HERCULANEUM — His legs screamed for a break from the punishment. But Jonathan Coffman ignored them.
His lungs burned from exertion, but the Herculaneum senior runner didn't care.
He had to be there for his teammates.
"With the adrenaline still pumping, I was worried about the team and how they're doing," Coffman said. "Sometimes that overrides your tired muscles and breathing. Finishing the race is exciting, but seeing how your team finishes in front of teams and runners we're trying to beat is exciting."
In a sport that wears athletes down through sheer attrition, Coffman embodied the ultimate team-first attitude.
Literally seconds after every race, he would brush aside his fatigue to support his fellow Blackcats.
"He'd come out of the finish-line chute, he'd circle back and go down in the crowd and search for his teammates," Herculaneum coach Kyle Davis said. "He's always about the team."
Coffman was named Post-Dispatch boys runner of the year after a second-place individual finish at state, which helped Herculaneum to a second-place team performance.
It was Herculaneum's 24th top-four finish and highest since a Class 2 runner-up effort in 2015.
Coffman became passionate about cheering on his teammates the minute he arrived at Herculaneum.
"Having that support and setting that example for the team is (important)," Coffman said.
Coffman didn't care about his own time — he hardly ever ran with a watch to track his own clocking. Even though he was the Blackcats' No. 1 runner the moment he stepped on campus, the senior quickly developed a team-first mentality.
"It didn't matter how good your No. 1 was. You could have had a Kobe Bryant-like guy, but while Kobe can win a game by himself, Jonathan can't win the team trophy by himself," Davis said.
His time of 15 minutes, 37.6 seconds at state on the Gans Creek Cross Country Course on the campus of the University of Missouri was the area's top time and was the best in Herculaneum history.
While he hadn't run against Class 3 champion Michael Rebello out of Excelsior Springs, he had tangled with Blake Morris from Cape Notre Dame and dropped each meeting to him up until the state championship.
This time, Coffman got the better of Morris.
"It was the last high school race with the team. I guess having that motivation (helped)," Coffman said.
Coffman finished 26 seconds ahead of Morris (16:02).
"Even for guys that have gotten the better of him in the past, he's always shown back up like it's a clean slate. A fresh new start," Davis said.
While Coffman's hammer-down running style from the word go clashed with his coaches, he enjoyed setting the pace from the gun and making the other runners come after him.
"It's harder for me to sit off someone else," Coffman said. "If I set the pace, I won't push it."
Davis saw Coffman in middle school and knew he had a special runner.
"He was showing signs of being different then," Davis said. "I saw it at an early age. I didn't know it was going to be this extent."
While he wasn't fond of the hilly courses, Coffman enjoyed the challenge they presented.
"I like the flat courses for the fast times, but I do like the hilly course because it draws a line for people who train and don't," Coffman said.
The future college runner hasn't really decided on his school, but is looking at something in the medical field for his major.
ALL-METRO FIRST TEAM
Ethan Koop, junior, Marquette
In third state meet appearance, posted first all-state finish of career in a big way by finishing seventh in Class 4. His time of 15:45.8 was the fourth-best of any area runner at the state meet and ranks fifth-best in the area on a 5-kilometer course. Lowest finish was 14th in eight races, highlighted by third-place district and sectional finishes and a sixth-place conference showing.
Simon Ogle, senior, Festus
Earned all-state honors for the third consecutive season while leading the Tigers to their sixth consecutive Class 3 team state championship, one shy of Missouri’s all-time record. Ogle finished third individually in the Class 3 state meet with his personal-best time of 15:54.1. Despite battling whooping cough during the season, also won titles in the Festus Bowles and conference meets and his sixth-place finish helped Festus win season-opening Tim Nixon Invitational at Liberty. Another highlight was a 21st-place showing at Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, a field of more than 700 runners from several states. Signed with Drury.
