ST. LOUIS – After watching the girls set the course on fire, the boys opted to run a more restrained race Saturday in the Green Division of the Forest Park Cross Country Festival.
That set up perfectly for what Marquette junior Noah Kauppila had planned as a pre-race strategy.
“I knew I wanted to let them take over and not get too caught up in a fast pace,” Kauppila said. “It’s kind of a trial-and-error thing the past two years of taking it out fast and I’d come home struggling, so I knew that wasn’t going to work so I wanted to do something different.”
Noah sat back off a lead pack that included Kickapoo’s Ian Frazier (eighth, 15:52), O’Fallon, Illinois’ Alex Riba (third, 15:26), Blue Springs’ Steven Mugeche (fifth, 15:34) and Rock Bridge’s Nathan Keown (seventh, 15:45).
Those leaders held the first mile to a 4:52 pace as no one tried to separate from the field. As the front-runners continued to shuffle positions, Kauppila started moving toward the front of the line, and he finally pulled away from the field with about 1,000 meters left to go and crossed the finish line first in a PR time of 15:18.40.
“This strategy worked pretty well, so I’ll probably stick to it. But you only get this (level of competition) once in a while. It may be bigger (than state) with the Illinois’ guys.”
O’Fallon’s Patrick Perrier surged past his teammate, Riba, to capture second in 15:24, and the duo were key in helping the Panthers win the team title with 66 points.
“The course was a little soft from last night’s rain, but I’ll definitely take a 15:20 on a day like today with the course being how it is,” Perrier said. “Noah really pushed me well, and so did Alex, and it puts me in a really good spot that I want to be in going into Peoria (Ill.) next weekend.”
Glendale senior Chris Mooneyham also ran a tactical race to his benefit to finish fourth in 15:26.70.
“This gets me closer to my competitors at state so I can go with them and know I can stay with them,” Mooneyham said. “I was a little behind and I heard my coach yelling at me so I quickened my turnover and caught up with them and held on.”
Forest Park Varsity Boys Green Pictures (From Lead Cart) (other locations still coming)