The boy's highlights proved to be exciting as it illustrates the inner doings of the meet.
the First to the Finish Kickoff has always been billed as the premier meet for southern Illinois runners. But over the past several years, the name could have been called the Mascoutah Invitational. For the third straight year, the Indians took home the girls and boys first place trophies. The girls had a team score of 83, while the boys scored 85. The teams to follow in the girls' race were Freeburg, Mater Dei, St. Teresa, and Pinckneyville. Rounding out the rest of the boys top five teams were Father McGivney, Freeburg, Columbia, and Rochester.
The meet continues to grow in interest, especially among the youth. The middle school race, which precedes the high school races, was split into two separate races for the girls and boys this year. The girls' race had 355 runners competing, while the boys had a total of 442 runners to tackle the 3K course. Elena Rybak of Saint Clare won the girls race, and Isaac Teel of Pinckneyville won the boys. Edwardsville Liberty Middle School also won the girls and the boy's middle school team titles by large margins.
In the girls' high school race, Lydia Roller (Jr) of Staunton was the foreseen leader of the field, for she has won the meet every year as a high schooler. She defended that title once again, cruising to an impressive 18:50 on the full 5000-meter course. A minute and 15 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher! A true accomplishment for a meet in late August, on the tough SIUE course, and in muddy conditions. Riley Vickrey (Sr) of Alton Marquette moved her way up through the pack that followed Roller. She was running fifth at the mile mark but had moved up to third by the two-mile mark, with Freeburg's Breanna Chandler (Sr) running second. The two had pulled away from the others who had made up the pack previously. Coming into view towards the finish, Vickrey had surpassed Chandler and finished in a time of 20:05, and Chandler 20:17 for third place. Chloe Latour, a freshman from Mascoutah finished fourth in a time of 20:53, and Maddie Karcher (So) of Hamilton County finished in 21:19 to place fifth.
The boys' race also had some excitement out front with Father McGivney runner Tyler Guthrie (Jr) leading things from start to finish. Guthrie came through the one-mile mark at 5:09 with no one to challenge him for the spot. It was Justin Mumford (Jr) of Wesclin who followed but later dropped off, making way for several others to move up, including Nick Zwilling (So) of Newton. Zwilling had moved up from sixth to second place nicely by the two-mile mark, but it was still Guthrie all alone leading things. Guthrie finished in 16:53; a big improvement from his 17:33 last year. Zwilling, who with his teammate experienced the course for the first time, held on to second place to finish in 17:26. Seth Hamerski (So) of Webber came in not far behind to place third in 17:28, while Matt Herren (Jr) of Rochester ran 17:38. Finishing closely together was Ethan Sturm (Sr) of Columbia in 17:45, Kristian Knecht (Jr) of Mascoutah in 17:46, and Zach Brasel (Sr) and Brandon Arhing (Jr) both from Father McGivney and both finishing in 17:47.