Girls Cross Country

KirbyPhilllipsKirby Phillips had already enjoyed coaching success with the Salem Wildcats football underclassmen when he became the head coach of the boys track program in 1985. Two year later Phillips added head coach of the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats cross country teams to his duties. When Phillips stepped away from those positions after the 2001-02 school year, he had taken each of those programs to heights not previously achieved.

While his first Salem boys track team in 1985 came up short at the North Egypt Conference Meet, his squads came back to win the title in each of the next 16 seasons. Phillips’ greatest success with the Wildcats track program came in 1999 when Salem grabbed a share of the Class AA Murphysboro Sectional championship. That remains as the program’s only sectional title. That 1999 team later finished fourth at the state meet. During Phillips’ track tenure Salem qualified more than 30 individuals and 15 relay teams for the Class AA state meet in a two-class system.

Erin McMullen AhartErin (McMullen) Ahart went several places where no Salem Community High School girl runner had ever gone before and in many case have gone since during her cross country and track career.

Ahart will always hold the distinction of being the only girl to win four North Egypt Conference individual cross country championships, as that league disbanded in 2003. When Ahart won the first four of those NEC titles in 1996 as a freshman, she did so by establishing a new Salem Bryan Park Course record with a time of 12:06. Ahart had to be at her best that day because teammate Trisha (Hustedde) Richards also broke the course record.

Coming off one of the best seasons in school history, the 1998 Salem Lady Wildcats cross country team had high hopes despite losing 3 of it’s Top 5 runners as graduating Seniors and facing an increase in official course length from 2 miles to 2.5 miles. The team returned the top 2 runners in Junior Erin McMullen and Senior Trisha Hustedde and rounded out its experience with returning varsity runners in Junior Gena Terlizzi and Senior Audrey Hargis. Add several talented younger runners into the mix and the team had a promising season ahead.

The Lady Cats started the season with a victory scoring 35 points at the Murphysboro Invitation, finishing in front of rival school Mt. Vernon. McMullen lead the team with a 2nd place finish, Hustedde right behind in 3rd and Freshman Erica Jansen in 5th. Next, the ladies won the Granite City Invitational with a team score of 65 points. The Mt. Vernon Invitation made it three in a row for the Lady Cats with a combined score of 10 points, winning 4 of the 7 filghted races. (more…)

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.

amberyoungSalem Community High School’s first female four-sport athlete used her running skills to take her to the collegiate level. Amber (Wimberly) Young, a 1990 SCHS graduate, reached that status when she doubled up in the fall with cross country and volleyball. She added to that participation list with basketball in the winter and track in the spring.

Young did more than just participate. She also excelled. Young was an All-South selection and state meet participant in cross country, earned All-North Egypt Conference honors in volleyball and won her team’s Rebound and Defense Awards in basketball.

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