The St. Louis U. High Cross Country program held the annual Forest Park XC Festival last Saturday. The Festival showcases running talent spanning from five states, and over 100 different high schools. Drawing nearly 3,500 athletes, and 10,000 spectators, this meet is one of the most competitive races in the season. Even though there was such tough competition, the Jr. Bills had a successful day beating talented teams throughout the whole day.
Since SLUH’s XC program runs so deep with talent, head coach Joe Porter entered two varsity squads into the race, SLUH A and SLUH B. The SLUH A squad broke a 14-year drought of losing the Green Varsity division, edging out some very strong programs, including Rockhurst who, prior to this past week, had been ranked top four in the state.
Coming off a record-setting race last week at Granite City, it was important that the Jr. Bills stayed composed and continued to focus on racing to the best of their ability. Scoring 66 points, the Jr. Bills had a dominating performance at the festival. Leading the way was freshman Jackson Miller, who was coming off a record performance the week before. Miller cracked into the top ten overall, earning ninth place. He was the highest scoring freshman of the day and continues to show his athletic ability to the country. Miller ran a very strong 16:20.9 for the 5K, the sixth fastest time in program history, at Forest Park.
Following close behind Miller was senior Noah Evers. Evers showcased a whole lot of gut during this race as he led the SLUH pack for two-thirds of the race.
"I wanted to get out fast and just see how long I could hold it,” said Evers. “It was great to run with Jackson for a while since I hadn't been able to race with him yet."
Evers came through as the 14th overall finisher, and ran an impressive time of 16:36.8.
Right on Evers’ shoulder was junior George Donahue. Donahue showcased much more composure and confidence throughout the race, finishing 15th overall and running a time of 16:37.4. Behind Donahue was senior Charlie Murray, running tight with Donahue throughout the race and coming in only four seconds behind him. Murray was the 16th overall finisher for the race, and ran an impressive time of 16:42.0. Finishing right with Murray was junior Gus Talluer who was the 17th overall finisher and ran a respectable time of 16:42.8.
Rounding out the top eight were sophomore Jaden Elgin and senior Mason Scargall. Elgin came through as the 26th finisher on the day, running a 16:57.6. Scargall was right behind him finishing in 27th place, running 16:58.1.
Each of the eight SLUH A runners medaled in their race, an impressive feat considering the few medalists in prior years.
"We performed really well as a team obviously,” said Evers. “We can always get better but it was definitely a step in the right direction."
The boys showcased immense talent and depth. With a one to five gap of only 21 seconds, they have shown that they know how to run together, which is key to performing well later in the season.
“Our end goal is to run our best races in October,” said Porter. “While these regular season victories are great, it's important to keep our eyes focused on continuing to improve so that our best races are still in front of us.”
While taking home the Varsity championship another impressive athlete, Marion Dylon Nalley, a top ten runner in the nation, broke the meet record with a time of 14:54.7, the only ever sub-15 in meet history.
“When I was coming up I looked down at my watch and saw I was around 14:35,” said Nalley. “I knew I could beat the record and the only thing in my mind was getting underneath 15.”
Even though the course is so tough, he had his eyes set on this time before entering the race.
“It was challenging, probably one of the toughest races I am going to run this season,” said Nalley, “but overall, it was a nice rice and I was locked in to overcome such a challenging course.”
Nalley will continue to make history as he looks to take home a state and national title this year.
The success doesn't end in the varsity race. The JV put together an impressive performance to take home the second place trophy. The JV team had to run against a very talented group of runners from Rockhurst. Since SLUH raced two teams in Varsity, this meant that SLUH’s third team would be competing in JV. Even with this setback, the boys still had confidence going into the race.
Leading the way for the team was senior Lucas Strohmeyer, who unleashed a beautiful kick to edge a Rockhurst runner by just a half of a second. Strohmeyer finished first overall and ran an impressive time of 17:44.5, earning his navy Varsity shirt, along with his first sub 18-minute 5K.
Behind Strohmeyer was junior Otto Reitenbach, who finished sixth overall with a time of 18:28.3. Following Reitenbach was sophomore Aiden Smith, who ran a great race, finishing 12th overall and running a time of 18:51.3, his first sub-19.
“I felt that I had a very good race,” said Smith. “It always feels good to go out there and achieve goals that I have been working towards.”
Behind Smith was junior Rowan Lemp, who finished 13th overall and ran a time of 18:53.7. Lemp put himself in a good spot to compete, and it worked out well for him. The fifth scorer from SLUH was junior Jens Istvan, who finished 18th overall with a solid time of 19:17.7.
These five athletes scored 50 points, just 23 behind Rockhurst. They really challenged themselves, and it paid off.
“I felt that our JV team fought pretty hard,” said Smith, “Obviously we wanted that first place win but in the end it’s about battling it out with your opponents and I think our placement reflects that.
The last race of the day was the beloved freshmen 3K in the heat of the day, a warm 80 degrees. This was a race to remember for the freshman, who took the team win.
The race started quickly with freshmen Joe Talleur and Michael Luna taking charge, throwing down a 5:21 first mile. Alongside them were three Kickapoo freshmen contending for the title of freshman team champions.
“There was some tough competition from Kickapoo with a very good freshman class,” said Luna. “I think everyone went out and ran their best to give us a shot at beating them and we did.”
The team scores would come down to the finish, however, as Talleur unleashed his kick, passing all the Kickapoo freshmen in the final 150 meters for the individual win with a time of 10:04.2, which is second all time for SLUH freshmen. Following behind Talleur was Luna (10:09.4), Luke Hartweger (10:19.2), Ben Yoffie (10:19.9), and Edmund Reske (10:38.0).
With five in the top ten the freshmen, took the win with a final score of 25, beating Kickapoo’s score of 35. The Jr. Bills also had 14 medalists in the race, further demonstrating their dominance.
With this being the Forest Park Cross Country Festival, the SLUH freshmen had a festive time, helping clean up after the festival concluded and cheering for their teammates.
“It was definitely an overall fun experience,” said Luna. “The amount of people showing support and watching and all the music and time to hang out with your teammates was great.”
The program now shifts its focus to the Paul Enke Invitational at Sioux Passage, an extremely hilly course. They will be running the V2 squad in the varsity race.
“To go to a different course and experience different competition will be good for the program,” said Porter “The expectation is that this next group is good enough that they should have an opportunity to win.”
With expectations high for the V2 squad, they face off against conference rival Chaminade and look to perform under the pressure of the hills.
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