O'Keefe brothers back to lead Granite City in cross country
All but one of the top 15 runners from 2015 are back this season for the Granite City boys' cross-country team.
Senior Will O'Keefe returns with a wealth of honors, including finishing first in last year's regional and twice qualifying for the state meet. Sophomore Andrew O'Keefe was third in the regional last year and finished 97th at the state meet – making him the first GCHS runner in 32 years to produce a top-100 state finish, coach Richie Skirball said in an email interview.
“He's reached an all-time high in mileage this summer,” Skirball said. “Don't be surprised if he comes up to beat Will more than once this fall.”
Senior Leo Nikonowicz was 21st at the regional, junior Aiden Sampson was 47th and junior Tyler Tindall was 53rd.
Also contending for key roster spots are seniors Kariem Ali and Matt Kline, junior Tyler Tindall, and sophomore Donald James.
The boys' program had its state-meet run end at seven straight years last season. But a new streak could start this season, as the key runners who led the team to the regional title in 2015 return.
That includes junior Franky Romano, who was second at the regional; sophomores Dan Powell (fifth), Roland Prenzler (sixth) and Max Hartmann (eighth); and seniors Jacob Schoenthal (29th) and Sam McCormck (32nd). Senior Luke Raffaelle also is in the mix.
Coach George Patrylak said the varsity squad should be filled out by freshman Jack Pifer, Zach Walters and Xander Valdez.
“Last year we had arguably the best freshman class in school history,” Patrylak said in an email interview. "This one may even be better."
Five runners with sectionals experience lead the way for the Knights' boys team.
Junior Javon Watkins, who was 42nd at sectionals last season, got off to a good start this season by finishing 16th at the school's invitational on Aug. 27, coach Ruth Thompson said.
“We will look for him to be a leader and to encourage the rest of the team,” she said in an email interview. “I also look for the other returners to step up and make a huge impact this year.”
Other runners from last year's sectionals squad are juniors Darion Brooks (76th at sectionals) and Eli Harding (144th), and sophomores Jonah Wilson (90th) and Josh Jacobsen (120th).
The girls team should have a full roster for most of the season, Thompson said, with a few runners playing volleyball as well. Team members are juniors Kimmie Stinson, Brynne Wallace and Kate Muravjova; sophomores Kristina Robinson and Kate Weber; and freshman Nura Freese.
EAST ALTON-WOOD RIVER
A veteran and a newcomer will be at the forefront of the boys' team's drive to improve on its third-place regional finish.
Brenden Springman, the small-school Madison County Champion two years running and a top-10 regional finisher, enters his senior season, while the team welcomes senior Jake Roustio, a transfer from Granite City and a strong runner, according to coach Russ Colona.
The girls' team is led by seniors Carissa Gilreath and Kaylee Dailey.
“They are hard-working, dedicated girls that have been good for our program,” Colona said in an email interview.
Other varsity returners are sophomores Colton Hyman, Drake Stephenson and Parker Borth.
“I am very excited about this season," Peal said in an email interview. "We are going to be a young team but this group of guys has a lot of potential."
Lydia Peal is the lone senior on the girls' team, which has two members.
Note: Not all requests for information were returned by press time.