Jack Pifer, senior, Edwardsville
Won three titles in a season that culminated with a 66th-place finish at Illinois Class 3A state meet in time of 15:15.8, his best place and performance in four state trips. Pifer’s top performance was time of 14:52 to finish 10th in Peoria Invitational, which was the area’s best on a 3-mile course. Victories included a 16:15.2 performance over 5 kilometers to win the Edwardsville Invitational and on 3-mile courses both at the Granite City Invitational and Madison County meet.
Lucas Rackers, senior, SLUH
Finished sixth in Class 4 state meet with personal-best time of 15:41.5 that was area’s fourth-best of the season at 5 kilometers. Rackers was top-10 finisher at state for second consecutive season after finishing seventh as a junior. Rackers was SLUH’s top finisher in three meets, including a runner-up showing at district and third-place finish at the sectional meet. Also was team-best third place at the Granite City meet and finished second in Metro Catholic Conference meet. Helped SLUH earn Class 4 runner-up state trophy for the second successive season.
Noah Scott, senior, SLUH
Ran to top-10 finishes in six events, including a fifth-place effort in the Class 4 state meet with a time of 15:38.60 that was the area’s second-best performance at 5 kilometers this season and was area’s best Class 4 state finish. It was Scott’s second consecutive all-state finish and fourth successive state meet appearance. He also helped Junior Billikens to a Class 4 runner-up state finish for second year in a row. Scott also was third in district and Parkway West meets, fourth in conference and Granite City meets and eighth in Forest Park’s top division.
AJ Wallach, senior, Kirkwood
Five individual victories included Suburban Conference, Class 4 District 2 and Class 4 Sectional 1 meets, helping lead Pioneers to team titles in the conference and district events. Wallach also won races at Northwest Cedar Hill’s Stan Nelson Invitational and Parkway Central Invitational. His top time of the season was 15:46.5 during a ninth-place effort at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark. Helped Kirkwood to fourth-place team trophy in Class 4 state meet by finishing 31st in 16:06.
Eli Ward, senior, Waterloo
Ward’s 12th-place finish in Illinois Class 2A state meet in time of 15:14.1 was fastest performance for an area runner in any classification that day at Detweiller Park. He had eight top-10 finishes and won four races, including Mississippi Valley Conference and Class 2A Highland Regional. Also was third in Peoria Invitational’s Class 2A-1A division with a personal-best 15:12 on the 3-mile course.
ALL-METRO SECOND TEAM
Thomas Andersen, junior, Parkway West
Posted six top-five finishes on the way to a career-best 17th-place performance in Class 4 state meet with a personal-best time of 15:52.7 that ranked as the sixth-fastest for an area runner that day at Gans Creek. Andersen won the Paul Enke Invitational, was second at district and third at conference along with fifth-place finishes at Northwest Cedar Hill’s Stan Nelson Invitational, Parkway West’s Dale Shepherd Invitational and the sectional meet.
Stone Burke, senior, Marquette
Broke 16-minute barrier in a 5-kilometer race for first time to finish 23rd in Class 4 state meet in 15:57.7, which was eighth-best performance for an area runner at Gans Creek. Burke’s postseason included a victory in the Class 4 District 4 meet and runner-up finish in the Class 4 Sectional 2 event. He also was fifth in Suburban Conference meet.
Collin Clark, senior, Ladue
In third state meet appearance, Clark earned all-state honors for the first time with an 11th-place showing in Class 4. That came with a personal-best performance of 15:48.70, which was the fifth-fastest time for an area runner at state regardless of classification. Clark also was second at district, sixth at sectionals and ninth in Suburban Conference meet.
Tyler Guthrie, junior, Father McGivney
Finished 15th in Class 1A state meet in 15:20.82, which was his top 3-mile time of the season and the fourth-best area performance at the state meet. Also won Class 1A New Athens Regional and finished sixth in Class 1A Benton Sectional. Won First to the Finish Kickoff Meet and finished third in Edwardsville Invitational, both at 5 kilometers.
