All the miles, all the training and all the preparation will come to a head this Saturday for the St. Joseph-Ogden High School boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams.
That’s because the start of the postseason is upon the Spartans, who will compete this Saturday at the Class 1A Tuscola Regional. The girls’ race is slated for a 10 a.m. start at Wimple Park in Tuscola, with the boys’ race to follow at approximately 10:45 a.m. at Wimple Park.
The top seven teams in both races — the boys’ race features 14 teams and the girls’ race has 12 team — will move on to the Effingham St. Anthony Sectional on Nov. 2, while the first five runners who are not members of the advancing teams will also get the chance to compete at the sectional meet.
Prior to this Saturday, the Spartans found themselves in three different invitationals in an 11-day span that helped prepare SJO for what to expect during the postseason.
This past Saturday, SJO ran at the Patriot Invitational, hosted by Peoria Heights at Detweiller Park in Peoria, with both teams placing in the top four of the team standings.
The SJO boys’ team finished fourth of 41 teams with 213 points. Monticello won the meet with 55 points, while Elmwood (106), Father McGivney (212), SJO and Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond (233) rounded out the top five schools.
Junior Brandon Mattsey posted the top time for SJO by placing 15th in 16 minutes, 15.8 seconds. Senior Eric Poe was the next SJO runner to cross the finish line, doing so in 28th place with a time of 16:31.3. Sophomores Charlie Mabry (17:11.5, 61st place), Elijah Mock (17:12.7, 62nd place) and Luke Stegall (17:29.6, 84th place) also factored into the team score for SJO.
The SJO girls’ team finished third out of 31 teams at the Patriot Invitational, racking up a team score of 70. Monticello won with 31 points, while Unity (52), SJO, Elmwood (164) and Chillicothe IVC (307) were the next four schools in the team standings.
Senior Jillian Plotner compiled the best time for SJO with a ninth-place finish in 18:50.8. Senior Hannah Rajlich wasn’t far behind, placing 10th in 19:15.1, while sophomore Ava Knap (19:23.6, 18th place), sophomore Ashlyn Lannert (19:25.5, 19th place) and senior Ally Monk (19:36.8, 25th place) all had solid finishes to help SJO place among the top three teams.
Prior to racing at Detweiller Park — the site of the state meet on Nov. 9 — both SJO teams ran at the Prairie Central Invitational on Oct. 12. The SJO boys placed fifth out of 14 teams with 107 points, trailing meet champion Herscher (69), Uni High (70), Paxton-Buckley-Loda (101) and Eureka (104) in the team chase. The SJO girls were second out of nine teams, compiling 58 points to finish just behind meet champion Eureka (52). Uni High (78), Shelbyville (125) and Herscher (129) rounded out the top five schools.
Individually, Mattsey led the SJO boys on Oct. 12 with a sixth-place finish in 16:10.4. Following Mattsey was Poe (16:46.9, 14th place), Stegall (17:06.8, 29th place), Mock (17:09.1, 30th place) and Mabry (17:16.4, 32nd place).
Rajlich had the top time for the SJO girls at the Prairie Central Invitational with a seventh-place finish in 19:04.8, followed by Plotner (19:21.2, 10th place), Lannert (19:22.8, 12th place), Monk (19:31.9, 14th place) and sophomore Kailyn Ingram (19:37.8, 15th place).
Both SJO programs placed third at the Illini Prairie Conference Meet on Oct. 8 in Fairbury. The Spartans’ boys had 122 points at the 10-team meet, trailing only meet champion Olympia (29) and Monticello (42). Mattsey finished with SJO’s top time in 15:46.3, good enough for ninth place. Poe (16:10.2, 20th place), Mabry (16:45.7, 27th place), Mock (16:50.7, 29th place) and junior Lukas Hutcherson (17:00.2, 37th place) all were the next SJO runners to cross the finish line and compile the team score.
On the girls’ side, SJO finished with 60 points, just behind meet champion Monticello (40) and Unity (47). Plotner and Rajlich contributed the top two times for SJO, with Plotner finishing eighth in 18:03.8 and Rajlich finishing 10th in 18:04.6. Knap (18:10.4, 13th place), Lannert (18:12.6, 14th place) and Monk (18:20.0, 15th place) all stayed in a pack together to give SJO five runners in the top 15.