Coach Gleich writes...
The largest race in the Midwest, with fifteen separate races in three different divisions, this Festival was greeted with a cool, crisp morning on a day ideal for racing. With LouFest taking place on our old course, SLUH and Big River had mapped out a new course — with great spectator viewing — around aviation fields. Our runners had toured the unmarked course on Wednesday so they were somewhat familiar with the layout. They liked the long flat areas, the slightly downhill finish and the fact that there was only one hill.
Running like clockwork, the gun signaled the start of the 9:30 a.m. JV race with more than 500 athletes on the line. Missing several of our top JV runners to the monastic ordinations, the ACT test and Boy Scout weekend, we knew that we were relying heavily on underclassmen to do the scoring for us. Greg Rolwes was out quickly, running in the top 25 by the time he hit the 800 meter mark. Joseph Pollnow, Will Steger, Chris Hedlesky and Jacob Conard rounded out our top five, though they were off Greg’s pace by about 25 seconds by the mile mark. Soon our middle pack split into two, with Steger and Pollnow running together and Hedlesky and Conard about 10 seconds behind them. With new spikes on his feet Joseph Pollnow seemed to be running with tremendous confidence and he steadily gained on Greg throughout the second mile. Jacob also surged near the two mile mark, separating himself from Chris and setting his sights on Will.
While our top five were running with confidence, our next three (Dominic Kolthoff, Joe Mathis and Tripp Miller) were running in a tight pack about twenty seconds behind Chris. After them you could see dozens of Priory red and blue scattered throughout the field. Most athletes were running well ahead of their pace from the Lutheran South race, some by as much as three minutes, as they crested the hill just after the two mile mark.
Hitting the flat home stretch Joseph Pollnow put the pedal down, surging into the top twenty-five while Greg was hanging on to 12th place. Will, Jacob and Chris were running solidly between 50th and 100th places. A furious push by all runners as they rounded the final turn saw athletes racing each other to the Big River finish arch. Greg medaled in 15th (19:36) and Joseph amazed the Priory crowd finishing in 20th (also medaling in 19:42). Will (20:47), Jacob (20:50) and Chris (21:10) completed our five scores. Our next eight athletes (Dominic Kolthoff, Joe Mathis, Tripp Miller, Will Koster, Alex Figueras, James O’Halloran, Victor Djavaherian and Sanjay Manadava) improved their times from the last race by an average of almost two minutes. Special congratulations to all the freshmen who credited themselves so well. Even with all of our absent runners and the consolidation of the large and small school divisions for this JV race, Priory managed to finish 7th of 39 full teams.
It was almost a three hour wait for the varsity runners until their start. By then the park was packed with thousands of spectators. With our division now separated from the other two, about 250 athletes jockeyed for position at the starting line. While we were missing top five runner Kyle Flores, we were lucky enough to have George O’Sullivan and Drew Sewall racing with us from the varsity soccer team. All of the guys were charged up over the prospect of great competition on a day tailor make for racing.
The excitement was palpable as the athletes rocketed off the start and headed for the first turn. Jake Drysdale and Thomas Lowell led our pack with both of them in the top 30. Luke Lissner was out much quicker than at Lutheran South, running just behind George and Drew. Our top five all hit the mile mark in 5:33 or under with Jake coming through in a quick 5:17. Alex Lowell and Anthony O’Sullivan were 12 seconds off that pace hitting the mile in 5:45 with Andrew Latuda was just behind in 5:55. A quick tour around the pond and a return trip to the Planetarium brought the athletes back to the two mile in a flash. Jake poked his nose across in 10:54 and Thomas hit just over 11:05. George, Drew and Luke were running in a tight pack at 11:27 while Alex and Anthony were 30 seconds back.
Once up the only major hill in the race course, the athletes know that legging it out is the only way to keep pace with the competition. Jake took off, pulling Thomas with him. Luke opened up his stride and began passing athlete after athlete, moving into the top 45. Unaccustomed to running this far this fast, Drew and George did everything could to hold on. Alex, with another week of recovery under his belt, surged over the final 800 meters to close the gap with George. Flying down the straight-shot finish Jake pounded across the line in 17:07, finishing 11th. Thomas also medaled in 29th with 17:33. Luke was not far behind cracking 40th place in 17:49. Drew (64th in 18:17), George (80th in 18:32) and Alex (96th in 18:45) all broke 18:45. Anthony set a new PR in 19:00.9, just missing breaking 19 and Andrew Latuda also PR’d in 19:17.
We knew that we had done well, but were not quite prepared for the tightness of the finish. The top four teams separated themselves by only 33 points as Herculaneum took first in 166, Grain Valley was second in 169, Webster Groves nosed us out for third with 191, while Priory took an amazing 4th (of 32 teams) with 199 points. Three runners under 17:50 and six under 18:45 gave us the pack we needed to convince us that Priory runners are for real! Well Done!