Fulton Junior High cross country coach Shane Flaar’s squads shined at the recent SIJHSAA meet. The boys, paced by eighth grader and state champion Kyle Dismukes (who captured the state title with a 10:17.7), finished fourth and the girls, led by seventh grader Sophie Wichlach, paced fifth. COURTESY PHOTO

Way to Go Kyle Dismukes!

Moments before the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association state cross country championship meet Oct. 18 at Benton, the public address announcer at the meet asked Fulton eighth-grader Kyle Dismukes a question.

“He asked me what my goals were,” Dismukes said.

Dismukes’ goal at the boys race was to run a time of 10 minutes, 20 seconds in the 1.86-mile race at Benton City Park. Dismukes not only surpassed that time, but he also left Benton City Park a state champion.

Dismukes won the state championship with a 10:17.7. He won the race by 22 seconds over Triad’s Luke Cox. After Dismukes finished his race, the public address announcer said in front of a large crowd, “He’s an awesome guy and a great kid.”

With his first-place finish, Dismukes became the first O’Fallon runner since Alex Riba in 2008 to capture a cross country state title.

Dismukes said he was happy to win a state championship in his final junior high school cross country race.

“It means a ton,” Dismukes said. “I’ve been working towards this goal for three years.”

Dismukes placed at the state meet for the third straight year. He finished third in 2013 and eighth in 2012.

Dismukes also helped the Fulton boys team leave Benton with some hardware. The Panthers finished fourth with 116 points and earned a team trophy. The top four teams in the state cross country meet receive trophies.

“It’s good to see the kids’ hard work pay off,” Fulton coach Shane Flaar said.

The Carriel girls team also earned a trophy after finishing fourth with 177 points.

“We all worked really hard,” said Leah Corso, who is one of five eighth-graders on the Carriel squad. “We really pushed each other to do our best.”

The Fulton girls and the Carriel boys came up one place short of a trophy as both teams finished fifth. Fulton scored 189 points in the girls race and Carriel finished with 128 in the boys race.

With the win on Saturday, Dismukes finished with an undefeated season. He won all 10 races he competed in this year. Two weeks ago, Dismukes won a pre-state cross country meet at Benton with a 10:24.

The 14-year-old Dismukes credits his parents, Denise and Mark, for his successful season. “They pushed me hard and they expect me to push harder,” Dismukes said.

Dismukes never trailed in the boys race. He ran five minutes after the first mile.

“I felt pretty good going into that first mile,” Dismukes said.

Dismukes said the state championship gave him a boost of confidence for the track season. In May, Dismukes placed third in the 1,600 in the state track meet at Carterville.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Dismukes said.

Dismukes was one of five Fulton runners who earned all-state honors in the boys race. The others were seventh-grader Aidan Baughan (21st, 11:23), eighth-grader Andrew Joyce (25th, 11:24.7), seventh-grader David Tady (35th, 11:37.5) and seventh-grader James Kelly (36th, 11:37.9). The top 50 finishers receive all-state honors. Fulton placed at the state meet for the sixth straight year.

The Carriel girls also placed at the state meet for the sixth year in a row. Seventh-grader Maddy McKittrick was the team’s top finisher, placing 21st with a 12:28.7. Seventh-grader Kaitlyn Walker placed 33rd with a 12:57.6, seventh-grader Kendal Schieppe finished 35th with a 12:59.1 and eighth-grader Alyssa Corso was 41st with a 13:07.4.

Carriel coach Roger Williams said the Corso twins-Alyssa and Leah-have been valuable since they joined the team in sixth grade. Alyssa earned all-state honors for the second straight year Saturday. Leah earned an all-state medal last year and came up just three places short of another all-state medal Saturday, finishing 53rd.

“For three years, they’ve been a force,” Williams said.

The Carriel boys had four runners earning all-state honors, all of them are eighth-graders. They are Riley Hinton (12th, 11:15.5), Braeden Lay (13th, 11:15.9), Ashton Hess (26th, 11:25.6) and Kaiyu Hernandez (29th, 11:30.4). Hinton picked up his second straight all-state medal.

“They really busted their butts today,” Williams said.

Seventh-grader Sophie Wichlac was Fulton’s top finisher in the girls race, placing 10th with an 11:55. She became the first Fulton runner since 2010 to place in the top 10 in the state girls race.

“It felt really good because that (a top-10 finish) was my goal,” Wichlac said.

Wichlac improved tremendously from last year’s race, where she finished 69th.

“I’m really happy for her because she works hard,” Fulton eighth-grader Taylor Peck said.

Seventh-grader Kayla Gordon finished 24th with a 12:31.1 and Peck placed 34th with a 12:58.3. Both runners earned all-state honors for the second straight year.