QUINCY -- Two-time Running Raider Classic champion Fiker Rosen was looking forward to Tuesday's meet.
Not because he had a chance for his third-straight Running Raider title, but because of the potential competition.
West Hancock -- and Rosen's biggest local rival in Miles Sheppard -- was originally slated to compete at South Park, but regulations due to the Coronavirus forced Quincy Notre Dame to shrink the field to just five teams and the Titans were left out.
"I found out yesterday right before the race, right when I've trained and everything, that he wasn't going to be here," Rosen said. "I was like, ‘dang it.'"
His disappointment didn't show in his performance. Rosen cruised across the finish line in 16 minutes, 22 seconds to claim his third-straight Running Raider crown, finishing 21 seconds ahead of Macomb's Stan Melkumian in second.
Rosen has competed in three very unique iterations of the Running Raider -- from his first large varsity race as a freshman, to last season's shortened race due to heat, to this year's COVID-19-reduced field -- but no matter the circumstances the result remains the same: a dominant showing from the Blue Devil harrier.
"It could have been better, but it's fine," Rosen said. "It's a hilly course, I'm OK with it. I'll take it."
Rosen's hesitation to enjoy the victory lies in his progression. He has finished atop each of the four races he has run this season, and Tuesday's 16:22 was his fastest time of the season, but he can't help but feel a lack of competition is stunting his growth.
"It's difficult to get better times. By now we would have been to some bigger races and I would have better times than I'm running right now," Rosen said. "It's almost the same times, and I'm not getting faster because there's not a lot of people around to push me."
Liberty junior Cannen Wolf did his best to fill that role. Wolf ran second to Rosen for much of the race before losing steam at the end and being passed by Melkumian, but he still crossed in 16:46 for third place.
He even put some heat on Rosen to pick up the pace.
"Cannen started going faster and getting closer to me, so I had to run faster and try to separate myself from him," Rosen said.
Even if he closed the gap, Wolf knew it wouldn't be for long.
"Whenever you've got a guy like Fiker, that's like a one-in-a-million kid," Wolf said. "He's just phenomenal, no one around this area besides Miles can even hang with him."
Not many runners enjoy the hilly nature of South Park, let alone thrive off of it, but count Wolf as one of the few.
"It brings like the real aspect of cross country to it," he said. "Our state course at Peoria, that's pretty much all flat. It's got little inclines like a track, so that's where you get your fast times. Whenever you get this aspect here, now you're really pushing yourself to work for whatever you get."
The Blue Devils as a whole also enjoyed the hills. QHS won the meet with a team score of 28, just edging out Macomb's second-place 33. Quincy Notre Dame was third with a 70.
A key point was scored by QHS's final scoring finisher in junior Logan Marks. Marks led Macomb's Noah La Prad by 30 yards coming down the final stretch, but La Prad put on the pressure and nearly caught Marks at the finish. Marks pushed through to edge La Prad by one second, essentially securing the Blue Devils team victory.
"Every time we come here we are always trying to win," said Rosen, who cheered Marks on from the finish line the whole way. "We wanted to win this race and we were pushing hard."
Ayden Triplett came in fourth for QHS with an 18:03, while Colby Allen was eighth in 18:39.
Quincy Notre Dame was led by freshman Tedros Berhorst for a third time this season, with Berhorst finishing seventh in 18:34 for the fastest ever time run by a Raiders freshman.
QND coach Brad Kendrick feels this is just the beginning for Berhorst's potential.
"He's a strong kid as a freshman," Kendrick said. "If we could get him to slightly regulate his start and use that on the back end, I think overall his time would benefit from that. He's a solid runner and we are happy to have him with us."
Aden Genebacher was the next-best finisher for the Raiders, placing 14th in 19:47. Clayton Tallcott was the highest placer for Unity, taking 16th in 20:01.