Justin Mumford, junior, Wesclin
Bounced back from disappointing sophomore season to finish eighth in Class 1A state meet with time of 15:16, the third-fastest for any area runner regardless of classification at Detweiller Park. Mumford finished 11th or better in 10 races, including victories in the Cahokia Conference meet and Wood River Invitational. Also second at regional meet and third at sectional qualifier.
Malik Stewart, senior, Maplewood-RH
Class 2 state meet runner-up for the third consecutive season, but with by far his best performance at 16:01.1. Stewart, also a standout on the track, won five titles, highlighted by a district championship. Perhaps two of his runner-up showings were just as impressive — at Fort Zumwalt North, where he ran a season-best 15:49.02; and at Parkway West’s Dale Shepherd Invitational, a field full of runners from larger schools.
Charlie Teeter, senior, Webster Groves
Johns Hopkins recruit opened season by winning twice within three days, including an eye-opening performance of 15:39.70 to capture the first Fort Zumwalt North Twilight event at Pheasant Run Golf Course. That early September victory was Teeter’s top time of the season. He went on to finish second in both sectional and conference meets, third at Northwest Cedar Hill’s Stan Nelson Invitational and sixth at district. Finished 49th in Class 4 state meet in 16:06.9.
ALL-METRO THIRD TEAM
George Blanco, junior, DuBourg
Seven top-10 finishes included three victories: Affton Invitational, AAA Championships and the Class 3 District 2 meet at Spanish Lake Park. Blanco finished ninth in Class 3 state meet for his first all-state finish with a personal-best time of 16:08.7 that was the 14th-best state performance of any area runner, regardless of classification. Blanco also was runner-up in Forest Park's second-highest division and at Hancock Invitational.
Drake Bleier, junior, Triad
Finished 19th in Illinois Class 2A state meet with a personal best of 15:26 that was the fifth-best effort of any area runner, regardless of classification, that day at Detweiller Park. Bleier's regular season included a seventh-place effort in the Mississippi Valley Conference meet, a sixth-place showing at Freeburg and seventh-place finish in the Madison County meet. He was 11th at the Highland Regional, helping Triad to a second-place team finish, and 12th at the Decatur MacArthur Sectional, where Triad was third in team standings.
Cody Glisson, junior, Herculaneum
Finished eighth in Class 3 state meet in season-best time of 16:08.2, helping Blackcats to second-place team finish. Also finished eighth in Class 3 District 1 meet. Seventh at Festus Bowles and 10th in Jefferson County Athletics Association meet.
Cullen Krieg, freshman, Festus
Played a major role during his debut season in helping Tigers earn sixth consecutive Class 3 team state championship. Krieg broke 16-minute barrier for the first time at state meet, finishing sixth in 15:59. He also was third both in conference and district meets and the Festus Bowles Invitational. Started season with a 10th-place effort at Tim Nixon Invitational at Liberty, where Festus won team title.
Jackson McAlister, senior, Waterloo
Second at Mississippi Valley Conference meet and in the Class 2A Highland Regional. Mizzou signee eighth in the 2A Decatur MacArthur Sectional and in the Freeburg Invitational. McAlister also was runner-up in the Mascoutah Invitational, a 5-kilometer event. Season-best time of 15:40 on 3-mile course came in 12th-place finish at Peoria Invitational's Class 2A-1A division. Finished 123rd in Class 2A state meet.
Adam Mittendorf, senior, SLUH
Won Metro Catholic Conference individual title, which was a springboard to a solid postseason. Finished fourth in Class 4 District 1 meet and 10th in Class 4 Sectional 1 before posting season-best time of 16:27.8 during 64th-place effort in Class 4 state meet. Also finished seventh in Parkway West's Dale Shepherd Invitational and 11th in Granite City Invitational.
Martin Strong, senior, Kirkwood
Helped lead Pioneers to fourth-place team trophy in Class 4 state meet. Strong's 24th-place finish at state led Kirkwood and was his first all-state performance in three appearances. His time of 15:58.12 was a personal best and was ninth-fastest for an area runner at Gans Creek. Also finished eighth at conference meet, third at district and seventh at sectionals.
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