JOHN CURTIS - Daily Union Sports Editor
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
After winning their 5th straight major invitational in a row, the Shelbyville Ram cross country team, ranked 2nd in the State, had another goal to achieve...win the conference title. On Thursday, the Rams checked off that goal, winning the Okaw Valley Conference Boys Cross Country Championship.
Shelbyville scored just 37 points and won the meet by 27 points over 2nd place Monticello (54) and 3rd place Tolono (74). Sullivan-Okaw Valley led the remainder of teams, placing 4th with 152 points. Central A&M finished 10th (263).
On the girls side of things, Lady Ram Molly Yockey placed 11th and earned all-conference honors.
The #2 state-ranked boys continued their record setting year by winning their 7th conference championship since joining the conference in 1999. The Rams did it by putting five runners in the top twelve positions. All five earned all-conference honors.
The Rams also broke the school record team time of 1:22.13 set by the 1999 team of Lucas Kramer, Jerod Galvin, Jimmy Hood, Jason Hubbartt, and Doug Powers by running a 1:21.46. The Rams top five runners that were all conference and part of the school record team were Alex Matlock, Neil Yockey, Myles Foor, Cory Powers, and Marcus Skinner.
Matlock was 3rd overall, Yockey was 4th, Foor was 8th, Powers was 10th and Skinner was 12th.
Alex Matlock led the way for the Rams with a 3rd place finish of 16:04. That time puts him 4th on the all-time top times list for Shelbyville runners at the confernce meet.
"Alex is really running well right now," said Ram coach Kevin Kramer. "He cut well over 30 seconds from last years time and has been our top runner the last two meets. I look for him to continue to get better as we head to the post-season."
Right behind Matlock was teammate Neil Yockey in 4th place with a time of 16:07.
"Neils time puts him at 5th on the all-time list," Coach Kramer said. "Neil also cut over 30 seconds from last year and is running extremely well. He provides great leadership and is very dependable."
Myles Foor in just his second major race, since being injured all season with a stress fracture, ran a 16:25 for 8th place.
"Myles cut over 20 seconds from last year and his time puts him 11th on the all-time list," Coach Kramer said. "Myles is amazing. To be this good after being out for six weeks is almost unheard of. He will just keep getting better. I think since his conditioning isn't where some of the other guys are at, he struggled on the hills a little. But, he should a lot of heart getting in the top ten."
Cory Powers finished next for the Rams.
"Cory Powers ran the best race of his career by placing 10th place in a time of 16:30, which put him 12th on all-time list." Coach Kramer said. "He cut over 40 seconds from last year. Cory has struggled this year, but in the two biggest meets of the year so far, St. Joseph-Ogden Spartan Classic and now the Okaw Valley Conference Meet, he has really helped the team with great performances. We need him to get a little more consistant if we are going to reach our team goals this year. He showed today he has the talent."
Freshman Marcus Skinner was the fifth and final Ram scorer.
"Marcus continued his amazing journey as a first-time distance runner by earning all-conference with a time of 16:40," Coach Kramer said. "That time puts him at 15th for all-time list at Shelbyville. Marcus really stepped it up for us. A couple of the older guys had a bad day and he stepped right in and filled their spots. Marcus just missed being the top freshman by four seconds, so he has some work to do. But, I am confidant he will do it."
"Molly Yockey cut over a minute off of her time by running a 19:06," Coach Kramer said. "Molly ran a 20:20 last year. That time puts her #4 on our all-time list of top times on Monticello's course. Molly ran a real smart race. St. Teresa and Monticello are ranked #1 and #2, respectively, so their is a lot of all-staters in front of her. She should be proud of her accomplishment."
As for the rest of the boys varsity, Drennian Martin was the Rams non-scoring 6th man.
"Drennian still managed to get in the top 15 runners with a time of 16:53, which puts him 22nd on all-time list," Coach Kramer said. "Drennian went out a little too fast. Not much, but enough to cause him to tie up the last half of race, which is usually his strongest. He still managed to cut over 15 seconds from last year. We need him, Myles and Cory to run as a pack to help each other out. He just ran the race of his career last Saturday, so I expect him back in the top five next week at regionals."
Jaden Stockdale was next in at the 7th position for the Rams in 16:58 for 16th place.
"Jaden ran a strong race from behind," Coach Kramer said. "He had to make up a lot of ground, but came on the last mile. Jaden is in a tough spot. He is right around that 7, 8, and 9th spot on the team. On any other team in the state, he would be probably top five. We are just so deep this year. Jaden beat every other team's 4th runner and a lot of their 3rd runners. Jaden cut over 40 seconds from last years time. He has had just an outstanding year."
Seth Applegate was next in for the Rams, as he was their 8th runner in a time of 17:00.
"Seth ran a little slower today than last year," Coach Kramer said. "He has consistently been in the top five or six, so this was unusual for him. I expect him back up their next week at regionals."
There were two othre Lady Ram varsity runners, Morgan Powers and Sarah Martin. Morgan Powers ran a 21:42 for 38th place. . Freshman teammate Sarah Martin ran a 25:35 for 66th place.
"Morgan went out a little fast today," Coach Kramer said. "She still really has not gotten the concept of pace yet. But, she finished in the top half of the field and in this conference that is quite the accomplishment. Sarah has some ability, but she just has to put more time into it. A good off-season will really make her improve."
The compliment of Ram boys also showed well, especially Kenton Wilson and Preston Henze.
"Wilson was the Rams 9th runner, but finished in an amazing 22nd in the 99 runner field," Coach Kramer said. "Kenton cut over 50 seconds from last year in running a 17:19. I can't say enough about how well Kenton is running right now. He has worked extremely hard over the last three to four weeks and put himself in position for a varsity spot. On any other team he would be top seven. In fact, he beat every other teams fifth runner today and a lot of third and fourth runners. I think the sky is the limit for him, if he keeps working this hard and with his attitude. I am very proud of him."
The Rams 10th runner was freshman Preston Henze who was 35th in a time of 18:08.
"In my opinion this was Preston's best race," Coach Kramer said. "This course is tough and a little long, so for him to almost break 18:00 on this course is amazing. He has really improved thoughout the season and you are going to see some big things from him next year. Preston beat every other teams 7th runners and a lot of their 5th and 6th. He would be top seven on virtually any other team."
Freshman Seth Durbin ran a nice time of 20:18 for 70th.
"Seth ran great last Saturday, but was a little off today," Coach Kramer said. "He is going to be a good one for us with continued hard work and dedication."
Senior Cameron Barker was next in for the Rams with a 21:31 for 83rd place.
"Cameron pulled a hip flexor muscle, so that hampered him a little," Coach Kramer said. "But, he has been working hard and we appreciate his effort."
Sophomore Erik Bowers cut off more than a minute off of his time from last year, as he ran a 21:40 for 85th place.
"Erik has improved every race since back from injury," Coach Kramer said. "He could really help us in the future, if he continues to work hard."
Freshman Nick Shaw came in 98th with a 24:34.
"Nick had a little let down from his great race Saturday, but he is new at cross-country, so he is going to be inconsistent."
The Rams next travel to Peoria on Saturday to run on the state course at the Peoria Heights Patriot Invitational.
"We are going to run tempo pace with the varsity, since we just had conference," Coach Kramer said. "But, we will have three guys going hard in the JV race to see who will run varsity at the IHSA regional race.