Girls Cross Country takes 18th at State Meet

Pictured from left: Asst Coach Caveny, Julia Monson, Kimberly Davenport, Kaitlyn Walker, Julia Monson, Peyton Schieppe, Emma Jordan, Sophie Wichlac, Head Coach James (Submitted Photo)

This past Saturday the O’Fallon girl’s cross country team travelled to Peoria’s famed Detwiler Park for the IHSA State Meet. 

The girls competed against the top 3A schools in the state. The team closed out their season placing a very respectful 18th finishing above the only other southern Illinois team, local rival Edwardsville which finished in 24th.  

The Panthers were led by a breakout performance by freshman Julia Monson completing the three mile course in a season best of 17:55 crossing the line in 69th place.  She was followed by sophomore Sofia Parker in 91st and another freshman Peyton Schieppe in 100th. The team’s four juniors Kaitlyn Walker, Emma Jordan, Kimberly Davenport and Sophie Wichlac rounded out the score.

Sofia Parker shows leadership early in Cross Country career

Sofia Parker

Girl’s Cross Country head coach Neil James said that Sofia Parker has been the team’s number one runner consistently throughout the 2018 season. 

James said that as a freshman, Parker was “still trying to figure things out” but has fast grown into a leadership position as a sophomore on the team. 

“She has grown a lot this year in the way that she handles herself,” James said. “She is very focused.”

At the Forest Park meet on Sept. 8, Parker was a top runner despite brutal rainy and muddy conditions. The meet in St. Louis had some of the top teams in Missouri, according to James. 

James said that Parker also performs well in workouts and practices, always with a smile on her face and a positive attitude. 

“The other girls look to her. They enjoy the positive energy that she brings.”

James said that Parker will continue to progress during the latter part of her high school cross country career. 

With her improved mental approach this year compared to her freshman year, James said he believes it has made her an overall better runner. 

“Her family is big into running. She has a brother who is on the boy’s team and mom and dad are very involved,” he said. 

James said that while Parker is a very skilled runner, she also seems to enjoy herself. 

“Her energy level has been such a bonus for us this year,” he said. 

James said that the girl’s cross country team are all “outstanding students.” 

“[Parker] does a great job in the classroom while taking a very demanding schedule,” James said. 

With only one senior in the team’s top 14 runners, girl’s cross country has a lot of young potential. 

“We have had a lot of younger kids but the progress Parker and some other runners have made has made a big difference,” James said. “We have had really good leadership with kids stepping up and taking control and kind of improving the attitude on the team. The girls have had a lot of fun.”

Besides the race in Forest Park, James said that the team has travelled to compete in Peoria as well as the Chicago area against other top schools. 

“We have taken really tough competition but the girls have been improving and times keep dropping so we are excited to see how sectionals go this weekend.”

Sectionals will take place in Quincy and the top five teams will qualify for state. 

“The girls’s are pretty confident,” James said. 

O’Fallon Girls take second place at Southwest Conference Championship Meet

Emma Jordan, Sophie Wichlac, Maddy Vorce, Julia Monson, Sophia Parker, Kiley McElroy, Kimberly Davenport (Submitted Photo)

Last Thursday the O’Fallon girl’s cross country team travelled to Belleville West to compete in the Southwest Conference Championship Meet.  

The varsity girls took a team second place finish led by first team all-conference performances by sophomore Sophia Parker with a third-place finish (PR of 18:10.30) and a seventh-place finish by freshman Julia Monson.  Junior Emma Jordan finished eighth earning second team all-conference honors along with fellow junior Kimberly Davenport’s 13th place and sophomore Maddy Vorce’s 14th place finish.  Junior Sophie Wichlac (15th) and sophomore Kiley McElroy (21st) rounded out the varsity team.  

The junior varsity girls dominated the competition to take home the team first place.  Six of the seven girls, sophomore Peyton Mutters (3rd) senior Taylor Peck (4th) freshmen Mary Kate Trelow (5th) and Olivia Anderson (6th) sophomore Brianne Berres (8th) and freshman Krissy Sharpe (9th) finished in the top ten with the seventh runner Senior Julia Gundlach finishing 11th.     

