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Du Quoin girls cross-country: Can they win the sectional for 3rd year in row?

  • The Du Quoin girls cross-country team celebrates its regional win at Benton last Saturday, and is heading for the Trenton sectionals this weekend.

    The Du Quoin girls cross-country team celebrates its regional win at Benton last Saturday, and is heading for the Trenton sectionals this weekend.
    Courtesy of Du Quoin Indians Track and Field/Facebook

By Geary Deniston
Contributing writer
updated: 11/9/2021 12:40 AM

The senior trio of Olivia Phillips, Grace Alongi and Maddie Decker achieved one of their ambitious goals two weeks ago, when the team won its fourth straight conference cross-country title.

Last Saturday, they had another goal in mind when they traveled to Benton for the 1A regional. There, the team won the regional title for the fourth straight year - by 21 points.

"Twenty-one points may seem like an easy win, but the bigger the meet the more those numbers add up," said Du Quoin Coach Eric Kirkpatrick. "It felt a lot closer than that, but once we saw the results it ended up being a pretty comfortable win. I wasn't comfortable until I saw the results with my own eyes."

On Saturday, the Lady Indians go into the Trenton Wesclin sectional as defending sectional champions. They will be looking for their third sectional title in the last four years.

"The next goal is to win our third sectional championship and for me to win my first sectional title," Phillips said.

"Father McGivney is supposed to give us some competition," she added. "I'm really excited for that because competition makes us really work hard and pushes us to want to run faster. They have a freshman, Elena Rybak, who I think is ranked No. 1 in the state right now. There is also Eris Nelson from Belleville Althoff and Ahry Comer from Pope County who are really great runners."

Winning the regional wasn't going to be easy as a team or individually, with Pinckneyville bringing a solid team led by freshman Vanessa Teel and senior Taylor Kurtz. Also standing in Phillips' way was two-time regional champ Hamilton County senior Maddie Karcher and talented newcomer Christ Our Rock Lutheran sophomore Sarah McKowen.

But when the fifth Du Quoin runner crossed the finish line of the 2.92-mile course, the Lady Indians had held off the Lady Panther challenge. Phillips easily won the title by running 17:41.2, the 10th fastest time the course had ever seen. She was followed by fellow senior Lauren Heape, who joined the team as a sophomore, with a time of 18:18.3.

"Coming from running against Gabby Alongi on my team and running against Ansley Bailey I was always a step behind them, so it really awesome to get the opportunity to run super fast and get that championship," Phillips said. "Benton is my No. 1 favorite course out of all the courses I have run. I just love it because you got through the woods and run on those trails. I really like doing that."

Teel finished third (18:33.4) with Kurtz right behind in fourth (18:45.1) followed by McKowen fifth (18:45.2) and Karcher sixth (18:48.1).

Du Quoin inched closer to the title when two of its younger runners, freshman Maggie Kellerman (19:10.4) and sophomore Kallie Oestreicher (19:12.1), crossed the line in eighth and ninth place. They sealed the deal when Alongi came in 20th (19:50.9). Freshman Issy Phillips finished 22nd (19:57.6) and Decker 30th (20:36.4).

"Lauren ran a brilliant race," Kirkpatrick said. "Issy and Maggie are really starting to assert themselves at the high school level, especially Maggie.

"I feel Maggie is really starting to scratch the surface of what she can do. She's really starting to come on. She was 12th at conference and here she pops up and gets eighth. Kallie was right behind and she's rounding into form at the right time. For Maggie and Kallie it was the best they've run this season."

The Lady Panthers third runner senior Ashlee Hirsch finished 11th (19:19.1), its fourth freshman Zoe Conway 17th (19:39.5) and its fifth senior Lindsey Geffers 27th (20:22.9).

Rounding out the top 10 were Breese Mater Dei freshman Isabella Hacker seventh (19:08.0) and Benton senior Jacey Eubanks 10th (19:15.7).

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