Pekin runners win, lose close races with Metamora
PEKIN -- Four points.
That's all that separated the Pekin and Metamora boys and girls cross country teams Saturday in a Mid-Illini Conference meet at Pekin.
Metamora edged Pekin 28-29 in the boys race. Pekin edged Metamora 26-29 in the girls race.
The Pekin boys team won the pre-conference meet Sept. 15 at Dunlap Valley Middle School and Metamora finished fourth. That didn't matter Saturday.
"I was impressed with Metamora (on Saturday). They ran well," said Pekin boys coach Cole Stoner. "Their coach (Gene Jones, in his 51st season) always has his kids running well late in the season, and we caught them late in the season.
"We have a lot of respect for Metamora, but we have to figure out where we could have made up that one point, and use the disappointment of the loss to our advantage.
"This race was a great reminder that it doesn't take much to win or lose in cross country. Every point counts. When we have our conference meet (Oct. 16 at Detweiller Park), I can see the first- through fourth-place teams being separated by as few as six points."
Stoner said his runners' times were a bit slow Saturday, but there was a reason for that.
"We practiced hard during the week. I beat 'em up," Stoner said. "It's going to take hard work to achieve our goals."
Metamora defeated Pekin because three Redbirds runners were among the top four finishers. They were Ian O'Laughlin (1st, 15:58), Hunter Roedell (2nd, 16:25) and Colton Barb (4th, 16:57).
Pekin's Drae Heiple (3rd, 16:31) prevented a Metamora top-four sweep.
Five Pekin runners followed Metamora's Barb across the finish line. The pack impressed Stoner.
"I like finishing in that style," he said.
The five Pekin runners were Jonny Blanchard (5th, 17:05), Jeremy Leichtenberg (6th, 17:09), Noah Sivori (7th, 17:12), Huston Gillespie (8th, 17:14) and Jackson Custer (9th, 17:17). All counted in Pekin's team score except Custer.
The remaining Metamora scorers were Nathan Haines (10th, 17:19) and Cade Ward (11th, 17:22).
It was a good day for his team despite the loss, Stoner said, because three seniors were honored on Senior Day. Those seniors are Heiple, Sivori and Russell Sarff.
"Thanking our seniors was our No. 1 priority (Saturday)," Stoner said. "We honored them in the middle of our school's softball diamond at 8 o'clock in the morning on the day of a race instead of during an evening potluck in our school's cafeteria like we usually do, but the guys still had a Senior Day."
Pekin girls coach Allie Jones was impressed with her team's win over Metamora, "which has a huge team with a lot of talent."
"Our home course is pretty tough, and our girls weren't focused on their time (Saturday)," she said. "They knew their place in the race and working together, pushing each other, was more important."
Working together and pushing each other was never more apparent than just before the one-mile mark, when Pekin's Lauren Filarski called to teammate Olivia Wolfe, who was behind her, and pointed her finger down next to her, asking Wolfe to run with her.
The five Pekin runners who scored against Metamora were Lily Wagemann (2nd, 20:04), Emma Cox (4th, 20:47), Jaylynn Riley (5th, 20:50), Wolfe (6th, 21:05) and Filarski (9th, 21:24).
It also was Senior Day for the Pekin girls team. Wagemann, Jayvian Riley and Taylor Goss were honored.
In other Pekin cross country news:
NEXT: The boys and girls teams will compete Friday in the Runnin' Red Invitational at Metamora's Black Partridge Park.
The invitational was expanded from one to two days this season to restrict gatherings. After Friday's races, there will be three races Saturday.
"It looks like I'll be hitting the refresh button on my computer all day Saturday to see how our team is doing in the standings," Stoner said.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.