Lick Creek girls’ cross country team wins invitational at Salem
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 44 teams and 786 runners from all over Southern Illinois met at Salem’s Bryan Memorial Park for one of the biggest junior high cross country meets of the year.
“It is something to see this many kids not just interested in running, but passionate about it. We never realized how big cross country is in our area,” Lick Creek coach Matt Denny said.
The St. Theresa Invitational consisted of about half class “S” schools and half class “L” schools. The runners all ran together and scored points individually against all classes. Team points were kept in the classes.
Lick Creek knew it would again have its hands full with St. Bruno, which has won back-to-back state titles. Coming into the meet Lick Creek had split in head-to-head competition with St. Bruno 2-2. Lick Creek was also without one of its top runners in Hannah Miller, so the Union County team’s work was cut out for it.
“We talked about stepping up to the challenge and that we had to get better from top to bottom if we want to have a chance at state in three weeks.” Denny said.
“We also talked about the chance to run against the best programs in the state, like both O’Fallon schools and Triad. They all have over 2,500 students each, so we just looked at it as a chance to find out how good we are.”
Lick Creek easily outpaced St. Bruno 113-160, turning in its best team effort of the year.
The girls’ varsity race had 133 competitors. Lick Creek was led by Brodie Denny, who finished 4th, closely behind runners from Carriel O’Fallon, Immaculate Conception and Triad.
Kyleigh Matuszewich finished 5th, just behind Denny. Julia Hall came in 12th, while 2nd grader Jadyn Gerardi finished 40th. Addison Denny came in at 52 to finish the scoring for Lick Creek.
“I was so proud of our girls today, they just get better and better and when I think we have peaked, they step it up another notch. To run like we did against the bigger schools just shows how hard these kids have worked from mid-summer until now.”
In the boys’ JV race, 5th grader J.J. Gerardi finished 20th out of 168 runners.
“I was super proud of J.J. today. He finally ran up to his potential. He is going to be good, really good in a few years.”
In the girls’ JV race, Kaitlyn Matuszewich finished 32nd, while Kayla Matuszewich finished 35th. Meranda Wright came in at 52.
Lick Creek was scheduled to travel to Benton on Tuesday, and is slated to return to Benton on Saturday, Oct. 1, for its biggest meet of the year, where over 1,100 competitors are expected.