Effingham St. Anthony High School senior Matt Feldhake's quest for a second consecutive Class A boys' cross country state title will get underway this weekend as he and runners from eight other schools compete in Saturday's Class A Cumberland Regional at Cumberland High School in Toledo.

The girls' race is set to begin at 10 a.m. with the boys' race to follow.

Feldhake has run the course at Cumberland once before, winning his third consecutive Cumberland Invitational title there in 16 minutes, 20 seconds back on Sept. 20.

Five teams and the top five individual runners not on one of those five teams will advance to the Paxton-Buckley-Loda Sectional.

In the boys' race, St. Anthony, Dieterich, Neoga, Newton, Teutopolis, Cumberland and Shelbyville will all field full teams while Cowden-Herrick sends one individual runner.

Feldhake has to be the favorite to win individual honors, and if his St. Anthony club has a good outing it should sneak into the sectional as a team.

Teutopolis, Cumberland and Shelbyville (which is actually a co-op with Stewardson-Strasburg) should be doing battle for the regional crown, and all three should be easy picks to advance as teams.

Neoga and St. Anthony have gone neck-and-neck all season in their various meetings and will have to battle each other and Newton as those three seem likely to be the ones competing for the final two spots.

On the girls' side, six of nine schools represented will be sending full teams. Teutopolis and Newton will likely fight it out for the top spot.

Cumberland's girls team has struggled with injury all year long and hasn't always been able to field a full team, but coach Jim Miller says he plans on having five runners good to go Saturday as the Pirates compete with Dieterich, Shelbyville, and St. Anthony to not be the one team that doesn't advance as a unit.

With all but one full team advancing, Altamont sophomore Justine Seidel's should be considered a lock to advance to sectionals individually.

Having already established herself as one of the premier runners in the area, Seidel will be competing against a short list of other runners looking to move on as individuals.

One is her lone teammate, freshman Mallory Wendling, who should have a good shot at making the sectional as well.

Add to that list Neoga freshman Allison Mueller, whose times have been competitive with Wendling's in various head-to-head meetings throughout the season.

Neoga will be missing its only other female runner in sophomore Taylor Walk, who has struggled with injury throughout much of the year and didn't run at Saturday's Effingham St. Anthony Bulldog Classic.

Cowden-Herrick will also send one runner, and the members of the one team that doesn't advance as a unit will make up the rest of the field vying for the five individual qualifier spots.

No matter how you slice it, though, almost every girl at Cumberland will be moving on to sectionals.

Class AA Olney Regional

In cross country's three-class system, Effingham High School is the only Class AA team in the area.

EHS will be at Olney Central College Saturday for the Class AA Olney Regional with Breese Mater Dei, Centralia, Charleston, Mattoon, Mount Carmel, Olney, Paris and Salem also set to compete.

Effingham's girls' team is led by junior Chelsey Watkins, senior Megan Westemeier and freshman Tatiana Colclasure. All three are coming off top-40 finishes at the Bulldog Invite and may be able to send EHS to the sectional as a team.

If not, all three should be capable of a top five individual time.

After struggling with numbers all season long, Effingham's boys' team may be a longer shot to move on as a team, but the Hearts' junior Blake Gardewine looks to challenge for individual advancement at Olney.

Gardewine has consistently been the Hearts' top finisher throughout the season and hopefully his hard work throughout the season will pay off.

The girls' race at OCC is set to start at 10 a.m. with a boys' race immediately following.

Dustin White can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 123 or dustin.white@effinghamdailynews.com.

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