By Lenny Sementi
Senior leaders showed the way for both boys and girls cross country but it’s a stable of young talent that has the Warrior faithful looking forward to the future of the Black and Gold runners. Coaches Lacey Diaz (boys) and Adam Crutchley (girls) collaborated in practice and at meets producing two of the best teams in recent Tuscola history.
A loaded boys squad featuring a pair of fourth year runners Riley Nolan and Logan Wallace, a junior and four freshmen representing the varsity rose to as high as 12th in the state at one point late in the season. They finished second in the Central Illinois Conference, advanced from the Tuscola Regional to the Decatur St Teresa Sectional and missed moving on to state as a team by one place taking seventh from out of over forty schools represented.
Wallace, who has dealt with injuries most of his career, ended strong with a great effort at the regional. The fourth year runner opened the year with a time of 18 minutes and 55 seconds and ended with a personal best of 16:58 at the Tuscola Regional. Nolan erased two minutes from his time from start to finish and set a new PR with a 17:36 at the Spartan Classic in St Joe while earning the team’s Warrior Spirit award. Classmates Thomas Brown, John Hegarty, Mason Holmes and Jacob Middleton joined them on the squad.
Junior Mason Veach was a scorer numerous times for the Warriors, including the regional’s and was the first alternate at the sectional. Another third year Brady Urban was a fixture on the JV while Andrew Spillman represented the freshman class a few times at the varsity level.
The sophomore class led by state qualifiers Jackson Barrett and Josiah Hortin shined. Will Foltz and Bryce Graves both took turns throughout the season as the three-hole runner for coach Diaz. These four occupied the top four slots for Tuscola at the sectional with Barrett and Hortin each collecting individual medals in the postseason as well as first team All CIC honors.
Foltz and Barrett both PR’d at the regional’s and Barrett again at state, while Graves and Hortin turned in their personal bests at the Spartan Classic. Barrett the teams Greg Weaver award winner for promising underclassman shaved nearly a minute and a half of his freshman time this season posting a pr at state with a 16:07 and the teams MVP Hortin, who ran a 16:19 as a first year erased 34 seconds rounding the SJO course in 15:44.
“The boys’ started great, they took second at the Don Acklin Invite at Paris and backed that up with a third place finish at the Cow Chip Classic in Chrisman,” Diaz said. “They placed in the top five in the majority of our big invites, took second at the conference meet, won the Shelbyville Invite and advanced to the sectionals. We came up just short of state taking seventh, and the top six qualified for state but that was not due to lack of effort. Everyone ran hard that day during adverse conditions and we had an incredible competition.”
Senior Kyla Gough collected the spirit award for coach Crutchley’s girl’s squad. Gough and classmate Skylar Wilkins both PR’d during their senior campaign as did juniors Reagan Smith and Makenzie Herschberger as well as sophomore Lauren Woods.
Like Diaz with the boys, Crutchley looked to some youngsters to provide some punch to the lineup. Freshman Lia Patterson, Riley Vanausdoll and Addisyn Ring scored points for the sectional qualifying Lady Warriors. Patterson was the number one all season long, collecting first team All CIC honors and the team’s MVP posting a 21:40 PR. Vanausdoll took up residence in the two spots also garnering first team All CIC honors and the team Promising Underclassmen Runner award delivering a career best 20:30 at the Spartan Classic taking nearly three minutes off her time from start of the season to the finish. Ring was faster as well at the end 3:30
“Our girls saved their best for last,” stated coach Diaz. “We had a small team and COVID hit us right at the end but everyone managed to run at the Regional and they dealt with the adversity running one of their best races of the year qualifying for sectionals.”