Officially, it was the Forest Park Cross Country Invitational, but unofficially, it was the Forest Park Mud Run.
Heavy rain, remnants of what was once Tropical Storm Gordon, covered the course and with as many races and runners going over the same course, conditions deteriorated quickly.
“The conditions were less than ideal but it was nice to have the cooler weather,” Washington Head Coach Mike Olszowka said. “The girls were the eighth race and the boys the 11th race of the day on a rain-soaked muddy course. The times were affected very drastically. This is one of the biggest cross country racing setups in the Midwest. It is always fun to compete against strong teams from other states as well as the best teams from Missouri.”
Pacific Head Coach Justin Perriguey said while times were slowed due to the conditions, the competition remained at a high level.
“The rain on Friday dampened the festivities a bit and made it very muddy but that did not weaken the competition,” Perriguey said. “The times were roughly 10 percent slower than they probably would have been with better footing. All the kids raced in the same conditions so the races were fair. Our team went in with a good mindset that they would not be hindered and any weak minded runners would use the mud as an excuse. I am proud of the way our runners competed.”
The conditions were such that some runners even had a hard time keeping their feet in uniform.
“It was crazy muddy,” St. Clair Head Coach Ben Martin said. “A lot of people pay good money to run in a mud run like that. It was like a tough mudder without the obstacles. The mud was a foot deep in some places. Kids were losing shoes. We wanted to run fast, but in those conditions I am just glad no one got hurt and the runners had fun.”
Union Head Coach Sarah Meiners said times really didn’t matter under the conditions.
“It was definitely a mudfest out there, so I wasn’t concerned so much about times,” Meiners said. “I told my kids to have fun and treat it like a mud run — some people pay to run races in those conditions.”
Green Division Girls
Washington was the top area finisher in the Green Division on the girls side, placing 11th with 261 points.
The Lady Jays finished between Fatima (259) and St. James Academy of Kansas (267).
O’Fallon, Ill., won the meet with 126 points, nine in front of Blue Springs South. Francis Howell was third at 136 with St. Teresa’s Academy (137) and Eureka (160) rounding out the top five.
The area’s first finisher was Washington’s Mia Reed, who was 12th in 2:00.50.
Claire Ayers was 22nd in 22:17.40. Jessie Donnelly placed 46th in 23:03.90 while McKenna Jacquin was 95th in 24:18.30. Lilly Nix ended 101st in 24:32.40.
Rounding out Washington’s lineup were Lindsay Sprung (130th in 25:39.20), Anna Weisbrod (135th in 25:47.70) and Allison Meyer (145th in 27:53.30).
Reed and Ayers both received individual medalist honors.
“In comparing times with schools we have already raced this year we can compare times and see that our training is paying off as we are making up time against the other teams,” Olszowka said.
White Division Girls
Several area girls teams ran in the White Division.
Pekin, Ill., won with 78 points, 20 in front of Jefferson. Rounding out the top five were Althoff (109), St. Dominic (125) and Borgia (184).
Union was sixth with 189 points with St. Clair ending seventh at 203 and Pacific taking eighth at 216.
Other area schools were Sullivan (12th with 248 points) and Warrenton (13th at 275).
Borgia’s Sarah Matt was the top area finisher, taking 10th in 24:06.30.
Gretchen Overman was 25th in 25:21.20.
“Our varsity girls competed well,” Borgia Head Coach Mitch Figas said. “Sarah Matt earned a medal at her second consecutive meet. Top 10 finishes are always impressive.”
Lauren Dickhut placed 67th in 27:29.00 while Ainsley Virtudazo was 69th in 27:33.70 and Callyn Weber ended 73rd in 27:47.30.
“I was happy to see Gretchen Overman hang in there and run a tough race, also earning a medal,” Figas said. “We have had a nice pack with Ainsley Virtudazo, Lauren Dickhut and Callyn Weber. If they continue to work together that will be a nice scoring group for us.”
Union’s Ella Coppinger and Sydney Gerdel ran together for much of the race. Coppinger was 15th in 24:30.40 while Gerdel ended 17th in 24:42.00. Both earned medals.
“It was good to see Sydney Gerdel get competitive and earn a medal,” Meiners said. “I always knew she could push herself to be in medal contention, and I hope she continues to push herself like that each meet. She loves to run in difficult conditions because she likes to challenge herself.”
Meiners pointed out that Coppinger also plays volleyball this fall.
Pauline Waller was next, ending 56th in 26:43.00. Grace Coppinger was 76th in 27:58.50. Addison Kriete placed 88th in 28:48.90. Ryleigh Swope took 98th in 30:01.30.
Arin Halmich led the Lady Bulldogs, ending 21st in 25:01.60.
