This Saturday the Tigers hosted their home meet honoring Festus High School’s first cross country coach, Coach Bowles. Coach Bowles gave us the honor of stopping by one of our practices this week and spoke to the athletes. Coach Bowles makes you think a lot about the cross country history here at Festus. Mainly, cross country history is not just words and numbers on a sheet of paper or stats on the internet. Cross Country history is made by successful stories of outstanding runners and teams, or no talent kids that became great athletes now running on scholarships in college; or by little acts of kindness that one day may amount to something greater. These acts of kindness, I like to call “The Act of Cross Country.”
The varsity boys raced first on Saturday morning and it was a beautiful morning for a cross country meet. With no one to challenge the Tiger’s number one and two runners, Jacob Schweiss and Hunter Darnell led the course the entire way coming in first and second at 16:48 and 16:56. Coming in 4th was Freshman Max McDaniel improving his time from his previous 5k a couple weeks ago, running 17:15. The next couple Tigers across the line bettered their times significantly from this same race last year; Drew Faerber 8th place, bettered his time by over minute, Isaac Wright 11th bettered his time by 42 seconds, and Joey Labitiska bettered his time by almost a minutes and a half. Dakota McKinney was the 7th Tiger across the line in 28th place in his first varsity race as a Festus Tiger. Finishing with a team score of 22 points, Festus won the meet 22 points ahead of second place team Marquette.
The Varsity girls had the next race of the day. Racing against some great competition Washington, Marquette, and Herculaneum all have great teams this year. Lily Uding was the first Festus Tiger across the line in 8th place running a time of 21:07, Maddy Wiskirchen 10th, Danielle Earll 13th, Maddie Welsh 16th (running a PR of 21:59), and Melissa Wolk 26th just missing a medal by one place running a PR of22:38. These girls competed hard on Saturday and I expect they will keep improving as the season continues. The girls placed 3rd with 66 points, only 3 points behind second place team Marquette.
In the JV girls race Allison Payne ran a great race coming in 4th with a time of 23:56. Mollie Amsden placed 6th, freshman Rachel Barbagallo placed 7th running her fastest time of the season 24:31, Becca Amsden was 10th bettering her time by two and half minutes from last year, and Freshman Bailey Moore placed 11th. . This completes the top 5 scores winning the JV girls race with 33 points, 17 points ahead of 2nd place team Washington. Also, Emily Rodgers, Riley Douglas, and Acacely Rios all bettered their times by almost two minutes from last year.
The JV boys ran a great race winning by 9 points, with a team score of 26 points. The Tigers went 1-2-3, Matt Thomas led the way winning the JV boys racing, Brady Shular 2nd, and Jared Brown 3rd. James Ziesmer 5th and Edwin Garcia 19th also received a medal. As a coach seeing athletes improve over the years is one of the most satisfying feelings. However, in the JV boys race technical difficulties prevented their times from being displayed. Although improvements in cross country can be seen in other ways besides times. They can be seen in character as well. Cross Country is not like any other sport. Your competition is not always another person, most of the time it’s the clock and the person within. Cross Country is based on self-improvement and seeing each athlete’s character change over time is something that cannot be measured, but can only be observed. Earlier this week Coach Wright put out a great quote on Twitter, “You don’t have to be rich or famous to help others win. You just need to do your best to help them. And know this when you have the ability to help someone win, you will have a friend for life.” The success of the Festus cross country program is the upperclassman mentor to the underclassman and teach them characteristics to be successful in school, cross country, and life. On Saturday this was witness among the athletes on the team, but was also caught on camera. The Festus JV boys encouraged a JV girl (from another school) to keep going and finish the race, as they ran behind her and cheered her on through the finish line, giving her high fives after she completed the race. This small “Act of Cross Country” is something those boys did not think twice about or even thought about after the matter, but it touched the hearts of several people in the community. I heard comments about this throughout the meet and read more on social media hours after the meet was over. If there could be more kids like them, more cross country runners, this world would be a better place.