GRANITE CITY • The 2012 version of the O’Fallon cross country program has yet to show what it can do on a state level, but the Panthers are already displaying their dominance in southern Illinois.
O’Fallon swept the top spots at Saturday’s Granite City Invitational. In the boys race, senior Alex Riba placed first with a time of 15:00.25, just ahead of junior teammate Patrick Perrier (15:09.41). The Panthers claimed their fifth straight title at Granite City, scoring 34 points compared to runner-up Springfield (89).
“It’s great having a teammate like that, in practice and in races,” Riba said of Perrier. “We have a lot of depth, and that definitely helps. Even on our long runs, it’s not just Patrick and I, it’s the whole team together.”
Coach Jon Burnett was pleased with the Panthers’ showing in the first major meet of the season.
“The rain stayed away, but it was still very humid, and the footing was kind of soft, but the guys still ran very well and very fast,” Burnett said. “A lot of time you have one good runner and he has to work hard by himself, but we’re in a fortunate situation to have two that can push each other and that pulls the other guys behind them up towards them.
“The first five finishers in this race were all-state in cross country or track, and we had a few guys who were just behind those all-staters. Hopefully this is a good indicator for later in the season.”
In the girls race, junior Samantha Lapp placed first in 19:11.01 as O’Fallon cruised to the team title, easily outdistancing second-place Chatham Glenwood (107).
The outcome of the boys race was hardly surprising, considering O’Fallon finished second in the Class 3A state meet last year with Riba also placing second. Perrier earned all-state honors by placing 22nd.
The Panthers had five runners in the top 15 at Granite City, including Dorrian Gordon (sixth), Brennan Koester (11th) and Steven Chorma (15th).
Rounding out the top five in the boys team standings among 23 schools were Edwardsville (98), Mount Vernon (142) and Glenwood (150). Mascoutah’s Chris Martin and Murphy Affolder finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Other local runners in the top 10 were Granite City’s Greg Rogers (seventh), Edwardsville’s Brydon Groves-Scott (eighth), Waterloo’s Josh Rodenberg (ninth) and Edwardsville’s Ethan Townzen (10th).
The O’Fallon girls, meanwhile, had four runners in the top 10: Lapp, Tami Cardenas (fifth), Sydney Neal (sixth) and Regan Lear (10th).
“We were glad that the weather cooperated today so we could get this one in,” Panthers coach Neil James said. “Regan Lear, who is a junior, had been in O’Fallon before when she was in junior high and was in Arkansas, but she moved back. In our JV race, we went one through four and two or three of those kids want to be here running (in the varsity race). There’s going to be some good competition for those seven spots.”
Lapp won by four seconds over runner-up Madeline Lager of Mater Dei (19:15.00).
“I was hoping to break 19 (minutes), but I had a pretty good race,” Lapp said. “We’re training harder and bumping up our workouts, and so far it’s really paid off.”
Heading into the season, James expected Lapp to contend for the No. 1 spot.
“We knew it would be her and Sydney Neal along with Bridgette Wilson,” James said. “Bridgette had an off day today and was our No. 5 runner (12th overall), but she’s been running really well. Tami Cardenas is really good, too, so any of the top four or five could be our No. 1 on a given day,”
Placing third through fifth in the girls team standings were Edwardsville (111), Mater Dei (139) and Triad (162). Edwardsville had a pair of top-10 finishers in Allie Sweatt (third) and Sarah Smith (ninth). Also cracking the top 10 were Highland’s Emily Holtzclaw (fourth) and Allison Zobrist (seventh).