The varsity girls next compete Saturday in the Edwardsville Regional where the top six teams will earn a trip to the Sectional Meet in Quincy, Illinois.  The junior varsity closed out their season Tuesday at the Edwardsville JV Finale Meet.

Girls Cross Country prepares for post season after trip to Wheaton

From Left: Emma Jordan, Sophie Wichlac, Julia Monson, and Sophia Parker

Twenty-four members of the O’Fallon girls cross country team travelled to the Chicago suburbs this past weekend to compete in the 35th annual Falcon Fall Classic meet hosted by Wheaton North High School.  

Eighteen teams competed including several of the top Illinois teams.  The girls continued their strong season led by four of the seven varsity runners medaling. This meet is unique in that the varsity race is actually seven individual races.

O’Fallon’s medalists were Sophomore Sophia Parker from flight one with an impressive time of 18:03.  Freshman Julia Monson dominated flight two with a third place finish in 18:15.9.  Junior’s Emma Jordan in flight three (18:41.7) and Sophie Wichlac in flight five (19:18.6) rounded out the medals.

The Junior/Senior and Freshman/Sophomore races also had strong O’Fallon performances.  Junior Kimberley Davenport finished 15th with a time of 19:54.5 and Sophomore Maddy Vorce finished in 17th place with a time of 19:51.9.

Other award winners were Seniors Taylor Peck, Abby George, J’Annah Adkins, Julia Gundlach, Junior Caitlyn Thamke, Sophmores Brianna Berres, Peyton Mutters, Oliva Ori and Freshman Mary Kate Trelow, Krissy Sharpe, Olivia Anderson, and Sam Suchanek.

Following this week’s Country Meet, the Panthers turn their attention to the post-season with Conference, Regionals, and ultimately qualifying for the Sectional and the State Meets.

Panther Cross Country teams dominant at Granite City Invitational

Varsity Girls second place team members, from left: Sofia Parker, Kaitlyn Walker, Julia Monson, Emma Jordan, Kylie McElroy, and Abi Jackson.  (Photo by Darlene Tady)

By Darlene Tady

The O’Fallon Boys and Girls Cross Country teams were dominant in all six races at the Granite City Invitational this past Saturday.  

Competing in the 38 team field, the JV Girls, Boys Open, and Girls Open were all crowned team champions. The Varsity Girls placed second, while the Varsity Boys placed third only seven points behind first place team SLUH and two points behind Edwardsville. The JV Boys pulled together for a fifth place team finish.


JV Girls first Place team members, from left: Brianne Berres, Petyon Mutters, Kimberly Davenport, Maddy Vorce, Peyton Schieppe, and Olivia Anderson. (Photo by Darlene Tady)

Leading the JV Girls was freshman standout Peyton Schieppe, who was crowned individual champion with a time of 19:47 over three miles.  Sophomore Maddie Vorce, crossed the finish line in third place.  Also placing in the top ten for the JV Lady Panthers was Brianne Berres (8th), Peyton Mutters (9th), and Olivia Anderson (10th).  

In the Varsity Girls race freshman Julia Monson led all O’Fallon runners clocking 18:53 for her outstanding fifth place finish. Junior Emma Jordan placed eighth in 19:01, sophomore Sofia Parker was ninth in 19:12, and junior Kaitlyn Walker placed 12th with a 19:18 time.

On the boys side, in the varsity race, senior captain Will VanAlstine led the Panthers with a strong sixth place finish running 15:40 and on his heels was sophomore Nick Edwards who placed seventh in a time of 15:42. Senior Jacob Ramirez (23rd), junior Will Ray (24th) and senior Brendan Krell (25th) rounded out the top five.

In the JV boys race, sophomore Matt Ray paced his teammates with a 15th place finish with a time of 17:50 with sophomores Nico Parker and Nick Novy placing 23rd and 25th respectively.

Varsity Boys third place team members, from left: Will Ray, Jacob Ramirez, Nick Edwards, Brendan Krell, Will VanAlstine, and Tristen Fornes. (Photo by Darlene Tady)

O’Fallon Boys scored a dominating victory in the Open race by placing five runners in the top 17. Junior Chris Wichlac was crowned the individual champion running a time of 16:48 with junior David Tady crossing the line in second clocking 16:50. Junior Braden Gaab placed fifth, senior Kolson Mendelsohn placed sixth and senior Noah Decker rounded out the top five in 17th place. 

