Lick Creek wins state championship
The Lick Creek School Lady Eagles cross country team traveled to Bryan Memorial Park in Salem for the 2016 Class S state cross country championship on Saturday, Oct. 15.
The Lady Eagles had high hopes of competing for the top spot after having an extremely successful regular season.
Lick Creek had battled with two-time defending state champ Pinckneyville St. Bruno, who returned five starters from last year’s team.
Lick Creek dominated the competition, with a score of 50 points.
St. Bruno was second with 77, followed by St. Joseph Olney with 158, and Woodlawn rounded out the top four with 203.
Lick Creek’s average time of 12:38.46 over the 1.86-mile course was 22 seconds better than St. Bruno.
Lick Creek had four runners finish in the top 10, which the team’s supporters said is quite impressive with 174 runners competing.
Lick Creek was led by Brodie Denny, who finished third overall with a time of 12:18.75, just four seconds off the leader.
Coach (and dad) Matt Denny said, “Brodie said she was going out to win it today, and she gave it a shot.”
Denny led for most of the race but Laney Beltz from St. Bruno made a move with about 600 yards left putting just enough distance between Denny and Marie Prindiville from Immaculate Conception to be able to hold them off.
Hannah Miller was fourth overall for the Lady Eagles with a time of 12:20.14, just 1.5 seconds behind Denny.
“Hannah runs a totally different race than Brodie. Brodie likes to get out front, Hannah likes to take it easy then start picking people off about half way through. She is very mentally tough, and almost just makes a game of it.
“Hannah improved more than anyone on our team from last year to this year, she really committed from the very beginning sometimes running on her own when she missed for soccer.”
Kyleigh Matuszewich finished sixth overall for the Lady Eagles at 12:24.19, just four seconds back from Miller.
“Kyleigh has been our leader, our heart and soul for the last two years. I thought she might have a chance to win it, but she has been battling some severe shin splints over the last few weeks. She has been a trooper battling through it, knowing what our goals were as a team, knowing she couldn’t stop training to rest which is what she needed. Inititially she was upset with 6th, which just goes to show her competitive nature,” Denny stated.
Julia Hall was 10th overall for Lick Creek, with a time of 12:40.74.
“Julia is one of our hardest workers in practice. She never lets anybody get down, or quit. She is definitely our emotional leader,” Denny said.
“Coach Ryan Vicenzi and her usually start practices out with a riddle for the team which is always fun and lightens the mood before we get to work. I have been coaching for over 20 years and Julia is one of my all-time favorite kids to coach.”
Hall has been battling a lingering hip injury for most of the year which just got better the last few weeks.
Addison Denny finished 35th overall, with a time of 13:28.50.
“Addie ran 30 seconds faster than she had all year. She knew her job was that she had to stay close to St. Bruno’s fifth runner, and she did just that running only five seconds behind their fifth. She ran her best race of the year, which says a lot about her heart. She knew for us to win she had to run fast, and she did that.”
Jaiden Foster was next for Lick Creek at 43rd, with a time of 13:41.77.
“Petie ran with us early in the year, then focused on softball for most of the season. She ran when she could, and was a very important part of our team all year. She is a gamer and you are always going to get her best in meets, as silly as she is,” Denny said.
Rounding out the Lady Eagle team was 2nd grader Jadyn Gerardi. Gerardi finished 62nd out of 174 runners, with a time of 14:13.26.
“Jadyn is a very special talent. Not only does she have the physical ability, she is very mentally tough and has wanted to run with the ‘big girls’ since the beginning.” Denny stated.
“Jadyn sometimes would get frustrated by not finishing in the top 20 at meets, but she was an extrememly important part of our team, running as our fifth runner for most of the year. She is going to be fun to watch grow up. Jadyn, Addie, and Jaiden knew their roles, and they all ran fast enough for us to win first no matter who scored our fifth place points. They all did their job, which was just as important as our top four for us to win.”
Lick Creek just started cross country last year, finishing fourth in its inaugural year. To win a state championship in their second year is an amazing feat, the team’s coach said.
“I am super proud of our kids. They have worked very, very hard with this as their goal from the very beginning. They have run tons and tons of hills, some days running nothing but 350’s all uphill over and over without complaining. They are a special group of kids,” Denny said.
“Our numbers are increasing and the interest is very high, our JV kids are pretty good so we hope to keep it going next year.”