The 1996 Salem Lady Wildcats cross country team owns two notable distinctions in school history at the time of their induction into Salem High School Sports Hall of Fame as the owners of the program’s only sectional championship and best finish at the state meet.

Coach Kirby Phillips’ crew won three invitational meets during the regular season, as they took home top honors from the Murphysboro invitational, Springfield Invitational and the Herrin Invitational. The Lady Wildcats posted a runner-up finish at the Mt. Vernon Invitational, took third in meets at Granite City, and Metamora and a fourth place effort at Peoria.

The Lady Wildcats claim the first-ever North Egypt Conference Girls Meet held at Salem’s Bryan Park and did so with a perfect team score of 15 points. League Champ Erin McMullen set a new course record with a time of 12:18, while runner-up Trisha Hustedde also broke the previous course mark with a time of 12:20.

The rest of the perfect score included a third place finish by Jerri-Lynn Sparling, a fourth place mark by Andrea Fisher and a fifth place effort by Stephanie Helton, Salem also got a sixth place mark by Brooke Rollberg and a tenth place spot by Gena Terlizzi.

Salem kicked off its postseason path by winning the Class AA St. Jacob Triad Regional, as the Lady Wildcats slipped past Mt. Vernon 50-55 for the top spot.

Hustedde and McMullen had identical times of 12:07 to lead the Lady Wildcats although Hustedde nipped McMullen at the finish line for the fourth place spot. After the fifth place mark by McMullem, other counters for Salem were Sparling in ninth place at 12:26, Helton in 15th place at 12:42 and Rollberg in 17th place at 12:44. Also competing were Fisher in 18th place at 12:46 and Terlizzi in 30th place at 13:34.

Salem returned back to Marion County for the sectional at Centralia and once again survived a tough battle with MT. Vernon, as it edged the Lady Rams 107-113 to secure a berth in the state meet.

McMullen led the Lady Wildcats at the sectional with a ninth place time of 12:41, while Hustedde also cracked the top ten and was one spot back in tenth place at 12:47. The other sectional counters were Sparling in 17th place at 12:56, Helton in 39th place at 13:15 and Rollberg in 50th pace at 13:28. Also competing were Fisher in 51st place at 13:29 and Audrey Hargis in 120th place at 14:47.

Salem ended the season with a 19th place finish and a team score of 467 points at the Class AA state meet held at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.

Hustedde led Salem at state in 103rd place with a time of 13:06, while McMullen was one second back at 13:07 and in 107th place. Sparling was 122nd at 13:13, Rollberg was 164th at 13:35 and Fisher was the final counter in 167th place at 13:38. Also competing at state were Helton in 168th place at 13:38 and Hargis in 213th place at 14:39.

There were no seniors among the seven runners who competed for Salem at state. Sparling, Fisher and Helton were juniors, Hustedde and Hargis were sophomores and McMullen and Rollberg were freshman.