In the Girls Open race senior Taylor Peck placed second, with teammates Sam Suchanek (4th), Sofia LoBue (5th), Krissy Sharpe (6th), and Faye Swanson (9th) scoring for O’Fallon Lady Panthers.

The Panthers will travel to SIU-E to run in the Edwardsville Fall Classic on Wednesday, September 5, and to St. Louis to compete in the Forest Park Cross Country Festival on Saturday, September 8.

Cross Country teams ready for 2017 season


Finishing a season within the state’s top 25 is a great accomplishment for most programs in Illinois.

At O’Fallon, it’s expected.

A year after finishing 21st at the Illinois High School Association State Finals, the O’Fallon Boys Cross Country team is looking to build with a strong group of senior runners expected to lead the way.

Despite losing star harrier Chris Conrad to graduation and the University of Missouri, the Panthers boast four key seniors and a star junior, enough to be ranked #21 in the state according to’s preseason rankings.

To read the full article, pick up a copy of this week’s paper on newsstands now. Or, click here for the digital edition.

Panthers end their season with run in Detweiler Park

From left: Joey Black, Will VanAlstine, Hayden Ybarra, Lucas Capistrant, Matt Gilster, Garrett Blenkush and Chris Conrad.  (Submitted Photo)

From left: Joey Black, Will VanAlstine, Hayden Ybarra, Lucas Capistrant, Matt Gilster, Garrett Blenkush and Chris Conrad. 
(Submitted Photo)

The OTHS Cross Country program is used to running this late in the year, and Peoria’s Detweiller Park has become a familiar location for the Panther runners to end their season.

Both the Boys and the Girls teams managed 21st place finishes, capping off great seasons for the squads.

The Girls were led by junior star Brooke Witzel’s 27th place finish, the only O’Fallon placement in the top 75 on the day.

Kaitlyn Walker would cross the finish line second for the Panthers, finishing in 76th. Walker was followed by Sophie Wichlac in 118th. Emma Jordan (124) and Katie Mank (136) completed the O’Fallon five, while Madeline McKittrick (141) and Maddie Collins (167) also competed for the Blue and Gold.

O’Fallon managed a team score of 481, 17 points better than 22nd place Schaumburg. [Elmhurst] York finished 23rd, followed by Plainfield North and [Frankfort] Lincoln Way-East to round out the field.

Naperville North would capture the team crown, scoring a 111 to beat runner-up Yorkville by 19 points.

Edwardsville Sectional Champion Minooka would take third, followed by Downers Grove South and [Lagrange] Lyons to finish out the top five. Southwestern Conference rival Edwardsville would finish 16th.

[Glen Ellyn] Glenbard West freshman Katelynne Hart would win the Individual State Title, followed by junior teammate Lindsey Payne in second. Minooka junior Emily Shelton finished in third, ahead of senior teammate Mackenzie Callahan. [Mount Prospect] Prospect senior Brooke Wilson finished fifth.

On the Boys side, the Panthers exacted a little Sectional revenge, topping Minooka by 25 points to secure a 21st place finish. 23rd place Highland Park finished ahead of Yorkville and Naperville North to round out the competition.

[Naperville] Neuqua Valley took home the State Championship, beating Downers Grove North by a dominating 33 points. Lake Zurich finished 3rd ahead of Lyons and [Chicago] Whitney Young.

Edwardsville would take home 19th, 29 points ahead of OTHS.

The Panthers were paced by Christopher Conrad’s 37th place finish, again the only finish in the top 75 for O’Fallon. Teammate Will Van Alstine would cross the finish line 76th overall.

Conrad’s run would be the best out of any competitor from the Metro East, as he finished 28 spots in front of Edwardsville’s top runner Franky Romano.

Joey Black finished three spots later in 79th, followed by Garrett Blenkush in 135th and Matthew Gilster two spots later.

