MARION -- Led by sophomore John Bruce's course record time, the Marion High School boys cross country team cruised to the South Seven Conference championship Thursday at the Crisp Sports Complex.
Bruce got out to a big lead and was never challenged. He finished in 15:43.01, which was eight seconds better than the mark established in last year's conference race by Carbondale's Atlantis Green.
"John's goal was to break the course record," said Marion coach Eli Baker. "Atlantis was running with Zach Young, but John ran the race by himself the whole way. To set a course record without any help says a lot about you. But he needs to do that if he plans on racing up front in the next few weeks."
Marion also took the next two spots with Michael Rutkowski placing second in 16:22.11 and Levi Bryant taking third in 16:25.67. That meant Bruce, Rutkowski and Bryant were named first-team all-conference.
And it pretty much sealed the team title.
"When you come around the track and you're in first, second and third, you pretty much know it's a done deal," Baker said. "It's exciting because they've worked so hard for this."
Jade Chew was sixth in 16:52.16 to become second-team all-conference and claim a medal. Joe Sullins just missed by placing 11th in 17:22.34. Tim Surburg was 22nd in 18:29.37.
"We've got a lot of older guys that know what to do," Baker said. "They're experienced and they put the work in."
Marion finished with 23 points, followed by Carbondale (45), Mt. Vernon (66), Centralia (100), Belleville Althoff (143) and Cahokia (159).
In the girls race, Marion placed third behind Carbondale and Althoff with the other teams not bringing enough runners for a team score.
Marion's top finisher was Quincy Gordon, who placed 12th in 22:05.20. Teammate Makenzie Miller was 13th (22:11.99). Lexi Basi was 15th (22:19.66) and Marissa Basi was 16th (22:51.18). Ana Cuartas was 22nd (23:31.31).
Twin seniors Tamara and Kayla Keene ran their final home race and placed 26th and 28th, respectively.
Marion's cross country teams still have the Benton Invitational before the postseason, which has the Highland Regional (Oct. 21) leading into the Decatur MacArthur Sectional (Oct. 28).