The 18th edition of the Forest Park Cross County Festival was a record breaking one with three meet records bested. The first record to fall was in the first race of the day – the Open Race for community members, coaches and family members. Riley Gorham, a 25-year-old from Parkville, MO and former runner at Hardin Central High School and MO Western State University, blazed a 15:59 5k to kick off a fast day.
In the Varsity Girls High School Green Division, sophomore Mary McKenzie of Cor Jesu raced to the lead and finished strong to win by 40 seconds with a time of 18:43, smiling the whole way. Sophomore Ellie Bush of O’Fallon (IL) was the runner up. The team standings, however, were flipped with O’Fallon finishing in first and Cor Jesu earning second place honors. The top six runners in this race were underclassmen – five of them freshmen or sophomores – which bodes well for the future!
In the Varsity Boys High School Green Division, Dylon Nalley, a senior from Marion (IL) put on a show! Nalley won last year in a dominating performance and did the same this year but ran more than 30 seconds faster dipping under 15 minutes for 5k for the first time at FPXC. Nalley’s time of 14:54.7 broke a 10-year-old record previously set by Patrick Perrier of O’Fallon (IL) in 2013 (15:03). Runner-up Isaac Rivera, a senior from Lincoln Prep College, cracked the top 25 list with #11 all-time mark of 15:21.
In the team race it was the meet host St. Louis University High who pulled off the victory, their first at this meet since 2009. The drought ended as a result of freshman Jackson Miller breaking into the top 10 and SLUH’s #3-5 runners finishing as a pack in 14-17th place. SLUH’s friendly rival, Rockhurst from Kansas City, finished second as a team.
In the freshmen girls race, Bethany Leight of Cor Jesu earned the win in 13:48, 20 seconds faster than two Kickapoo runners – Elladee Thomas and Madison Els – who finished together. Four points decided the team champion and Kickapoo came out on top over Cor Jesu.
The Freshmen Boys 3k was a close one with Joe Talleur of SLUH edging Gavin Blaine of Kickapoo for the win by less than a second. The top four runners all crossed the finish line within 5 seconds of each other. From a team perspective, last year Kickapoo’s freshmen bested SLUH by 10 points, but this year it was a reversed outcome with SLUH taking home the top trophy over Kickapoo 25 to 35 points respectively.
With the top 4 finishers of the Middle School Girls 3k, Festus Middle School defended their team title in dominating fashion. Eighth grader Elsie Nelson earned the race win in a time of 13:10 ahead of her teammate Marisa Peter.
The Middle School Boys 3k was arguably one of the most exciting races of the day. Eighth grade Ezekiel Hagan of the St. Louis Blue Knights broke the middle school record by almost 20 seconds as he sped to victory with a time of 10:37.1. The previous record was set in 2015 by Jonah Krieg of Festus. Hagen’s win helped his team secure the team crown by 1 point. St. Louis Blue Knights scored 36 points to Festus Middle’s 37.