Hayden Ybarra (144) and Lucas Capistrant (146) would also run for the Blue and Gold, although both would place out of the O’Fallon five.

Minooka’s Soren Knudsen capped off an incredible postseason and high school career with the Individual State Championship. Lyons junior Danny Kilrea would finish six seconds later for second place, followed by [Orland Park] Sandberg junior Dylan Jacobs. York junior Charlie Kern finished fourth, followed by Lake Zurich’s Brian Griffith.

This race marks the end of a two great O’Fallon Boys Cross Country careers, as senior duo Chris Conrad and Joey Black both will move on from OTHS next year.

The 2016 season helped add to the status quo that both Boys Head Coach Jon Burnett and Girls Head Coach Neil James have created for this O’Fallon program. November runs in Peoria have long become the expectation for those who put on the uniform.

Next up for both Panther teams will be an entire offseason to continue to train and improve, building on what was a successful 2016 campaign. They’ll be ready to make another run for Peoria in 2017.

Athlete Spotlight – Brooke Witzel runs her way into the State Finals

Brooke Witzel

Brooke Witzel

As the O’Fallon Township High School Girls Cross Country continues its postseason run into Peoria’s Detweiller Park, junior Brooke Witzel has announced herself as one of the premiere running talents in the state of Illinois.

The star has brightened at just the right time for the Panthers, as Witzel’s leadership has guided OTHS to a date with the IHSA State Finals this coming Saturday.

Witzel has turned in big performances during her two plus season running for the Blue and Gold, but perhaps none have been as important as the two she turned in during the Regional and Sectional competition.

The junior won the IHSA Regional in Quincy on October 15th, guiding her team past a difficult Regional field and on to an even tougher squad of competition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for the Sectional.

She ran a season best 18:32 in Quincy, beating Melissa Spencer of Edwardsville by over 12 seconds for the individual Regional crown.

Witzel ran a 19:34 in the course at SIUE, good for 12th place in a field dominated by first place Minooka and second place Yorkville. Both teams made up nine of the top ten runners on the afternoon.

Brooke gave the Panthers just enough, however, as O’Fallon again found themselves advancing into the IHSA State Finals, where great performances can make anything happen.

The rising star has been a contributing force to her team since she arrived in 2014 and figures to again be a driving force behind Panther success in what will be her senior season in 2017.

Head Coach Neil James has to love what Brooke Witzel means to his program, both in the present and the future.

Right now, she’s just focused on Peoria, and on making one last run count when her team needs her the most. Just like usual.

Cross Country teams have a date with State

Joey Black pours it on to cross the finish line. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Jeff Egbert)

Joey Black pours it on to cross the finish line. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Jeff Egbert)

Running in November has become quite the norm for the O’Fallon Township High School Cross Country program.

The OTHS Boys Cross Country Team has made quite a habit out of shining on the IHSA stage over the past decade and a half, and now the Panthers are heading towards their 14th consecutive trip to the IHSA State Finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria.

O’Fallon would ride a pair of top ten finishes from seniors Chris Conrad and Joey Black en route to a second place finish behind Sectional champion Minooka, who boasted the meet winner when Soren Knudsen crossed the finish line a full 19 seconds ahead of second place Evan Mitchell of [New Lenox] Lincoln Way-West. Conrad finished in fifth while Black finished seventh.

The Panthers managed 96 points, safely placing the Blue and Gold in advancement position. Minooka would score an impressive 89, safely in first place with a healthy 22 second split from their second place runner to their fifth place runner. O’Fallon would feature a 39 second split.

Edwardsville would score 103, good for third place ahead of state qualifying Lincoln Way-East (111 points) and Yorkville (129 points).

Panther sophomore Will Van Alstine would cross the line in 26th, running a 16:54, one place and one second ahead of junior teammate Hayden Ybarra. Fellow junior Matthew Gilster would wrap up the Panther five, finishing 31st with a time of 16:56.

Up next for the OTHS boys harriers will be a 14th consecutive chance to bring home the school’s first ever team IHSA State Championship this Saturday in Peoria.

The Sectional success was not limited to the Boys side, however, as the Panther Girls also punched their ticket to Detweiller Park, placing fourth in the IHSA Girls Edwardsville Sectional.

