Amos Bartlesmeyer can kiss that "man of mystery" thing goodbye.
The MICDS junior came into cross country season as the guy no one knew. Well, almost no one. He was a middle distance ace in track, but he hadn't run a cross country race since middle school. So the fall-season running crowd didn't immediately connect the dots.
With a win at Hazelwood Central's Paul Enke Invitational on Saturday, it's fair to say the cross country dots have been connected. The 5-foot-11, 130-pound Bartelsmeyer moved into the lead with approximately 600 meters to go and cruised in six seconds ahead of second-place finisher Devin Sander of Columbia Hickman. Bartelsmeyer finished the hilly, 5,000-meter run at Sioux Passage Park in 17 minutes 6.62 seconds.
While noting that, "When I run, I run to win," Bartelsmeyer admitted that as a cross country newcomer it's not easy to know where high hopes and brutal reality may collide.
Saturday certainly could have been one of those days. The Sioux Passage course has a reputation for knocking around even the best and strongest runners. Teams arrive dreading the course's best-known test: Man Maker Hill.
Bartelsmeyer not only survived two runs up Man Maker Hill, he turned the 250- to 300-meter climb into a passing lane.
"I'm surprised," Bartlesmeyer said of his win.
Also winning Saturday were the Fort Zumwalt West boys. With four runners in the top 16, the Jaguars pulled away from second-place Parkway South. MICDS was third. Tyler Percy finished ninth to pace Zumwalt West to its third win a row at the Enke meet.
Zumwalt West coach Mike Parker pointed toward the terrific scoring punch of Steve Heim (13th), Eric Rogers (15th) and Seth Parres (16th) as the difference makers for the Jaguars. "Today our (Nos.) 2, 3, 4 runners really stepped up," he said.
Nicole Mello of Hickman and Kansas City St. Teresa's had the best of the girls race. Mello turned the battle for medalist honors into a solo event. The junior turned in a winning time of 19:25.5, finishing 47 seconds ahead of Alyssa Jones of Summit and more than a minute ahead of third-place finisher Lane Maguire of St. Teresa's.
Kirkwood, Zumwalt West and Summit dueled for second place behind St. Teresa's in the girls team race. St. Teresa's won with 58 points. Kirkwood was second with 95, followed by Zumwalt West with 101 and Summit with 107.
The meet drew 23 teams and a field of 162 runners for the boys race and 18 and 128 for the girls run.
Bartlesmeyer was content to split time between soccer and track until last spring. A midfielder who played with upper level youth programs like Scott Gallagher and the Metro Strikers and was a member of the MICDS varsity in 2010, soccer always elbowed cross country off his fall schedule. That changed last spring when he was the top underclassman finisher in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs at the Class 3 state track meet. He was third in both races, turning a 1:56 in the 800 and 4:17 in the 1,600.
After those races, there was no turning back. It was goodbye soccer, hello cross country.
"I've been thinking about it for a while," Bartelsmeyer said of the change in athletic direction.
Delivering the word that he was giving up on soccer wasn't easy. "They were a little disappointed," he said of his coaches.
The shift to cross country has been as close to seamless as possible. The junior opened his season – and his career – with a win at the Lutheran South Invitational at Jefferson Barracks. Last week, he ran 15:54 and was 14th in a high-powered and crowded 246-runner field at the Forest Park Cross Country Festival.
"I was very happy with breaking 16 (minutes)," he said.
Bartelsmeyer has plunged into the deep end of the cross country pool. In the first three weeks of the season he has won two races, challenged the top runners in the state and proven himself more than capable of handling the top courses on the St. Louis side of the river.
While running cross country has been a challenge – "I never really thought it'd be easy," he said – Bartelsmeyer always can fall back on his track experience. Running up Man Maker Hill is certainly different than circling the oval at the MICDS track, but there is a racing sense that touches connects cross country and track.
"You can feel it in a race if you're in the right spot or not," he said.