By PAUL HINES
When Webber’s Mallory Bergbower steps on the Edwardsville cross country course at the end of this week, she will be aiming for a fourth straight appearance at the 1A state finals.
The senior has made three previous trips north to Peoria’s Detweiller Park and will run at the Southern Illinois University course in Edwardsville for Saturday’s sectional. It’s a course Bergbower enjoys running on and has also had success. She’s placed no worse than sixth in her previous appearances.
“A lot of people the hills get to them, but I’m kind of used to running on hills so it really doesn’t bother me,” Bergbower said.
Her strength on hilly terrain comes from her training. Bergbower spends her days running in and around Bluford.
“To get to where I’m going, I have to run up a lot of hills through Bluford,” she said. “Then certain days out of the week, I’ll practice running hills up and even down them too. So that helps me a lot.”
Bergbower’s postseason got off to a solid start after she placed fifth at the Chester regional. She finished with a time of 20:07, which was about a half minute better than last season on the same course. Bergbower said the amount of running and hard work she put in between last year and this one is the difference between the times. Her coach Roger Yates added that she’s grown mentally as well.
“She’s matured a lot as a runner,” Yates said. “I think she runs with more confidence.
“She has shown that competitive instinct that she didn’t show in her freshman, sophomore years.”
Bergbower admitted to feeling nervous before races in the past, but this season she’s run unhindered.
“I used to get really nervous, and then this year I didn’t get very nervous,” she said. “I was real calm about it.”
Her best finish at state came her sophomore season when she placed 70th. She actually ran the course eight seconds faster last year, but placed 83rd because of the race’s quick tempo.
Saturday’s sectional race will be at 10 a.m. The top seven runners on non-advancing teams qualify for the state final.