Although he was hopeful, he said that it would be very difficult for Elsberry to perform well enough at the district meet to send any of its runners to the state competition on Nov. 7.
Whether or not he directly communicated his concerns to his runners, Elsberry decided to show up and go for broke at Spanish Lake on Oct. 31, and the results speak for themselves.
“Each of the girls made their best run of the 2015 cross-country season,” said Tillotson.
Whitfield’s girls, one of those “perennial powerhouses” that Tillotson was worried about, easily took first place overall as a team.
The competition for second place, however, was a lot tighter.
“Our girls gave Lutheran St. Charles a run for their money,” said Tillotson. “Unfortunately, Lutheran edged us and we took third place with the top two teams qualifying for the state meet.”
In terms of individual scores, Naomi Gladney was at the head of Elsberry’s pack with a 10th place finish and a time of 22:09.
Hot on her heels was Faith Zimmermann, who finished in 14th place with a time of 22:40.
Although Elsberry did not qualify to run as a team in the state meet, both girls earned the right to compete there on an individual basis.
Maggie Spratt was not far behind with her 18th place finish and a time of 23:27.
“Maggie was just out of the money,” said Tillotson.
Rounding out the pack were Eva Gladney and Josie Horne with 20th and 24th place finishes and times of 23:38 and 24:23, respectively.
“Considering how close they came [to qualifying as a team], I expect that the girls felt a great deal of disappointment,” said Tillotson. “However, I hope they also felt a sense of satisfaction in the fact that they did make their best run of the year and at the very least they made Lutheran St. Charles sweat.”
Elsberry also sent three boys to the district competition.
Jack Weakly came in 23rd with a time of 19:21.
“That was Jack’s first 19 minute run of the year,” said Tillotson.
Austin King finished 50th with a time of 21:53.
He was followed by Phillip Bricky with a 63rd place finish and a time of 27:03.
“Phillip’s primary sport is football, so he is still learning how to use the ground and how to use himself,” said Tillotson.
Regardless, Tillotson said all of his boys also ran their best races of the year.
“Both teams were still peaking at the time of that competition,” said Tillotson. “That’s the ideal. You always want your best performances to come at the end of the season.”
None of Elsberry’s boys qualified to compete at the state meet, and with only three runners they could not qualify as a team either.
Whitfield ended up taking first place for the boys that day as well.
Tillotson said he will take Gladney and Zimmermann to Jefferson City on the morning of Nov. 6 to prepare for the state competition.
“That gives us control of the three meals they will eat before they run,” said Tillotson.
Tillotson added that he is grateful to the school and to everyone else who makes it possible for him to take his athletes out of school each year in advance of the meet.
On the afternoon of Nov. 6, Tillotson and his athletes will survey the course and do a trial run in order to plan a strategy for the competition the next morning.
“On Saturday morning we will be ready,” said Tillotson.