2021 Boys cross country runner of the year: Alex Partlow

The distance between Alex Partlow and his competition was often a sight too far to be seen 


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2021 was deemed the year of getting things back to normalcy. That long process meant keeping safety precautions in place from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. School administrations slowly began to trust coaches and allow them to coach their athletes and teams outside the confines of a bubble. In turn, the performances as a whole returned with a vengeance.

Micah Wilson had again embroiled himself among the elite runners in the state. The senior from St. Charles East started the season by winning his first three races including the ultra-tough Richard Spring 'Peoria Notre Dame' Invitational. However, everything was not peaches and cream for Wilson who suffered his only defeat of the season at the Peoria Invite, where he took fifth and more than 15 seconds behind the winner in 14:38. Wilson got the final laugh and revenge when he secured his first IHSA 3A harrier state crown in 14:11.18- the fastest time in the state.

It was just one loss to pal and pre-season #1 runner Drew Rogers of Herscher at the PBL Invite that prevented senior Ryder James of Paxton-Buckley-Loda from going undefeated. James established himself as the guy to beat in the 1A championship once Rogers was diagnosed with a slight foot issue. James pulled away from just before the second mile and trucked home for the win in 14:16.

Nick Falk (Sr., New Trier), Riley Newport (Jr., Dekalb), and Luke Wiley (Sr., Warren) were among the key honorable mentions.

Against all odds and very little fanfare after the ominous ending of the 2020 cross country season at Three Sisters Park to one of the state's premier distance runners. It was there that Alex Partlow sat comfortably on the shoulder of Limestone's Wilson Georges through the second mile. The Carbondale ace suffered an apparent asthma attack during the next half-mile and finished 102nd in the Shazam XC D2 Championship. It was the then junior's only defeat of the year.

Fast forward to this past fall, Partlow got off to a hot start which included winning the state of Kentucky's biggest meet, the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational. Somehow those meets and the undefeated status did not register well among the pundits. Not until he traveled to the Peoria Invite during the first weekend in October and beat Georges by 20 seconds in 14:23. It was then the fastest time in the state as well as the best merged time of all classes. No longer could Partlow be overlooked. 

Partlow cruised over the final four races entering the 2A state championship and a rematch with Georges. As he had done previously, Partlow got out fast once again with Georges and they stayed together until the halfway point. It was there when Partlow used a turbo booster and pulled away into the clear. He motored home 25 seconds clear of Georges in 14:11.9 for his first state title. Partlow completed a masterful season which was one of the most dominant against state foes in recent years.