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Marist's Jake Phillips makes a wrong turn work out right in cross country win against rival Brother Rice: "It was a little mistake but that's OK"
It was a big-time “uh-oh” moment for Marist junior Jake Phillips.
Then it was “uh-oh” for the other 19 runners in the race.
Phillips was comfortably ahead of the pack against rival Brother Rice during Saturday morning’s cross country dual meet, dubbed the Thomas Leonard Invitational, when trouble struck.
The event was held on Marist’s campus — the first time for the Mount Greenwood high school. A course was designed for this season since the coronavirus pandemic caused area forest preserves to disallow meets. Marist had used Midlothian Meadows as a home course in recent years.
Runners were getting adjusted to the new setup, and Phillips had already made one wrong turn early in the race. Shortly after the start of the second mile, he had a big lead over the rest of the field and mistakenly took a left turn through the gate of the football stadium.
As he was running along the north end zone, the rest of the field continued straight and ran outside the west side of the stadium. Phillips got to the east stands when spectators yelled at him to turn around. When he saw what had happened, he had a brief look of despair on his face.
A few minutes later, he still crossed the finish line in first place with a time of 16 minutes and 1 second — 38 seconds ahead of Brother Rice’s Eddie Burke — to help the RedHawks win 23-33.
“I heard someone yell ‘wrong turn’ and I was like, ’Again?’” Phillips said. “I tried to make up for it. I caught up and it was fine, but that last mile hurt a lot.
“I wanted to have as much distance as possible because I knew Eddie had a very strong kick. I am not a strong kicker, and I had to make sure I was up there.”
Burke, who finished 80th last season in the Class 2A state meet, briefly savored Phillips’ mistake but didn’t plan on letting up.
“I knew he was going to be coming for me, that’s for sure,” Burke said. “I was a little excited at first. I was like, ‘Maybe this is my chance to take it.’ But he’s a great racer and a great runner. I was surprised he caught me so fast.
“He sped up a lot to catch me. He went into the gates and had to make a 180-degree turn and come back out to catch me. I think I was about 15 or 20 seconds ahead. It was a pretty big gap. But he caught me and he caught me pretty fast. He was pretty far ahead of me at the end.”
Phillips admitted he had concerns about making up the difference.
“For a little while, I didn’t know if I would catch him,” Phillips said. “Then after five seconds I was getting faster, started accelerating, and I was fine. It was a little mistake but that’s OK.”
Marist’s Andrew Kerlin and Kevin Bugos finished third and fourth, respectively, followed by Brother Rice’s Mikey Corcoran, Marist’s Tommy Kavanaugh, Brother Rice’s Connor Melean and Sean Deane and Marist’s Tommy Wagner and Danny Olsen.
Olsen, a soccer player who came out for cross country when his sport was moved by the IHSA to the spring, was the top sophomore in the race.
The meet was named after Thomas Leonard, a Marquette University freshman who starred for the RedHawks the previous four seasons. Marist coach Jon Gordon will name subsequent meets for recent graduates.
When the RedHawks host St. Ignatius on Saturday, the meet will be named after Matt Wagner, a senior at Illinois Wesleyan who was co-winner of the program’s MVP.