Members of the state champion Lick Creek School girls’ cross country team are, in the first row, from left, Mya Clutts, Jadyn Gerardi, Kylee Myers and Natilyn Corbit. In the second row are coach Matt Denny, Kenzie Stover, Kaylee Stover, Brodie Denny and Meranda Wright. Photo provided.

Lick Creek girls’ cross country team wins third straight title

The Lick Creek girls’ cross country team traveled to Centralia’s Foundation Park on Saturday, Oct. 13, for the SIJHSAA class S cross country state championships. 

After winning the last two years, it has been a goal of the Lady Eagles to go for the 3-Peat. 

For some of them it started in January by running at 6:30 in the morning in single digit weather before school. They knew they were going to be young so they got an early start on the season. 

“I can’t say enough about these kids. This is by far the youngest group I have ever coached, but they weren’t going to let that stop them,” Lick Creek coach Matt Denny said.

The Eagles finished in first place with 154 points, ahead of Norris City Omaha Enfield, which had 180. Pope County was third with 191, and Evansville a close fourth with 194. 

There were 217 runners in this year’s field, which was the most ever at a state meet as the sport continues to grow very fast. 

Lick Creek was led by 4th grade standout Jadyn Gerardi, who finished in 7th place, covering the 1.86 mile course 11:46. 

“Jadyn is special. She definitely has earned all the accolades she has received. She was one that has put in the early mornings since January when it was freezing cold before school. She has a mind beyond her years when it comes to competition. She understands her role and how to race, not just run,” Denny said. 

Next for the Lady Eagles was Kaylee Stover, who finished in 20th with a time of 12:16, which was her personal best by almost 30 seconds. 

“Kaylee really stepped it up today, she came through when we needed her. She made a decision to concentrate on cross country this year, without her, we don’t win,” Denny said.

Next for the Lady Eagles was Brodie Denny, who finished in 22nd place with a time of 12:17. 

“Brodie had been battling a cold all week, and didn’t have her best today, but that’s where the team aspect of cross country comes in, everyone else picked it up, which happened last year as well for us.” 

Finishing 4th for the Lady Eagles was Meranda Wright. Wright covered the course in 12:52 which was good for a top 50 place.

“Meranda has improved so much this year, probably as much or more than anyone. She really started to believe in herself the last few weeks of the season. We had several talks about how important she was to our team success, and she responded to the challenge,” Denny said.

Rounding out the scoring for the Lady Eagles was another 4th grader in Kylee Myers. Myers finished in 69th place with a time of 13:22, which was almost 2:00 faster than a few weeks earlier in the season. 

“Kylee also made a commitment to run early in the year. She went through about a two week funk in the middle of the season, but boy did she ever come out of it when we needed her most. She had a lot of pressure on her to perform, and she sure stepped up to the plate,” Denny said. 

Kenzie Stover was next for the Lady Eagles in 86th at 13:38. 

“Kenzie, Kylee, and Meranda had been taking turns filling our last two spots all year. Kenzie gave us a cushion. She ran fast enough that if she had been our fifth, we still would have run. They all understood their role so well all year.” Denny stated. 

Mya Clutts, a 3rd grader was Lick Creek’s final runner. She finished the course in 15:23, which was good for 163. 

“Mya is just learning how to run. She has the biggest heart and is going to be a force very soon. She came a long way this year, earning a spot on the varsity team. She will be very important next year to our success,” Denny said. 

“It has been an amazing year, and we will have our work cut out next year to keep the streak going, but I will never doubt these kids hearts and work ethic. Nothing will surprise me anymore.”

The Gazette-Democrat

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Anna, Illinois 62906
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