This Invitational is one of the oldest in the Midwest and it draws teams from all over the state. For Priory it has been one of only a few races on the weekend that starts around noon, and our athletes appreciate the opportunity to rise a little later on race day. Taking advantage of the extra rest, the guys were ready to race when the warning gun called them to the start.
The varsity was first to go and the weather certainly cooperated. Cool temperatures and low humidity were joined by overcast skies on a perfect fall day. Priory drew a lane in the middle of the field but relaxed at the start as Festus, St. Genevieve and Owensville rocketed off the line. Everyone knew that Ben Naeger from St. Gen would take the early lead, since he is widely regarded as the fastest runner in the state. Owensville Orange and Black was easy to spot as their top runner carried the team off the start. A preview of our District race to come, Owensville was joined by St. Clair and Pacific. Memories of last fall, when Owensville bested us in the District race, provided all the focus that our athletes needed.
Jake was out quickly, racing in the top 15 by the 1000-meter mark. Without Thomas Lowell to bridge our pack, the duty fell to Luke who was instructed to “just keep Jake in sight.” That he did as he, George O’Sullivan and Drew Sewall all hit the mile in 5:27. A second pack consisting of Anthony O’Sullivan, Kyle Flores and Alex Lowell came through in 5:40. While these represented good times, there was too much Orange and Black between Jake and George. Leave it to Luke to respond, and he quickly moved from 27th to 17th between the mile and the two mile. As Luke went so did Drew and George, trailing him by only 7 seconds by the time they hit heartbreak hill just after mile two. Amazingly Kyle, our fifth man, kept pace racing with St. Clair, St. Gen and Owensville runners all around him.
At the Barracks course the race really gets interesting when the runners leg it out heading down to the 4000 meter mark. Luke used his long stride to his advantage passing two St. Gen runners during this time. Alex Lowell also responded to the urging of the coaches as he closed the gap with Kyle.
Uphill to Cannon Gate pushes the runners to think through the tough spots to the downhill that follows. By that time Luke had moved into the top 15 while Drew and George were just out of medal territory at 30 and 31. Alex had connected with Kyle and they raced next to each other around the final turn. A strong push uphill to the finish had St. Gen out in front with three runners in the top six and three Festus runners in the top 12. Our pack, though, had split the Owensville athletes.
The tale of the tape revealed that Priory runners had set or tied five PR’s with four athletes ending in medal territory. Jake was 9th in 17:27, Luke crashed through in 14th at 17:44, George and Drew finished side by side in 28th and 29th at 18:15 and 18:17, and Kyle and Alex snuck into the top 40 at 39th and 40th in 18:33 and 18:34. Anthony rounded out our top seven in 19:17. We were not going to touch either St. Gen (42pts) or Festus (66pts) on his day; they raced extremely well. However, our strong effort pushed us into trophy territory with 110 points, 27 points ahead of Owensville, and well ahead of Pacific and St. Clair. Third out of 19 full teams was a remarkable achievement and a real tribute to a team effort.
Since Festus and Owensville had been such competitors at the Varsity level, and St. Gen was not running a JV squad, Priory figured that it would be a three horse race for the top spot. Just like the Varsity, Priory let our opponents lead the way up the first hill. Once over the crest the squad began to move on the outside down the long hill and up the gentle grade to the 1000 meter mark. By then, Greg Rolwes and Andrew Latuda were running side by side in the top seven. Behind them freshmen Joseph Pollnow and Jacob Conard were focused on passing Owensville, Fatima and Pacific runners. Brian Koch was just a tad back and he was followed by a large pack of our freshmen and sophomores, with junior Chris Hedlesky also in the thick of it.
Rolwes and Latuda hit the mile in 5:53, still running in the top seven, while Conard and Pollnow came through in 6:06. Koch, Will Steger, Robbie Frei, Joe Mathis, Chris Hedlesky, James Coyle, John Krewet and Dominic Kolthoff all crested the mile between 6:10 and 6:30. Between the mile and the two mile, Greg and Andrew traded places having moved up to the 4th and 5th spots. Joseph and Jacob had also gained spots, now running in the top 20. In need of a fifth man, Brian Koch responded to the urgings of the coaches gaining 10 places by the time he pegged the two mile. While a lot was going in the front of the race, red and blue Priory athletes were racing well throughout the field. Eleven additional Priory runners were clocked under 14 minutes at the two mile, with thirteen more broke 15 minutes.
Frankly, it was too close to call with five Festus runners and four Priory guys in the top fifteen. Clearly, though, our top four had split Owensville’s top three runners. Surging up around scenic circle, Priory came flying down towards the 4600 meter pole. Rolwes and Latuda were racing each other as well as a Pacific runner up the final straight. Pollnow and Conard had passed two Owensville runners and had set their sights on the Festus runner five meters ahead of them. Using his long legs, Brian Koch passed two runners at the final turn and made it into the top 25.
Responding to the cheers of the crowd, scores of Priory runners raced into the chute. Twenty-one athletes improved their PR by over one minute and a total of 58 runners broke their old PR’s. What an impressive achievement on a challenging course! Rolwes nosed out Latuda by .22 seconds with Greg taking 4th and Andrew 5th, both in 19:04. Pollnow and Conard also raced together coming across in 12th and 13th in 19:27 and 19:29 respectively. Brian Koch, our fifth man, solidified our team scoring with a 24th place finish in 20:07, equaling his PR. Steger, Hedlesky, Coyle, Krewet and Mathis all broke 21 minutes. It was a total team effort and numerous Seniors, Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen contributed to the team’s success. Priory (50pts) finished second to Festus (34pts), while Owensville (74pts) and Pacific (97) completed the top four teams. Congratulations to the team and its superior effort!