The Lady Panthers were again led by rising junior star Brooke Witzel, who finished a team best 12th place with a time of 19:34.

Witzel would be followed by a pair of freshman teammates, as Kaitlyn Walker finished 21st with a time of 20:11 and Sophie Wichlac ran a 20:27, good for 25th.

Sophomore Katie Mank finished 31st, running a 20:34, ten seconds ahead of freshman Madeline McKittrick, who came in 35th.

The Panthers managed a team score of 124, placing them a comfortable 30 points ahead of fifth place Lincoln Way-East.

Minooka finished off the clean sweep of the Boys and Girls heats, winning the Sectional with a team score of 24, an impressive 12 points ahead of second place Yorkville. Edwardsville ran off a score of 100, good for third place.

Minooka senior Mackenzie Callahan ran a 17:55, leading the charge of four straight Indians runners to cross the finish line. Teammates Ashley Tutt, Emily Shelton, and Vivian Van Eck would combine to make up the top four.

Yorkville would then feature the next four runners, as Normal Community West’s Mara Smith would be the only runner in the top ten to come from a school other than Minooka or Yorkville when she placed ninth.

Up next for both teams is a date with the best teams from across Illinois when the Panthers collectively battle to bring home what would be an historic championship for O’Fallon Athletics. Neither team has ever produced a finish better than second in Peoria.

But the only history these teams are focused on is in the classroom, and these runners know that their biggest test of the year will take place in the future, not the past, and as true in any sport, the postseason offers a wild and unpredictable atmosphere full of memorable performances and unlikely heroes.

These Panthers are ready for the challenge.


Cross Country teams both head on to sectionals

The starting gun is fired signaling the start of the race at the Cross Country Regionals. (Photo by Monica Ybarra)

The starting gun is fired signaling the start of the race at the Cross Country Regionals. (Photo by Monica Ybarra)

The name of the game at this point in the season is survive and advance, and the O’Fallon Township High School Boys Cross Country team did just that on Saturday, finishing second in their IHSA Regional in Quincy.

The Panthers advance to compete in the IHSA Sectional hosted at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on Saturday with a trip to the IHSA State Finals on the line.

O’Fallon finished with 70 points, well behind first place Edwardsville, who scored 19. The Panther advancement, however, wasn’t really in question as OTHS finished 29 points ahead of the third place Alton Redbirds.

“Edwardsville ran a great meet, all sorts of congratulations to them on their run,” Head Coach Jon Burnett said after the meet. “We’re excited to move on and compete for even bigger things.”

Junior Hayden Ybarra paced O’Fallon with a team-best 16:35:10, good for eighth place overall. Fellow junior Garrett Blenkush would also find the top 10, finishing the course with a time of 16:42:90.

Edwardsville’s Franky Ramano would win the day, producing the only time under 16 minutes on the day with a 15:52:10. Teammate Roland Prenzier would follow in second running an even 16:00:00.

Granite City senior Andrew O’Keefe came in third, a full six and a half seconds behind Prenzier.

Edwardsville would continue it’s dominance of the top five, placing freshman Jack Pifer and sophomore Dan Powell in fourth and fifth respectively.

Belleville West senior Brian Gichuru finished sixth and Edwardsville sophomore Max Hartman placed seventh.

Panther senior Zion Ward finished in twelfth place, running a 16:45:30. Classmate Johnathan Whitaker crept into the top 20, finishing in nineteenth with a 17:14:80.

Sophomore Ashton Hess continued a strong second season, placing 21st, two seconds ahead of senior teammate Aaron Reuter’s 17:26:40.

Andrew Joyce ran a 17:28:30 and came in 24th, wrapping up an impressive O’Fallon presence which featured six runners within the top 24.

Deep runs in the IHSA State Tournament have become the norm for a program rapidly becoming a staple on Illinois’ biggest stage, but the Panthers know that they can’t overlook any leg of competition if they want to contend in Peoria.

Up next for O’Fallon will be another match up with rival Edwardsville, a team they have had an up and down relationship with this season, at the IHSA Sectional. Advancement past the course at SIUE means a date with the IHSA State Finals in Peoria’s famous Detweiller Park.

