ST. LOUIS COUNTY • This is not the lineup Kally Fischer expected to be coaching. Not that she's complaining.
Friday, Fischer's Eureka girls cross country team raced to its second win of the season. Paced by individual winner Hannah Long, the Wildcats smoked the girls field at Ladue's Ron Jorgenson Invitational at Queeny Park. With three runners in the top 10, Eureka finished with 39 points. Ladue was second with 88, and Parkway Central was third with 111.
Fischer's Friday lineup featured three freshmen.
"That's a huge surprise for us," Fischer said of the strong early-season showings by first-year runners Long, Rachel Yergensen and Sammi Powell. "I didn't expect that."
The O'Fallon boys followed the same winning formula as the Eureka girls. With Alex Riba winning individual honors and four runners in the top 10, the Panthers ran away from the field. O'Fallon finished with 33 points, easily outdistancing second-place Eureka (74) and third-place Webster Groves (113).
Riba won in 15:52. Ethan Lambert of Eureka was second in 16:03.4. The rest of the top five: Eric Sivill of Parkway Central (16:12.2), Cade Netscher of Eureka (16:18.5) and Nicholai Sarpy of O'Fallon (16:21.6).
The win was the first of the season for O'Fallon.
"We were very satisfied," O'Fallon coach Jon Burnett said. "We ran really well."
The meet drew 23 teams and more than 100 runners in both the boys and girls divisions.
Even as a freshman, Long's performance doesn't come as a surprise. The 14-year-old won Rockwood District middle school honors in cross country and track last year and came into the season with a glittering AAU racing record.
"Hannah's the one we were aware of," Fischer said.
Long has been as good as advertised. In her first varsity race, she set the girls meet record at the Forest Park Cross Country Festival, blasting through the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course in 18 minutes 0.3 seconds. Friday was her third race—and her third win.
"I didn't get a PR (personal record), but I thought I ran pretty well," Long said.
She won in 18:19.1. Melissa Brown of Oakville and Jill Whitman of Cor Jesu were more than a minute back in second and third place.
Fischer is keeping an eye on her freshmen. She wants to keep the mileage and expectations in check. That may be especially true with Long.
"We feel like we've protected her quite a bit this year," the Eureka coach said. "Everyone has their eye on her, but there are six other girls on the team."
Six is actually a low-ball total. The Wildcats' program has 41 girls this season and more than a quarter of them are in the running for time in the varsity lineup.
In addition to the freshmen, Eureka's lineup Friday included Taylor Schultz (fifth, 20:06.7), Megan Cunningham (ninth, 20:25.2), Angie Sumner (11th, 20:30.6) and Jessie McNeel (23rd, 21:05.9).
While Fischer cheered the win, she said building the lineup is an on-going project. Today's win is no guarantee of tomorrow's job.
"We take it week by week," she said.