As the Elsberry Indians Cross Country team walked out the doors of Elsberry High School on Friday, Nov. 2 and through the tunnel of students applauding their fellow athletes, no one including Head Coach Ezra Tillotson, knew what would take place the next day at state, where they would find themselves with a fourth place victory.
“We made a good run,” said Tillotson. “They did everything right and it was tough getting in. I figure we were in the top eight in times [compared to districts].”
Some of the team runners Tillotson said he was extremely impressed with were Maggie Spratt, who ran with a time of 22:42.36 giving her 26th place and Bailey Zimmerman, who ran with a time of 23:30.09 giving her 40th place. The top 25 runners make All-State, so he said he was a little disappointed that they were just shy of making it, especially Spratt who was only .37 of a second away from making the cut.
“I’m sure Spratt is a little disappointed as well but I know she gave it everything she has, just as she has all year,” said Tillotson.
Other runners who made Elsberry’s fourth place victory possible was Anne Marie Bufford, with a time of 23:51.58; Naomi Gladney, with a time of 23:53.90 and Tanner Bencomo, with a time of 24:50.01. According to Tillotson, Gladney has been handling a bad knee for quite some time. However it didn’t stop her from making a “very gutsy run.”
“Zimmermann ran my number two, Bufford ran my number three, Gladney ran my number four and Bencomo ran my number five spots,” said Tillotson. “They really all came together and squeezed out a good – good run.”
Another runner he said has really impressed him this year and wishes he could have had more time with is his number five runner Bencomo.
“She has so much potential,” said Tillotson. “She is extremely fast, dedicated and full of heart.”
According to Tillotson, Bencomo, who came to the cross country team immediately following the softball season is a good example of a female athlete and he looks forward to seeing what she will be able to do next year.
When it came to the boys, Tillotson said Ethan Miller, who ran a time of 19:55.16 and came in 118th has really came out of his shell and has begun to discover who he is as a cross country runner.
“It’s not about simply putting on a pair of shoes and running,” said Tillotson. “It takes conditioning and it takes discovery, which is something Miller has really been able to accomplish.”
Bradon Spratt, who came in 137th with a time of 20:29.23, has had a hard few weeks, possibly months as he has been battling with a bad knee. Although he has been a dominating runner for the Indians, Tillotson said it may have been too soon for him to return just yet.
“I have tried running him less in training because I don’t want him to burn out and injure himself further,” said Tillotson. “
Although the Indians are celebrating a “great” ending to a “great” season, the sadness that many students may find is that as of current this was Tillotson last year as head coach.
“It has been a honor to work with such great kids and school administration,” said Tillotson. “I have seen a lot of challenges in my 16-years and one of the biggest things I have learned, and hope next year’s Coach [Sarah O’Brien] will take with her is you can never plan to far ahead.”
According to Tillotson, planning any further than three days forward is asking for trouble as there are so many elements that could change the ground, the runner, the energy of a meet or even a practice.
Article courtesy of The Elsberry Democrat