Josefin Andersson was next for St. Clair in 25:06.90.
St. Clair was without one of its top runners in Alyssa McCormack, but Halmich and Andersson both finished with individual medals.
“We were out Alyssa McCormack for the meet, so I think our girls team score would have been different with her in the race,” Martin said. “Arin Halmich continues to shine. Josefin Andersson continues to get stronger every single meet. Both girls medaled and this is one of the biggest meets in the state.”
Elexis Wohlgemuth was 59th in 26:59.70 for the Lady Bulldogs. Chloe Merseal ended 74th in 27:50.80.
Alana Hinson placed 90th in 29:03.20 and Erin York rounded out St. Clair’s squad at 102nd in 31:21.70.
Riley Vaughn was Pacific’s top finisher, placing 20th in 24:58.00.
Jenna Anding was next, placing 31st in 25:38.60.
Aubrey Harris ended 58th in 26:55.40. Natalie Simeone ended 84th in 28:28.50. Tegan Monnig ran 94th in 29:22.50. Cori O’Neill placed 97th in 29:56.70.
“Riley had a great summer of running and itshows,” Perriguey said. “Jenna Anding, sophomore, returns after missing most of last season with an injury. Jenna looks strong and will continue to improve. Freshman Aubrey Harris, junior Natalie Simeone and sophomore Tegan Monnig rounded out our top five scoring positions and all three finished their first cross country race for PHS.”
Green Division Boys
Washington and St. Francis Borgia Regional ran in the Green Division on the boys side. Washington finished 23rd in the team standings with 616 points. Neuqua Valley won with a score of 91 points while host SLUH was second at 114 points, one in front of Rockhurst.
Borgia did not have enough runners for a team score.
Noah Little was the top area runner for the Blue Jays, placing 53rd in 18:44.80.
Following were Ben Griffen (143rd in 20:52.00), Mason Kauffeld (148th in 21:00.80), Nick Corley (161st in 21:46.50), Alex Davis (164th in 21:53.90), Colby Jacquin (175th in 23:21.00) and Tristen Zeh (176th in 25:05.00).
Borgia’s first runner was Tony Willenbrink, who placed 109th in 9:56.10.
Ben Juengling was 119th in 20:14.20 while Drew Snider placed 138th in 20:43.20. Nicholas Weber ended 147th in 21:00.70.
“Tony Willenbrink showed us the old Tony is back,” Figas said. “Drew Snider was able to compete better. Ben Juengling ran through a cold and did a nice job. Nicholas Weber has really stepped it up this year and ran his second good race in a row.”
White Division Boys
Many of the area schools competed in the White Division on the boys side as well. Lutheran St. Charles was the team winner with 65 points with Owensville ending second at 106 points.
Among other area schools, Pacific was fifth at 208 points, Union placed 11th at 288 and St. Clair was 17th with 373 points.
The Fulton School of St. Albans also had runners, but not enough for a team score.
Pacific’s Will Green was the top area finisher, placing fourth at 19:13.20.
Noah Benzabeh was 14th with a time of 19:59.50.
Brayden Van Meter (60th in 22:00.60) and Collin Haley (61st in 22:00.70) ran together. Dylan Smith was 111th in 24:08.80.
“Seniors Will Green and Noah Benzabeh ran very well,” Perriguey said. “They both put in a lot of work over the summer. Freshman Collin Haley finished right behind junior Brayden Van Meter. Junior Dylan Smith made his varsity race debut. Undoubtedly, these boys will improve their times in the coming weeks.”
Mason Bailey led Union with a 30th-place finish in 20:28.40 and earned a medal. Bailey also is a two-sport athlete in the fall and plays football.
Matthew Reidel ended 41st in 21:15.90. Hayden Monroe ended 81st in 22:54.30 while Kadin Renn was 83rd in 22:59.90. Collin Gerdel rounded out Union’s entries, placing 112th in 24:10.40.
Ryan Herman was the top St. Clair finisher, ending 66th in 22:12.20.
Adam Pipes crossed the line 71st in 22:27.00. Bailey Gardner was 89th in 23:10.80 while Austin Duff ended 94th in 23:34.70, Austin Harger was 128th in 24:53.20 and Noah Adams ran 130th in 24:55.80.
“I felt senior Noah Adams had a good race,” Martin said. “He likes this course and pushed himself. In better conditions, that might have been a PR for him, but with the mud and the boys varsity one of the last races of the day, times were off by at least two minutes.”
For Fulton St. Albans, Jace Cavness led the way, ending 24th in 20:22.50.
Thomas Doyle was 82nd in 22:55.50, Matthew Duff ended 106th in 25:53.70 and Max Hahn was 129th in 24:54.80.