Winning tradition lives on for Illinois boys
Post-race wrap-up of Midwest teams at NTN, by SteveU and Adam Kedge
Boys - Girls
Naperville XC (Neuqua Valley IL)
1st place – 125 points
1 Derrick, Christopher 08 Naperville XC Club 15:39.8 1
6 Riddle, James 08 Naperville XC Club 16:26.0 6
23 Pawola, Daniel 09 Naperville XC Club 16:45.7 23
28 Beattie, Aaron 10 Naperville XC Club 16:50.8 28
67 Grady, Kevin 08 Naperville XC Club 17:17.8 67
91 Ruff, Michael 08 Naperville XC Club 17:32.0 91
109 Budnik, Joseph 08 Naperville XC Club 17:47.2 109
The buzz was all over the men of New Mexico when the boys championship race was over at Portland Meadows Saturday. It had been announced that Albuquerque XC (Albuquerque Academy NM) had a 36-point lead at 4K, and they felt like they may well have won it. Los Alamos XC (Los Alamos NM) knew they were very close as well, and when the top four were announced (in alphabetical order), both clubs were named.
But several tents down, the men of Naperville XC (Neuqua Valley IL) were pretty excited and optimistic, too. Of course, one big reason was that top man Chris Derrick had finally broken Colby Lowe in the last 600 or so and taken the individual title. It was looking good all the way around, though, for the squad. No. 2 man James Riddle had not just continued his string of strong races while coming back from his mid-season injury, but had run by far the race of his life in taking 6th overall. Were those two, plus two more in the top 30, enough for the win?
They were. It was the closest NTN finish ever, but Naperville prevailed by two points. Every man really did count here.
Club coach James Dickerson opted that the fact that Riddle missed much of the season may have actually helped here. “He had a lot of momentum and was really hungry out there.”
With his 6th and Derrick’s win, that gave the team a big boost as they were otherwise just beginning to show signs of a team that had endured a long season of pushing to the top. “A few of the guys looked pretty tired out there, but they hung on.” Junior Danny Pawola (23rd) and soph Aaron Beattie (28th) were the next two, and senior Kevin Grady closed it out just in time with his 67th.
Meanwhile, Derrick talked about battling Colby Lowe for the victory. “I was pretty relaxed the whole time out there … but yet I wasn’t sure when I could make a move. Then I just said to myself, ‘quit being a little girl and run hard.’ You start reading DyeStat and people saying how good you are, but you forget how hard it is to run with really good guys."
Elmhurst XC (York IL)
9th place – 267 points
4 Sulkin, Steven 09 Elmhurst XC Club 16:23.2 4
30 Achtien, Thomas 08 Elmhurst XC Club 16:51.2 30
39 Hebert, Jordan 09 Elmhurst XC Club 17:00.7 39
81 Spisiak, Daniel 08 Elmhurst XC Club 17:25.5 81
113 Talbot, Mark 08 Elmhurst XC Club 17:49.0 113
131 Cecil, Adam 10 Elmhurst XC Club 18:03.2 131
136 Way, David 09 Elmhurst XC Club 18:08.2 136
It was fitting when the Men of Kroy won the first NTN title back in 2004; they had established a tradition, as York High School in Elmhurst IL, for being one of the nation’s great prep cross-country programs. They were tied for 2nd the next year.
The last two years has seen the club/team suffer some controversy, drop off slightly at the top and depth-wise, but still maintain a place as a top-ten power. Neuqua Valley stopped York’s bid to win a 27th state title under Joe Newton this year, and ended a streak of 5 in a row, but York still was a strong second. And, in the first NTN Midwest Regional, the clubs from the two Illinois teams duplicated that 1-2 finish.
In Portland, contending for the win was unrealistic, but a finish in the top five or better for the newly-named Elmhurst XC Club was a possibility if everyone was healthy and ran well. Unfortunately, the shin injury that had been affecting top man Tom Achtien was aggravated in the tough footing and he faded to 30th. On the other hand, though, Steve Sulkin ran the race of his life to help make up for it and took a stunning 4th. That was two places higher than he finished at NTN Midwest.
