DANVILLE — Two seniors who’ve taken dozens of trips around the cross-country course at Kickapoo State Park had memorable farewell exits on Saturday.
St. Thomas More’s Theresa Welle and Schlarman’s Jesse Hahne were the individual winners in the Oakwood Invitational in their last races on the 3-mile layout.
“Sometimes I feel bad in warmups. Sometimes I feel good,” Welle said, “but I never regret racing.
“This was a great day to run.”
Her time (19 minutes, 56 seconds) gave her a 42-second margin of victory.
Hahne was also a runaway winner. His mile splits were all within 10 seconds of one another. He closed in 5:20 and covered the course in 15:54, a second off his personal best at Kickapoo.
“I don’t ever hold back,” Hahne said.
St. Thomas More coach David Behm reined in his runners, but both his boys’ and girls’ squads captured team titles in the 12-school event. Team scores were based on elapsed times for each school’s top five runners.
“We didn’t want to jog, but we didn’t want to lay it out,” he said. “We wanted to run a controlled race and run as a pack.”
Jacob Helfrich (second) and Nick Hess (third) were the Sabers’ leaders. Teammates Sam Powers (sixth), Brendan Remington (eighth) and Sean Kelley (ninth) were also top-10 finishers. The split in their times was 17 seconds.
Expectations for the program, rated No. 1 in the state in Class 1A, have increased during Behm’s three-year tenure.
“When I came, the goal was to be one of the top programs in the state,” he said.
St. Thomas More is in the conversation, but not the only team worth talking about.
“They know there’s a lot of competition out there, a lot of good teams right with us,” Behm said.
One challenge as the Sabers’ boys ran into prominence was to not overlook the girls. Welle said that hasn’t been an issue.
“Our coach is good at supporting everyone, whether they run 18 minutes or 28 minutes,” she said. “It’s a good environment to have. I’m excited.”
Behm likes what he sees when his girls’ team is at full strength, as they were Saturday when dual-sport runners Regan Kelley (volleyball) and Caroline Dodds (golf) are able to compete.
“Our girls’ program is on the upswing,” Behm said. “We want them to have the same goals as the guys and they’re starting to believe in themselves.”
The Sabers are ranked 18th among 1A girls’ teams statewide.
Kelley was the third-place finisher on Saturday, followed closely by fourth-place teammate Julia Welle. Dodds was 10th and Morgan Carmien finished 13th. The gap between Kelley and Dodds was 45 seconds. The team’s combined times were a meet-record 1:06.00 as the Sabers beat Heyworth by 2:49 for team honors.
Other area top-10 placers were Clinton’s Alivia Powers (sixth), Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman’s Cassidy Baugh (seventh), Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Audrey Bloomquist (eighth) and Shiloh’s Morgan Wood (ninth).
Three other area boys registered top-10 finishes. Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac’s John Davis was fifth, teammate Emerson Grey was seventh and Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Hayden Young was 10th.