain was accompanied by teammate Hailey Wallace, who finished 10th with a time of 21.10.47. Benton had four runners finish in the top 20 between McLain, Wallace, Peyton Tieffel and Addisyn Miller.
Finishing in second was Gabby Alongi, who helped Du Quoin finish with a first-place score of 49.
Summer Chelf of Mount Vernon finished in third, and was followed up by Massac County’s Ansley Bailey and Carbondale’s Madeline Prideaux to round out the top five girls.
“We knew this would be a challenge team-wise when you’re going up against schools like Du Quoin, Carbondale, and Pinckneyville who are all very good,” said McLain. “For me personally, I’ve been working on staying steady that first mile and then really pushing those last two.”
It was a battle at the top between Du Quoin and Benton. The Indians were able to edge out the Rangers with five finishers in the top 20.
“We knew that we had a good seven runners coming into today,” said Benton coach Brent McLain. “As our times get better and the weather conditions improve, I feel that our girls will gel because the talent is definitely there.”
“Du Quoin just had a great race and outscored us, but they’re a little bit more experienced than we are. We knew heading in that we had a couple girls that hadn’t really been battle-tested.”
The boys group got underway about 30 minutes after the girls. Carbondale junior Tucker Poshard enjoyed his first time crossing the finish line before anybody else did with a time of 16.08.05.
“My strategy was just to not push myself too hard and try and stay up near the guys in front,” said Poshard. “From there I just battled the heat conditions and blocked out any fatigue.”
Despite Poshard’s great run, it was Centralia that finished first with a score of 74. The Orphans were led by Cory Fleeman and Matt Speeidel’s second and third place finishes.
Fleeman and Speeidel crossed the finish line almost identically with their times differing by a matter of milliseconds.
Ethan Stevens finished second behind Poshard for Carbondale, and eighth overall with a time of 16.56.12. The Terriers were only able to finish three runners in the top 50, as the rest of their team dealt with the tough heat conditions.
“The heat conditions were awful today and I know we had a couple guys that were worried about how it might affect them,” said Poshard. “We had two people injured that didn’t want to run in the heat, but the best way to get through it is to keep your mind where it needs to be because cross country is a mental sport.”
Reece Johnson of Benton and Landon Swiney of Du Quoin rounded out the top five finishers for the boys.
Behind Centralia finished Marion, Du Quoin, Benton and Carbondale.