Tim Lee had a simple directive for freshman John Davis leading into Saturday’s Spartan Classic in St. Joseph.
“This is a big race,” Lee, the Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac cross country head coach, told Davis. “There’s going to be some fast kids. Go out and do what you can do. Let’s quit being the freshman who doesn’t know anything and let everybody figure out who you are.”
They might have figured out who Davis is after his performance on Saturday morning. Davis had the race’s top time for a freshman when he crossed the finish line in 15 minutes, 58 seconds to place 14th. Davis’ stellar race helped the Comets finish in the middle of the pack of the 26-team meet. The Comets accumulated 396 points to place 13th.
Shelbyville won the boys race with 77 points, followed by Monticello at 134 points. The host Spartans were third with 141 points, Tremont was fourth with 161 points and Urbana Uni High was fifth at 184 to round out the top five schools.
The strides Davis has made in his first season with O/A-P has left Lee impressed.
“He started slowly just because he had no idea what cross country was all about,” Lee said. “He had a great eighth-grade year in the mile, but we had to stretch him out to three miles. He didn’t do any running over the summer. It’s been a real learning process. He’s been moving up and moving up.”
Saturday’s race was proof of the progress Davis has shown.
“That is one of the best Class 1A races around the entire state,” Lee said. “Invariably, you see kids that are going to be All-Staters over there, and to walk out of there and say your the best freshman, that says a lot for him.”
Senior Emerson Grey also played a large role in the Comets’ finish in the team standings. Grey came in 52nd in a time of 16:50.4.
“Emerson’s been a great leader for the team,” Lee said. “He’s been running well, and I’m pleased with his times and how fast he’s going. That’s a nice 1-2 punch for me. Emerson is a little bit more healthy this year. He put in a lot of time over the summer. He knows it’s his last chance, and he wants to go out and do something big.”
Big meets loom the rest of the season for the Comets, starting with this Saturday’s Oakwood Invitational at Kickapoo State Park.
The Vermilion Valley Conference Meet is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Kennekuk County Park, with the Vermilion County Meet scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Kickapoo before the Class 1A Paxton-Buckley-Loda Regional arrives on Saturday, Oct. 20.
The top seven teams at PBL will qualify for the Effingham St. Anthony Sectional on Saturday, Oct. 27.
“Our goals are to win county, win conference and qualify for sectional,” Lee said. “All three are going to be tough. We were actually the highest-scoring county and conference team at St. Joe, and that’s with John running a low number. We have all big meets from here on out.”
And if the Comets want to return to the sectional meet as a team for the second straight year, runners besides Davis and Grey will have to lower their times. Junior Brian Rice has filled the Comets’ No. 3 slot, and finished 79th at the Spartan Classic in 17:25.6. Senior Brady Musson came in 125th at the Spartan Classic in 18:11.8, with junior Brandan Snyder rounding out the fifth spot by placing 138th in 18:33 in St. Joseph.
“I like my 3-4-5 (runners), but right now, we’re just not where we need to be,” Lee said. “I think we’ll get there. If we can get them quicker, we’re going to be OK.”
On the girls side Saturday in St. Joseph, the Comets came in last at the 24-team Spartan Classic with 688 points.
Decatur St. Teresa won the event with 35 points, followed by Monticello (76), St. Joseph-Ogden (149), Tri-Valley (154) and Seeger, Ind., (178).
Senior Catherine Wright had the Comets’ best time in 14:15.2 to place 111th, with sophomore Jazmin Smith in 148th place in 15:47.6.
“Catherine Wright and Jazmin Smith are both running very well,” Lee said. “I’m pleased with them. Saturday wasn’t a great race. Jazmin fell at the line, so that will knock a minute off your time. I’ve got some other kids that are still pretty raw that I’m trying to move up. I think they’ll be faster, but right now they’re just not. I’ve got a girls squad, and we’re scoring as a team. We’re not scoring very good, but we at least have a full team.”