Notebook: Francis Howell takes home Gold Division title on tiebreaker | Boys Cross Country

Francis Howell senior Anthony Giacalone tore his shoes off faster than what seemed humanly possible.

After years of running cross country, his shoes have gotten used to being tossed aside.

“That’s the first thing I do, they hurt my feet so I just rip them off,” Giacalone said. 

After finishing the fourth overall in the gold division of the 12th annual Forest Park Cross Country Festival, Giacalone wasn’t about to break tradition now. He finished the race with a time of 17:38.19.

Giacalone helped the Vikings take home the championship in the Gold Division after a tiebreaker with Ladue with their fifth runner.


Howell’s Nolan Riley finished 60th overall, edging out Ladue’s fifth runner by a single point to give the championship to the Vikings.

Giacalone stayed with the front of the pack for the beginning of the race and actually was neck and neck with eventual champion Mexico’s Alex Dukes for the first mile, but the hills in the latter half of the course came up to bite Giacalone.

“I started out trying to keep up with the front of the pack, which worked out for the first part of the race, but those hills were killers,” Giacalone said. 

Giacalone isn’t one to set the pace himself, as he lets others show their hands first before he picks his spot to make his move. And while he was happy with his individual finish, he said he wasn’t shooting for a particular place.

“I was mainly going for a time, not as much as a place,” Giacalone said. “I wanted to get a low 17, and I wanted to get out there and set my pace.”


O’Fallon coach Jon Burnett wanted his team to have all the sights, smells and noise of a state meet.

“You have a lot of distractions at the state meet and this meet, we get to practice getting distracted,” Burnett said.

O’Fallon battled the distractions and finished eighth overall in the Green Division of the 12th annual Forest Park Festival race.

“We love coming over here,” Burnett said. “There are teams from seven states today, so we get to see new competition.”

After seeing teams around the area last week, O’Fallon got a chance to see some of the best competition from Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas all thrown into one race. 

Seeing the kind of talent arrayed against them, Burnett didn’t see his team blink or let the competition get to them.

O’Fallon was led by junior Will Vanalstine, who finished 26th overall with a 16:54.71. 


It was almost like the Lebron James celebration, but it wasn’t with powder.

And it wasn’t in celebration.

Parkway Central junior Gottlieb Gerstenecker threw his glass of water up in an arc over him when he saw his time.

“I didn’t break 17 and that’s what I was trying to do,” Gerstenecker said.

While he didn’t get his personal goal of a sub-17 minute 5K, Gerstenecker did finish third overall in the White Division with a time of 17:28.62. 

It also was his personal best time in a 5K, as it was his third 5K ever.

“I love cross country, but I used to play soccer,” Gerstenecker said. “Today’s course was really flat and fast. I really like this course.”

While he was looking back on the course, Gerstenecker was looking at how he can improve.

“I think I should have ran my first mile five seconds faster,” Gerstenecker said.


Mexico senior Alex Dukes normally feels as if he’s run five miles before he hits the two-mile marker.

This time, it felt significantly different.

“Today was a lot faster and it felt really fast this time,” Dukes said. “It went by really quickly.”

Dukes repeated as Gold Division individual champion. 

The reason why it felt faster to him this year than last year was that he finished the course a full minute faster. Dukes finished with a time of 16:35.79 this year, while last year he finished with a time of 17:39.30. 

Dukes didn’t lead the entire race. He actually trailed the lead runner after the first mile.

“I just tried to stick with them, but the first mile I started gaining up on them and then I passed them because I had some gas left in the tank,” Dukes said. “I passed them then so I didn’t have to worry about the end and trying to finish at the end.”

In previous seasons at Mexico, he wasn’t allowed to compete in two sports, but this year he was able to and competes for both Mexico’s soccer team as well as its cross country team.

“You have to have a lot of endurance to keep that up,” Dukes said. “There’d be one time where I would run a meet in Quincy (Ill.) and then get in the car to drive over to Hannibal to have a soccer game. That was a good fun. You’d sleep well those nights.”


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