GRANITE CITY – Granite City distance runner Andrew O’Keefe is considered one of the premier distance runners in the St. Louis area, and on Friday, he broke not only a personal record, but the school record for the fastest 3,200-meter run, winning the event with a time of 9:11.11 during the Granite Invitational track meet Friday afternoon at Memorial Stadium/Kevin Greene Field.

O’Keefe was paired in the same heat with the other two premier distance runners, Edwardsville’s Roland Prenzler and Jack Pifer. It was considered the meet’s main event.

“I think so,” O’Keefe said in an interview conducted right after the race. “The plan was to come out here, work together with Roland and Jack, and get a fast time, and that’s what we came out here and did. I wanted the school record, which was 9:12, and just snuck in under that, and I’m really happy about it.”

It’s still somewhat early in the season, but O’Keefe feels that his times have been very good throughout the first month.

“Well, it’s still early,” O’Keefe said, “and it’s good to knock out fast times this early, and some (personal records). It’s a great motivator to keep on working hard and moving forward for the races I have up next.”

After doing well at last week’s Norm Armstrong Invitational in Belleville and at the Granite meet, O’Keefe is looking ahead to upcoming meets and races.

“A week from tomorrow, there’s a distance meet at Palatine; I’m going to go up there, run the 1,600,” O’Keefe said, “go for another fast time, hopefully, a P.R. After that, I think there’s just (the Madison County meet), the Collinsville Invitational, and then sectional and state.”

O’Keefe’s goals for the rest of the season remain simple.

“Just to keep on running faster, keep on improving,” O’Keefe said. “I want to drop my time in the mile, and hopefully, get a better place at state with my mile, and just move forward from there.”

The race between the top three distance runners created a great atmosphere at the stadium, with very few fans leaving the seats. The race itself didn’t disappoint, as the fans were cheering with every stride. When O’Keefe began to pull away down the stretch, public address announcer Rich Skirball said “Andrew O’Keefe – the hometown hero! Let’s cheer him on!” as O’Keefe crossed the finish line to the cheers of the packed stadium.

After the race, the trio exchanged warm hugs. The three are long-time friends, and the friendship is what helped get each other through the race.

“Yeah, that’s what got us through today,” O’Keefe said, “is our competitiveness, our friendship. We both came out, ran P.R.s, did exactly what we said we were going to do, switch off every now and then, and, no, that’s everything. That’s what made this race today. I could have never done this by myself at all.”

And O’Keefe also remembered to thanks everyone who has helped him along the way.

“I just would like to thank my parents, the Lord, and all my coaches and teammates here, and Roland and Jack,” O’Keefe said.

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story

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