By ERIC X. VICCARO
JACKSON — For Valle Catholic head cross country coach Samer Zoughaib, he said this was the Warriors’ best-ever performance at the season-opening Jackson Invitational.
“We had never gotten a top-5 team trophy (plaque),” Zoughaib said. “Both the junior and senior girls finished in second place, and the sophomore boys took fourth.”
The Jackson Invitational, which took place on a muggy, late August morning, essentially serves as a warm-up meet for the region.
Six boys and six girls received individual medals, which were given to the top-25 competitors in class groups.
The event was staged freshmen through seniors. Freshmen ran three kilometers while sophomores through seniors traversed a 4K layout.
Complete team results weren’t tracked in the traditional way.
Valle Catholic’s bountiful success could be credited, in part, that St. Louis-area schools didn’t bring teams.
Still, the Warriors showed moxie, running well against the likes of Jackson, Fox High (Arnold), Cape Notre Dame, Poplar Bluff, Kelly, Dexter, Saxony Lutheran, Potosi and Cape Central.
City Park provided runners with a challenge, which includes a moderate crest during the first 400 meters. There also is another hill at the one-mile mark.
Zoughaib reported City Park has consistently served as a district meet site.
The Warriors were taken by surprise just as they drove into the venue. Twenty runners had their temperatures checked due to concerns over COVID-19 (coronavirus). They wore masks until just five minutes prior to their race.
Weather also played a factor. The temperature was 72 degrees at 9 a.m., but it warmed quickly into the mid-80s by the time the senior boys and girls both ran.
State qualifier Mary Roth fueled the senior girls, with an eighth-place finish (18:13.6), while classmate Nicole Valle was 11th (18:47.0).
Junior Camryn Basler struggled toward the finish line; but, she still recorded Valle’s best finish — fourth in 17:35.9. Katie Kertz, Lily Hoog and Rachel Valle also copped medals for the Warrior girls.
On the boys’ side, promising freshman Garrett Shortt raced in with a 10th-place finish (13:02.4).
Sophomore Peter Roth also was 10th in his class group, recording a time of 14:36.8. Josef Flieg and Braden Coleman both medaled, 19th and 21st, respectively among sophomore boys.
Senior Josh Hoog recorded a time of 15:00 for 15th in the senior boys race, with Jordan Bales receiving a medal for 18th in the same group.