XC underclassmen impress at O’Fallon, Varsity gears up for Granite City

After months of summer running and four weeks of practice, St. Louis U. High’s cross country program finally starts its season this week with two meets on the other side of the river.

All freshmen and sophomores began their seasons on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at the O’Fallon Futures Meet, which was held at O’Fallon High School’s Milburn Campus. The course, which features a straightaway-laden 2-mile loop that runners complete one and a half times, was turned muddy in some places by Tuesday night’s rains. This obstacle was not enough to stop some of SLUH’s underclassmen from having excellent races to begin their season.

SLUH’s highest finisher in the freshman classification was Gus Talleur, who finished in third place with an outstanding three-mile time of 18:03, which already earns him a JV letter. Talleur was followed by Logan Phillips, who earned a top-10 finish with a time of 19:17.

For head coach Joe Porter, the freshman race offered a good starting point for what he hopes to be a successful year for the freshmen.

“It doesn’t matter if you were Gus and you were the top freshman or if you were further back in the pack,” said Porter, “There was a point for us to get better, and we finally got to get out there and race.  It’s important to remember that we’re a long way from the races where we want to run our fastest, so this is a great starting point for us to kind of work forward and keep continuing to get better.”

However, the biggest success for the Jr. Bills came later on in the sophomore race, with first-year transfer Mason Scargall coming away with the victory and nearly claiming a course record in the process.  Scargall was followed closely by his classmates Anthony Zangara and Charlie Murray, who finished second and third, respectively.

“We were able to get the top three overall in the sophomore race,” said Porter, “Mason, who just transferred from Maplewood, and then Anthony and Charlie went 1-2-3, so that was a great race for them.  Mason, based on the 5K conversion that we got, ended up with a 1:06 PR, which was great as well.”

Tomorrow, the entire team runs at the Granite City Invitational at Wilson Park in Granite City, Ill.  Like O’Fallon, Granite City is a 3-mile race as opposed to the more common 5 kilometer race, which, coupled with a flat course that features virtually no significant elevation change, often results in fast times.  The meet also typically features very few, if any, Missouri teams, giving SLUH runners what is often their only chance to race against teams from around Illinois.

“We’re just trying to kick the tires and see where we’re at (for Granite City),” said Porter.  “Edwardsville has a really good team, they’re ranked fourth in the state of Illinois right now, so I definitely feel like it’ll be a good opportunity to compete and try to stick with them.”

The top seven varsity runners will compete in the Varsity race at 9:10 a.m., which will be followed by the freshman/sophomore race, which will feature SLUH’s top seven finishers from O’Fallon. All remaining runners will race in the Open Race at 11 a.m.

SLUH will look to continue a recent pattern of success at Granite City, and hopes to take home the team title in the Varsity race for a third consecutive year.

Further on the horizon is the return of the SLUH-hosted Forest Park XC Festival on Sept. 11, which typically features elite teams from as far away as Chicago and Kansas City, and was cancelled last year due to Covid-19 concerns.

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