January 27, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Strong bond motivates Spartans Cross Country

Ally Monk wants people to know there is more to the St. Joseph-Ogden Cross Country program than trophies. 

The SJO senior cross country runner said the best part of the Spartan cross country dynasty is the family atmosphere. 

“I look forward to going to practice each day and meets each Saturday because of the team,” she said. “We often share laughs together and sometimes the occasional tear or two, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 

Today, both the girls’ and boys’ cross country teams will compete for state titles at the Class 1A state meet in Peoria.

The 1A girls’ race in Peoria is slated to begin at 9 a.m., with the 1A boys’ race to follow at 10 a.m.

Sophomore Taryn Sexton agreed that the best part of running cross country is the relationships. 

“I think that the best part about our cross country program is the bonds that we create,” she said. “We become like a family that no one can separate. Sometimes we can get into arguments and what not, but we always come back together in the end. That is so important to me because I know that I can rely on them if I need help with something.”

Freshman Mary Hinrichs said the bond the team has is very strong.

“The best part of the cross country program is the way the team is a family,” she said.  “We do so much together and for each other. This team is like my second family.”

Sophomore Ava Knap said the best part of the program is the relationships that athletes have with each other and their coaches. 

“We are a huge family that is always together. It’s rare that you can find us apart,” she said. “The bonds I have with my teammates is truly like no other. the work we put in and sacrifice we make for each other.” 

Sophomore Ashlyn Lannert said both teams going to state together is special.

“It means a lot that both teams made it to state,” she said.  “All of us have put in so much work to be in the position that we are in now, both the girls and the guys. Last year, it was heartbreaking having to go on another week without the guys team. But this year it is going to be two times the fun and excitement because I believe we all work better when we are all there together.”

Charlie Mabry agreed and said both teams going to state together is an important milestone that means a lot to the athletes.

“It means so much to us because it’s the hard work we have put in and the sweat and tears to finally be rewarded at the end of the day,” he said. 

Sophomore Addie Allen said both teams going to state helps them stay focused. 

“Last year when the boys didn’t make it to state, it was so different not having them with us every day but now that they’ve made it, we get to work hard together for another final week and enjoy the time we have left with this season,” she said.

Sophomore Hope Rajlich that both teams going made the experience even better.

“We are one family so to have both teams going to state is really special. We’ve worked so hard this year and to see it all pay off is something that’s really cool,” she said.  “With that being said, we aren’t anywhere close to finished yet because we still have really big goals for the state meet.”

Beyond the strong bond the team has, they also motivate each other to be the very best they can be.

Sophomore Elijah Mock said seeing how hard his teammates train makes him want to train harder. 

“I mainly stay motivated because my peers stay motivated,” he said.  “Whenever I don’t want to run or I don’t want to stay with the top group, I think of how my fellow teammates are training harder than me. I also want to keep improving my times, so that keeps me motivated.”

Sophomore Kendra Riddle said her teammates keep her motivated as well.

“My team keeps me motivated as I see them giving it their all and remember that even though we run individually I still need to put in my all because all of our individual runs goes toward something that can only be obtained if all of us put in the work,” she said. 

Freshman Teagan Miller agreed.

“I stay motivated from the people around me,” she said. “I see all things my teammates have gone through and I realise that if they can do it then so can I.”

Miller said the coaches also help her stay motivated.  During races Head Coach Jason Retz often tells Miller to catch a runner that is ahead of her.

“When I hear that all I can think is ‘he’s crazy, she’s so far ahead,’ but then I try and when I get there I feel like I just did something amazing,” she said.

Freshman Lili Wentzloff agreed that Retz is a great motivator.

“I stay motivated through when Coach Retz and Coach Rein give speeches and when they help me and also after races when the come up to me and tell me I did a good job,” she said.

Junior Lukas Hutcherson said Assistant Coach Terri Rein is a vital part of the team’s success.

“Mrs. Rein is like the team’s second mom, she’s helps keep us under control and does everything she can to put us in the position for success,” he said. 

Sophomore Kailyn Ingram agreed that the coaches are vital to the team’s success. 

“Coach Retz and Coach Rein are some of the most trustworthy people I have in my life,” she said.  “There is not a single thing I don’t trust them with. They are smart, caring, accountable, selfless and the most amazing people. I am so lucky and thankful to have them in my life.”

Junior Brandon Mattsey said athletes on the team are lucky to have so many people invested in their success.

“I have a lot of people pushing me to be my best at all times. It’s never hard to find someone that wants me to be the best version of myself possible. Whether it be my coaches, teammates, or even previous teammates that reach out to wish me luck,” he said.

Freshman Kaytlyn Baker agreed that the coaches push the runners to be the best they can be. 

“Coach Retz and Coach Rein are the best coaches I’ve ever had. They have pushed me to limits that I never thought I could reach,” she said.  “They know our potential and they can see it in every kid. They are the most dedicated people and coaches I’ve ever met.”

Freshman Eric Blackburn said he respected the dedication the coaches have to the program.

“You can tell that he (Retz) has put his pride and dedication into this running program,” he said.

Senior Eric Poe said it is an honor to run for such a successful program. 

“The fact that SJO Cross Country has a long history of success gives me a lot of pride to be wearing “Spartans” across my chest every time I toe the line,” he said. “I feel incredibly lucky to be able to wear for such a successful program.”

Sophomore Malorie Sarnecki agreed.

“Running for this program is amazing,” she said. “This program has had so much success and just the thought that we are still paving that pathway for success is so awesome. And I hope that years down the road I will be able to come back here and see that the pathway is still being paved.”

Senior Jillian Plotner said it means a lot to her to run as a Spartan. 

“It means so much since the program comes with a lot of success,” she said.  “Running for Saint Joe is a privilege and such a fun experience to be a part of.”

Junior Logan Wolfersberger said running for the Spartans gives him a sense of pride.

“It feels different to put on a jersey that has no background than it does to put on a jersey worn by many previous successful runners. It makes me feel like I can be a part of something huge,” he said.

Senior Hannah Rajlich said running for the Spartans is something she will always cherish. 

“I’ve been so lucky to get to experience success and it feels awesome to continue the legacy that those before us have set,” she said. 

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