The Du Quoin cross-country boys qualified for Saturday's Trenton sectionals as a team with a fifth-place finish in the Benton regionals. They were led by senior Landen Swiney who finished in third (14:55.2), senior Nathan Smith, 14th (15:57.6) and sophomore Conor Gross, 22nd (16:28.7) followed by two freshmen -- Jaxon VanZandt, 63rd (18:41.4) and Reid Tilley, 83rd (19:57.0).
"I have to give a shoutout to Jaxon VanZandt, the football player who can gut out three miles and keep us competitive," Kirkpatrick said. "He doesn't practice with us much, but he runs a little on his own and ran with us throughout the year three or four times.
"So him coming today allowed us to have that fifth person to qualify as a team. Jaxon was aware we needed him at regionals and we appreciate him coming out and stepping up for us because if he didn't that would have ended some seasons. Conor Gross would have missed a week of practice and the sectional experience.
"It also allowed Landen and Nathan to have that team atmosphere another week instead of being in a box with strangers instead of their teammates. We are able to do that because Jaxon came out today."
Pinckneyville finished second to Benton by four points led by sophomore Isaac Teel, who finished second (14:24.3) followed by senior Dylan Bledsoe fourth (15:11.10), junior Dawson Chaney seventh (15:36.3) and senior Holden Clark 10th (15:52.8).
Benton sophomore Gavin Genisio won the regional title with a time of 14:05.0. Filling out the top 10 were Trenton Wesclin senior Gavin Hill fourth (15:17.9), Benton senior Chase Owens eighth (15:46.3) and Nashville sophomore Brayden Hunter ninth (15:52.0).
Rounding out the Rangers team were sophomore Mason Tieffel 11th (15:54.2), freshman Gabe McLain 12th (15:54.4) and freshman Cole Buchanan 17th (16:09.0).