PEKIN -- The Pekin boys and girls cross country teams each ran away from East Peoria on Saturday.
But that wasn't the story of the day.
East Peoria was supposed to host the Mid-Illini Conference races on its home course at Illinois Central College. But ICC recently closed the course to competitions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the races were moved to Pekin.
But not on the Dragons' regular course.
Pekin boys coach Cole Stoner created a three-mile high school course from what is normally a two-mile junior high school course because the Dragon Invitational girls tennis tournament also was held Saturday at Pekin.
Stoner wanted to avoid any possible congestion because of two competitions being held in close proximity.
"It's what was available," Stoner said about the high school course he put together, noting the cooperation of the Pekin Park District and PJXC (the Pekin junior high school cross country program).
The high school course Stoner created will probably never be used for a high school cross country race again because Pekin already has a course.
"I told our guys before the race (Saturday) that whoever wins the race will set a course record, and everyone will have their PR (personal record) on the course," Stoner said. "We'll take all the little victories we can get this season.
"It was a beautiful morning, and for a few hours, all the guys and girls needed to do was put their feet on the trail and not worry about the 'if this happens, then that happens,' when it comes to the pandemic and our season."
Pekin girls coach Allie Jones agreed with Stoner.
"It was a great atmosphere (Saturday)," she said.
Pekin and East Peoria boys and girls coaches combined efforts to make sure the races ran smoothly.
"It was a perfect example of how the coaches in our conference are working together this season," Stoner said. "We all have the same goal, to make sure the kids can compete, and do the right things. I can't say enough about our conference's coaches."
The Pekin boys and girls teams were supposed to run Saturday in the Canton Invitational at Big Creek Park. But the schedule changed because of the pandemic.
"I'm sure the kids didn't mind running two loops on a flat course (Saturday) instead of the hills at Big Creek Park," Stoner said.
Points are more important than times in a dual meet, Stoner said, and his Dragons ran past East Peoria 17-44, sweeping the top four places.
"We got off to a great start. You like to see all that red (uniforms) in front of the pack," Stoner said. "We have some work do on how to handle the second and third miles."
Pekin's Drae Heiple ran away from the field, winning in 16:34.76.
"Drae ran a faster time on a hilly course in our first race (16:22 on Aug. 29 at Dunlap Valley Middle School), but he was all by himself most of the race (Saturday)," Stoner said.
Jackson Custer of the Dragons finished second behind Heiple in 17:12.78, rebounding from a disappointing opening race, when he ran 17:20.
Huston Gillespie (3rd, 17:19.18), Lucas Glense (4th, 17:39.79) and Jeremy Leichtenberg (7th, 17:44.75) also scored Saturday for Pekin. Parker Ruder (17:45.35) and Russell Sarff (18:08.48) completed the Dragons' top seven.
Matthew Gray (5th, 17:40.14), Zach Alt (6th, 17:40.67), Ayden Thompson (10th, 18:16.13), Seth Bollinger (11th, 18:25.52) and Bailey Webster (12th, 18:28.15) scored for East Peoria.
Ben Riggenbach (18:55.89) and Colin Hieronimus (19:02.35) completed the Raiders' top seven.
Race winner Lily Wagemann led the Pekin girls team past East Peoria 19-44.
Wagemann took the lead from East Peoria's Kerrigan Vandel just before the two-mile mark and never trailed again. Wagemann won in 19:59.20. Vandel finished second in 20:23.27.
"Lily did an awesome job pulling ahead of the East Peoria runner," Jones said.
Also scoring for Pekin were JayLynn Riley (3rd, 20:41.29), Olivia Wolf (4th, 20:53.27), Lauren Filarski (5th, 20:57.86) and Emma Cox (6th, 21:30.18). Jayvian Riley (21:46.51) and Kylie Oyler (22:06.19) rounded out Pekin's top seven.
Kelsey Koch (9th, 22:15.96), Tatym Lamprecht (10th, 22:17.02), Tressa Tucker (11th, 22:43.02) and Rileigh Fortune (12th, 22:46.96) also scored for East Peoria. Hanna Moeller (23:45.57) and Josie Eaton (29:00.58) also ran for the Raiders.
In other Pekin cross country news:
NEXT: The Pekin boys and girls teams will compete this Saturday in the pre-conference meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
"It's great that we can run at Detweiller," Stoner said. "It adds some normalcy to our season."
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.