Cavies girls cross country 10th best in state
A crisp, cool, yet sunny Saturday morning on the banks of the Illinois River at Detweiler Park in Peoria saw seven young ladies from Carlinville High School compete on the biggest stage of all: The Class 1A girls state cross country meet.
Led by two senior standouts and underclassmen who improved all season, the mix of youth and veterans helped the Cavaliers to a 10th place team finish out of 25 competing teams.
That included seniors Jacey Roper and Colleen Madden, the anchors of the team who showed the younger runners the way all season long, both medaling in their final meet.
Roper crossed the finish line in 14th place, while Madden took 18th. Overall, not too shabby according to coach Charlie Helton.
“It is so gratifying to see all of the hard work pay off for our state qualifiers,” Helton said. “I had a goal for our girls team and they achieved it. A top ten team is fantastic. They all ran very well. Aside from our two all-state seniors we were very young and had no previous high school state meet experience.
To no one’s surprise, Tolono Unity won the team competition, collecting 130 points with five of the top 41 times. Urbana University had two in the top five and was second with 157; St. Joseph Ogden with four in the top 40, placed third at 158. Carlinville collected 296 points, just 14 points out of seventh place.
Junior Anna Sophia Keller of Effingham St. Anthony won her third straight Class 1A title, winning the race in a time of 16:21. Daly Galloway of Gardner-South Wilmington was second at 16:50. Sophomore Arielle Summitt of Urbana University was third at 17:37.
Roper was Carlinville’s top finisher recording a personal best time of 18:04, which is also a Carlinville state meet record time. Roper was 54th at state last year in 19:10. It was an improvement of 66 seconds and 40 placings from last year’s meet.
“I just wanted to go out and slowly work my way up and definitely be top 25, but after that I just kept picking people off at the end,” Roper said.
Roper was also proud of her team.
“This is the first year we have had 12 girls out, the last couple of years we’ve had five come out,” Roper said. “It’s been a really good experience being a senior, but hopefully next year they’ll be able to pull it out too.”
The final meet as a senior was the state meet, and Roper said it was kind of bittersweet.
“It’s a sad day, but it’s been a great year,” Roper said.
Madden, a regional champion, came in 18th place at state with a time of 18:12. She placed 22nd last year at 18:23, an improvement of 11 seconds and four spots this time around. She qualified for state all four years.
“It was a great way to end my senior year,” Madden said. “I ran a PR and was in the top 25. I really can’t complain.
“I’ve been blessed to make it (to state) four years, it’s a really great feeling,” Madden said. “It shows that hard work pays off and anything is possible if you believe in yourself.”
The other five Carlinville runners who ran at state also contributed greatly to the success this season.
Freshman Molly Lewis ended her first year of high school running by finishing 102nd overall, at 19:58. Sophomore Madelynn Williams took 122nd place at 20:23. Sophomore Stasia Nejmanowski was 151st at 20:59; sophomore Ryleigh Gibbel was 156th at 21:04 and sophomore Mackenzie Harris was 161st at 21:14.
Lewis had a 21-second improvement from sectionals last weekend at St. Teresa. Williams had the same time as last weekend. Gibbel had a six-second improvement from sectionals to state.
“For these young ladies to run so well in this pressure-packed environment is amazing,” Helton said. “It was a fantastic season for our girls. Colleen and Jacey are so good at not getting drawn out by less disciplined runners. They were able to work their way up through the field and both earn all-state honors.”