Panther Cross Country Team captures Conference Crown

The OTHS Panthers after winning the Southwestern Conference Title. From left: Brendan Krell, Will VanAlstine, Nick Edwards, David Tady, Will Ray, Chris Wichlac, and Jacob Ramirez. (Photo by Carrie Hruby)

By Darlene Tady

The OTHS boy’s varsity cross country team took back the southwestern conference title from Edwardsville on Thursday in an exciting race that came down to the last half mile of the three-mile contest.  

It took every runner’s best effort for the Panthers to edge out out the Tigers by two points in the team score. Senior Will VanAlstine led his teammates with a second place finish in a personal best time of 14:51. Following VanAlstine’s lead, the next six Panther runners all ran personal best times. Sophomore Nick Edwards (5th), Junior Will Ray (6th), and Senior Brendan Krell (7th) crossed the finish line one after another in 15:15 over the three-mile course. Senior Jacob Ramirez placed eighth and ran 15:30. Junior Chris Wichlac came in at 16:00 for 13th place and Junior David Tady had a time of 16:25 and placed 18th.  

In such a close team race one of the keys to victory for the Panthers was the outstanding races of each individual with the top five all beating Edwardsville’s top four runners. The other key was the exciting finish of Jacob Ramirez to sprint past Belleville East’s freshman standout Byron Jones in the home stretch. Coach Jon Burnett and his Panthers have a tremendous winning record in the area having won nine out of the last ten conference titles.  

The JV team came out on top to capture the conference crown in another close team race.  The JV squad edged out Edwardsville by one point. Senior Andrew Joyce broke the finish tape in 16:23 with an exciting come from behind finish to blaze past Edwardsville’s Colten O’Brien for the individual title. Junior Braden Gaab crossed the finish line in third with a time of 16:31 with Junior Tristen Fornes placing sixth in 16:41 over the three-mile course. The next four Panther runners also ran personal bests and placed in the top 15. Senior Kolsen Mendolsohn (7th), Sophomore Nico Parker (10th), Sophomore Jack Peterson (12th), and Freshman Peyton Mueller (14th) ran outstanding races to continue the winning tradition of the O’Fallon Panthers. 

This is the 18th consecutive conference title for the JV team under the helm of Coach Jon Burnett.

Next up for the Panthers is the Tiger JV Finale on Monday hosted by Edwardsville at the SIU-E course.  The varsity Panthers and other area teams start their post season at the IHSA Regional Championship at the SIU-E course this Saturday October 20.