“We’ve got out sights set on SIUE now,” Burnett added.

Girls Cross Country Sets Sights on Sectional

As many of us have watched over the recent weeks during the MLB Playoffs, great teams advance in October when their stars perform like stars. On Saturday in Quincy, O’Fallon’s star ran like one.

Much like Javier Baez of the NL Champion Cubs or Andrew Miller of the AL Champion Indians, Brooke Witzel rose to the top when her team needed her most, and the Blue and Gold are in large part still running this season because of the example set by this burgeoning young star.

The rest OTHS Girls Cross Country Team did its part as well in keeping their season alive over the weekend when the Panthers placed second in the IHSA Regional. O’Fallon will now compete in this weekend’s IHSA Sectional up north on the campus of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Panther star junior Brooke Witzel would be crowned Regional Champion with a time of 18:32:20, roughly seven seconds faster than second place Melissa Spencer of Edwardsville, who was followed closely by teammate Jaycie Hudson.

OTHS would get one more top five representative, however, as freshman Kaitlyn Walker finished in fourth place with a time of 18:54:50.

Edwardsville’s Abby Schrobilgen would wrap up the top five with a time of 19:00:20.

O’Fallon freshman Sophie Wichlac continued to add to her impressive rookie campaign with an eighth place finish, running the course with a time of 19:22:40, while classmate Madeline McKittrick rounded out the top ten with a time of 19:25:20. Fellow freshman Emma Jordan would finish thirteenth, running it in 19:46:10.

Junior Kaileigh Perrier would finish in 15th, just under two seconds ahead of teammate Danna Jenkins, who placed right behind her in 16th.

“It was a great team performance, and it sets us up great for a chance to advance past next weekend,” Head Coach Neil James said after the showing.

It was an impressive outing for the Blue and Gold, as all seventh Panther runners finished in the top 16, but it was another big time performance from the Edwardsville Tigers that determined the team standings.

The Tigers featured their top five all within the top 11, while their entire roster placed within the top 14, a feat that would be tough to match by any team in the state.

Up next for the girls is another head to head match up with the rival Orange and Black when they travel to SIUE for the IHSA Sectional. Beyond that looms the IHSA State Finals in Peoria, but the Panthers know they need their best times to move on.

They’re ready for the challenge.

“Bring it on,” James added. “We want to ride this out and keep this going as long as we can.”

Girls Cross Country team gets ready for Regionals


sport-shoe-1470061_960_720-resizedO’FALLON – The O’Fallon Township High School Girls Cross Country team had its final tune-up before starting IHSA Tournament play, placing second in the Southwestern Conference Meet in Collinsville.

The team struggled to overcome a dominant showing from rival Edwardsville, who turned out an impressive 19 point win, sporting six runners in the top ten. The Tigers also managed to finish on 22 seconds faster on average than the Panthers.

O’Fallon junior Brooke Witzel did all she could for her team, winning the race with a time of 18:38:08. Witzel finished just under ten seconds ahead of second place Jaycie Hudson of Edwardsville.

Hudson would lead the Tiger onslaught, finishing at the top of four straight Edwardsville runners, representing the rest of the top five.

OTHS freshman Katilyn Walker would finish seventh overall, while fellow freshmen Emma Jordan and Sophie Wichlac would place tenth and 11th respectively. Madeline McKittrick finished a strong showing for the Class of 2020, placing 14th.

Panther senior Danna Jenkins would cross the finish line right after McKittrick, with a time of 20:39:97.

O’Fallon achieved an average time of 19 minutes and 32 seconds, several minutes ahead of third place East St. Louis. Belleville East would place fourth ahead of Collinsville and Alton, respectively. Belleville West would come in seventh.

The Lady Panthers now turn their attention to their trip to Quincy this Saturday for the IHSA Regional. Races will start at 11 a.m.

Teams that advance past the Regional will compete in the IHSA Sectional at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for a chance to move on and run for the State Championship in Peoria’s famous Detweiller Park.

O’Fallon is confident they can run with Edwardsville, but the goal for the Panthers is to run past them and to continue deep into the October schedule.