The Lick Creek School Lady Eagles cross country team celebrates a second consecutive state championship. Photo provided.

Lick Creek Lady Eagles win back-to-back state titles

The Lick Creek School Lady Eagles cross country team traveled to Salem on Saturday, Oct. 14, to defend its 2016 state championship. 

The Lady Eagles had to overcome losing a lot to graduation to repeat as champs. 

Lick Creek lost three of its top four runners from last year to graduation, all who finished in the top 10 at state. 

Lick Creek coach Matt Denny said: “Coming into this year I told my asst. coaches that it would be amazing if we could just finish in the top four at state this year, we thought it would be somewhat of a rebuilding year. 

“The kids decided they wanted to repeat the first day of practice, actually the first day of summer. We had several kids start running as soon as school got out. Their hard work paid off in the end.”

Lick Creek was able to hold off one of the best programs in the area in St. Bruno Catholic 75-79. Finishing in third place was Evansville with 128, followed by St. Joseph Olney in fourth at 157. 

Lick Creek was led by Brodie Denny, who finished second overall with a time of 12:17. 

“Brodie has run well and led us all year. We had to back off her training a little in the last month or so to keep her healthy. 

“She really wanted the individual title, but couldn’t keep pace with Tatum David from St. Joseph Olney, who really came on at the end of the year. Brodie is just in 7th grade, as is David. So they should battle it out again next year.”

Finishing next for the Lady Eagles was Jadyn Gerardi, who finished 13th with a time of 13:07. Gerardi is just in the third grade. 

“Jadyn is a very special talent. For a kid at her age to not only physically be able to compete at the top, but understand it and not be overwhelmed is simply amazing. She is the talk of every meet we go to, and they all know who she is. Jadyn could win several titles by the time she graduates,” Denny said. 

Gerardi was followed by Addison Denny, who finished 17th, with a time of 13:22. 

“Addie made a decision to run with Brodie and Jadyn all summer, she also added swimming with Brodie to her training which made a big difference. Addie understood her role and where she had to be, and she exceeded that. I am very proud of her for realizing early in the summer she needed to put in extra time for us to win, and she did the work,” Denny said.

Kaylee Stover was next for Lick Creek, just behind Denny at 19th with a time of 13:33. 

Denny said: “Kaylee played softball and ran cross country, she spent a lot of hours between the two. She was a big addition, this was her first full year running. Kaylee really came on near the end, just learning how to run, figuring out how good she can be. If she works this summer she will be in the top 10 next year, if not the top five. She is an amazing athlete who is really mentally tough. I look forward to seeing what she can do next year.”

Rounding out the scoring for the Lady Eagles was Kayla Matuszewich. She finished 39th overall, with a time of 14:01. 

“Kayla stepped up big for us today. She has been running sixth for us most of the year. Since you only score the top five, that sixth runner needs to be solid in case someone doesn’t have their best day, or gets sick or injured. Kayla ran faster than she had all year, even after falling near the start. She understood how important her job was today, and boy did it really pay off. She is going to be good, she competed really well for a fifth grader today,” Denny said.

Next for the Lady Eagles was Kristen Edmonds. She finished 44th with a time of 14:10. 

“Kristin had been running fourth or fifth for us all year. She is by far the most improved runner from last year to this year. She didn’t have her best race, but everyone has had those days this year. She has been solid for us all year, and was a big part of our success all year long,” Denny said. 

Lick Creek’s final runner was Campbell Belcher. She finished with a time of 15:52. 

“Campbell came a long way near the end. She got a little bit of a late start, but found her groove the last few weeks. She really competed for us this year. I know there were times she didn’t really like it, but she stuck it out and improved at the end,” Denny said.

Lick Creek will return four of its top five runners next year in Brodie Denny, Jadyn Gerardi, Kaylee Stover and Kayla Matuszewich. They should definitely have a chance to compete for a three-peat, Denny said.

“We should be strong next year, with four coming back and a very strong young group of kids on our JV, we should be tough. Evansville and St. Joseph Olney both have almost everyone coming back, so it will be a challenge,” the Lick Creek coach said.

“I want to thank all my parents for supporting our late practices, and crazy schedule as we balanced coaching A-J and Lick Creek. 

I also want to thank assistant coach Blake Derocher: without his willingness to go wherever we needed, whenever we needed it, we could have never competed this season or started the program back at A-J. Blake is tireless when it comes to coaching.”

The Gazette-Democrat

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Anna, Illinois 62906
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