Two weekends ago we raced in Washington, Mo at Big Driver. It was a delightful, if chilly (37 degrees), fall day and the course showed well with orange and golden highlights in all of the trees. This is the only meet where freshmen have their own race, but it is also a meet where we race against many Class 4 schools such as Kirkwood, CBC and SLUH. It is also a race complicated by Scout outings, our Homecoming, College Visits, various injuries and other family weekend events. That means we lack many of our runners and that we divide fewer into three separate races.
Nevertheless, the results were strong even though this course contains a huge hill that tends to scare the younger runners. Our Freshmen produced excellent results winning third place behind Kirkwood and SLUH. Even without number one freshman Joseph Pollnow, out with a knee injury, we had four medalists: Jacob Conard, John Krewet, Dominic Kolthoff and Elliott Holdosh. Our JV was divided with two of our top runners racing with the Varsity, since Kyle Flores and Jake Drysdale were unavailable to race. Greg Rolwes had a great performance running a new PR and medaling. The Varsity was challenged by the course, but improved over last year by almost 50 seconds per man. Luke Lissner and Thomas Lowell raced each other into the chute, medaling and carrying the Varsity squad to a fourth place finish behind Kirkwood, SLUH and CBC. In all, we had 32 new PR’s on a course most thought was daunting. It was a fine tune up for the League race.
Just like Borgia, Principia’s course was decked out for fall. The prospect of a full day of rain did cause the athletes and the coaches some concern, but gratefully the rain never materialized. Instead, it was overcast and in the upper 60’s with a light breeze; almost a picture perfect day to race. Priory’s overflow crowd—over 100 runners—was given two lanes, but that was hardly sufficient for the sea of red and blue. Rest assured, though, that our top Varsity and JV runners took a front position. Right at 4:15 the gun fired and the race was on.
Across the football field and around the first turn Westminster took the early lead with John Murray out in front of everyone. The initial pace seemed a little too fast to our front-runners, so Jake, Thomas and Luke settled in about five seconds back. As Murray went, so did two other WCA runners. Our runners well know that the race is not won in the first 400 meters, but that did not keep our JV from their strong start. The opportunity to race with our varsity runners always produces faster JV times.
After the long down hill stretch along the road, the runners disappear from view until almost 1200 meters. By that time it was clear that the race was between red and blue, and blue and white, with five runners from each squad in the top dozen spots. Surprisingly, Lutheran South was also running a strong race with all five of their runners in the top two-dozen places. Andrew Latuda, Greg Rolwes, Anthony O’Sullivan and Jacob Conard were spearheading our JV effort as they tagged along behind Kyle Flores. A team effort persisted as the athletes headed out towards the mile mark and moved into the open fields. The Principia course, as our athletes noted, gives ample opportunity to surge around blind spots. We had talked about that earlier in the week and had decided to capitalize on it. With all of this turning, you can gain two or three meters on those behind you with a few quick steps at each sheltered location.
From 1200 meters until just past the two-mile mark the athletes can see each other making the S-turns in the course, while the spectators are out of sight. With a light breeze in their faces some athletes tend to slow their pace at this point. That did not seem to be a factor for most of our runners, since they knew that the wind would be at their backs the moment they passed firehouse hill. Rounding the lake and heading to the tennis courts, it was still Murray out in front by 70 meters. Directly behind him Jake and Thomas were charging on the #2 and #3 runners from Westminster. Luke was settled in sixth place while George and Alex were duking it out with the top runners from John Burroughs and Lutheran South, with Westminster’s #4 runner right there with them.
We had practiced making the three 90 degree turns at the tennis courts and our athletes capitalized of this heading into the steep but short down hill stretch. Drew was hurting — groin pull — by this stage, but he was gamely holding on. Kyle was also struggling with breathing issues, but he was determined to make a difference as he raced WCA’s sixth man. Behind our Varsity runners came a slew of Priory JV runners. While our top four were still the same, Andrew Latuda had taken over the JV race, running ahead of many Varsity runners from other teams. Behind our four top dogs we had another pack of three consisting of Robbie Frei, Will Steger and Chris Hedlesky. Thirty seconds behind them came a pack of six more Priory athletes running in a ten second pack with Thomas Weiss leading the way.
With only a 1000 meters remaining the race was still too close to call. Coach Rebello had WCA in a slight team lead (30-32) but a lot can happen as the athletes begin to smell the finish line. We had practiced this portion of the course on Wednesday and knew exactly what we wanted to do. Thomas closed on Jake, as Jake took over second place. George, running on fresh legs, and Alex ran side by side about twenty seconds behind Luke. This gave us five in the top ten, but Westminster had four runners there with us and they still occupied three of the top five places. With three coaches spread out over the final 600 meters, Priory runners had every incentive to drive down the final hill and race the final two squares around the finishing fields. In a brilliant move Thomas accelerated two turns from the finish and raced by WCA’s #2 runner. He closed rapidly on Jake and they came across the finish line with only a .25 second gap between them. Alex and George pulled away from the other three competitors in their pack and accelerated into the finish chute. This gave us five runners in the top eight places, and all of them under 17:55. Our JV (Andrew, Anthony and Greg) followed Drew and Kyle home finishing 1, 2 and 3.
With Fr. Paul and Coach Rebello scoring the race ahead of the electronic scores, both had Priory winning by a narrow margin. The JV, on the other hand, were well ahead of the other League teams. Official postings by TRXC timing about 15 minutes later confirmed their statistics. The team had bested a very good Westminster squad by 8 points, 26 to 34. Jake was 2nd in 17:10, Thomas was 3rd also in 17:10, Luke followed in 6th at 17:31, George took 7th in 17:53 and Alex rounded out our top five in 8th at 17:54. Drew managed 14th in 18:27 to complete our All-League squad and Kyle finished three places behind him in 18:40. Not to be outdone by the Varsity, our JV totally dominated the other League teams taking 8 of the top 10 places, 13 of the top 15 spots, and 15 of the top 20. Our top seven runners (Latuda, Anthony O’Sullivan, Rolwes, Conard, Frei, Steger and Hedlesky) all ran under 20:00, icing the cake with a low 18 points taking spots 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9. 15 points would have been a perfect score! In all, 42 athletes set new PR’s and our seniors led with way taking the top eight places for our team.
On a day when Priory and Westminster both brought their A games, Priory came out on top with a dynamic finish. We clash again this week in Westphalia at the District competition. The Fatima course there will be a challenging one, with a 550 meter hill that athletes have to run up twice, but we will be ready.
Well done Rebels!