When Olivia Phillips, Grace Alongi and Maddie Decker joined the Du Quoin girls cross country team as freshmen they completed a team that already had established stars like Gabby Alongi and Jacqueline Crain - helping to win the first SIRR Mississippi Division conference title in program history.
Now, four years later, they have won their fourth straight Mississippi Division title in record-setting fashion over the talented Pinckneyville Lady Panthers, at the SIRR cross-country championships held on the Herrin 2.98 mile course last Thursday.
"Our senior group was able to grab the conference title all four years and that's a big win for all of us - we worked hard each year just to get the title," Phillips said. "Before the meet I was just trying to stay positive because I knew our team had to fight for the win because Pinckneyville has given us trouble at the beginning of the season."
Du Quoin finishes the regular season and begins the post-season at Benton City Park with a meet on Monday and the 1A regionals on Saturday.
"Right now we're pretty healthy, so we're looking to stay that way," said Du Quoin Coach Eric Kirkpatrick. "As long as we stay healthy, stay off the lists and nobody gets quarantined we feel pretty good about where we're headed. But we have to keep working. It's still a long season between now and Nov. 6."
The Indians finished with 35 points followed by Pinckneyville (48), Carterville (87), Anna-Jonesboro (92) and Nashville (115).
"That group likes winning - they've been successful since they've been in junior high and not just in the running sports - and definitely wanted to close out the way they started," Kirkpatrick said. "Of the four years we've won it this was definitely the toughest. Pinckneyville is pretty loaded too. We were happy to walk away with it this year. It was a battle."
Phillips won her second straight individual title with a personal best time of 17:53.3 beating Brodie Denny from Anna-Jonesboro (18:41.8) and Molly Robertson from Carterville (18:51.5) by almost a full minute.
"I kept on praying everybody does great on Thursday and I think my prayers were answered because everyone ran fantastic," Phillips said. "I think everyone PR'ed (personal record). I know I did (previous was 18:26) and my sister did. I know I just went out there running that race as if it was my last just pushing myself and not holding back anything."
Fellow senior Lauren Heape, who joined the team in 2019 as a sophomore, finished fifth (19:25.9) followed by the Lady Indians the Next Generation sophomore Kallie Oestreicher seventh (19:29.3) and Phillips' sister freshman Issy Phillips 10th (19:57.4) to earn All-Conference honors.
"Issy knocked off a lot of time - I think her last time was a 21:10," Phillips said. "She was able to get all-conference for being a freshman, so I was super duper proud of her."
Alongi and freshman Maggie Kellerman just missed the all-conference cut finishing 12th and 13th, just .8 seconds apart, with times of 20:18.0 and 20:18.8, respectively. Decker rounded out the conference champs finishing 19th (21:44.4).
Pinckneyville was led by two talented freshmen Vanessa Teel and Zoe Conway and wily veteran senior Taylor Kurtz. Teel finished fourth with a time of 18:55.5 with Kurtz crossing the line in sixth place (19:28.1) and Conway ninth (19:55.3) to also earn all-conference honors.
The rest of the Lady Panthers squad finished back-to-back-to-back-to-back with senior Ashlee Hirsch 14th (20:26.1), senior Lindsey Geffers 15th (20:41.6), senior Madison Geffers 16th (21:05.2) and sophomore Emily Baggett 17th (21:48.8).
Rounding out the All-Conference Top 10 was another future star Nashville sophomore Olivia Verges, who finished eighth (19:43.8).
Boys make their presence felt
On the boys side the Indians have only four runners so Du Quoin didn't have a team score, but they made their presence felt in a big way placing three in the top seven with senior Landon Swiney finishing second less than a minute behind Pinckneyville sophomore Isaac Teel (14:47.2) with a time of 15:20.8.
Senior Nathan Smith finished fifth (16:13.3) and sophomore Conor Gross seventh (16:33.0). Freshman Reid Tilley rounded out the Indian squad in 31st place (20:59.5).
Pinckneyville won their third straight and sixth of the last seven boys championships with Du Quoin interrupting their run winning the championship in 2018. The Panthers (19) beat Nashville by 23 points. Anna-Jonesboro was third (84) and Carterville fourth (87).
Pinckneyville placed its entire squad in the top 18 with its top four earning all-conference honors. Joining Teel were senior Dylan Bledsoe third (15:44.7), junior Dawson Chaney fourth (16:09.2) and senior Holden Clark eighth (16:50.7).
Rounding out the squad were sophomore Noah Bledsoe 11th (17:27.2), freshman Landon Carter 15th (17:52.9) and senior Braydon Schubert 18th (18:09.2).
The rest of the Boys All-Conference Top 10 were Nashville sophomore Brayden Hunter sixth (16:28.5), Nashville senior Ray Habeck ninth (16:56.3) and Carterville senior Sean Taylor 10th (17:05.1).
On the Ohio side Murphysboro successfully defended its girls title with four all-conference runners, including Red Devils freshman Miah Gilmore finishing first. Benton won the boys title for the sixth straight year with six all-conference runners and Rangers sophomore Gavin Genisio winning his first conference title.