“The course ate him up,” said club coach Steve Stine on what happened with Achtien. “He’s been dealing with this shin problem for the last six weeks.”
Stine was proud of the way his runners stepped up. “Steve ran by far the best race of his career. I was watching him and Tom running side-by-side early. When Tom started to fall off, Steve gave him a look, put his head down, and went.”
Another source of team pride was the way David Way ran. He may have been 136th and the 7th man, but “six weeks ago, he wasn’t even in the picture,” said Stine. “He wasn’t on the varsity, but he’s really come a long way. Jordan Hebert (39th) also ran the race of his life. He wasn’t in the picture at the beginning of the season.”
In summary, the coach said, “The finish may not have been quite what we wanted, but I couldn’t have been prouder of this team.” He added that they were “extremely proud” of how winning rival Neuqua Valley ran as well.
Medina XC (Medina OH)
12th place – 296 points
10 Roys, Donald 09 Medina XC Club 16:30.7 10
36 Arthur, Jeremy 08 Medina XC Club 16:58.2 36
70 Maynard, Samuel 08 Medina XC Club 17:19.5 70
78 Heaton, Hunter 10 Medina XC Club 17:24.3 78
102 Rankin, Kent 08 Medina XC Club 17:43.2 102
134 Walters, Lucas 09 Medina XC Club 18:05.6 134
142 Fallow, Ryan 09 Medina XC Club 18:14.3 142
If ever an at-large team used a single race as a springboard to NTN, it was Medina XC Club. During the regular season, their school team ventured down to the big Maymont Invite in Virginia and all but “stole” the race from a bunch of stunned SE powers. They beat six ranked teams, including eventual NTN qualifier Oak Ridge TN.
“That win was a big surprise for us,” said Coach Milt Place. “It was a big confidence builder. We basically steamrolled through the rest of the season after that.”
The rest of the season included the Ohio D1 title, where #1 man Donny Roys also won the individual title. But Roys – an impressive all-around athlete who plays hoops, has long-jumped almost 21 feet, and did a 6:06 2k steeple as a soph – had a hard time bouncing back at the NTN Midwest. “He was so drained after the state meet,” said Place. With their relatively distant 3rd-place finish, the coach feared “we were too far behind York.”
But the Maymont win helped and Medina got in. Saturday, they were a solid 12th, with Roys bouncing back with a very strong 12th-place finish. “We’re happy,” said Place, noting that a few of the runners were either a little ahead or behind where he thought they would be. “You know, we’ve run solid in every race, but we really haven’t had a ‘perfect’ race all year. But for a team that really peaked at region and state, it says a lot about the team’s competitive spirit to do as well as they did here.”
Westfield XC (Westfield IN)
15th place – 322 points
30 Bingham, Margaret 08 Westfield XC Club 20:02.8 30
41 Love, Kaitlyn 09 Westfield XC Club 20:20.6 41
52 Neer, Waverly 11 Westfield XC Club 20:31.5 52
90 Ehrman, Breanne 08 Westfield XC Club 21:01.7 90
109 Holland, Alexandra 10 Westfield XC Club 21:27.0 109
118 Burton, Jessica 11 Westfield XC Club 21:45.3 118
136 Smith, Bre-Anna 10 Westfield XC Club 22:18.8 136
Lake Central XC (Lake Central IN)
21st place – 413 points
60 Zajac, Rachel 09 Lake Central XC 20:39.0 60
72 Bona, Anna 08 Lake Central XC 20:47.1 72
84 Payonk, Dana 10 Lake Central XC 20:58.8 84
89 Plenus, Megan 10 Lake Central XC 21:01.1 89
108 Henderson, Jackie 08 Lake Central XC 21:23.4 108
117 Jensen, Kailey 09 Lake Central XC 21:44.1 117
122 Kacius, Anna 11 Lake Central XC 21:53.0 122