A training group is people, but a team is an idea. Its heart is a vision; it’s connective tissue is commitment to that vision. The goal for any program is to communicate that idea with a clarity and sincerity that no matter who races, the performance will look the same, even if the results are wildly different.
That’s why we are so proud of our race at the 2016 Charger Classic Invitational. Like last year, we gave some of our JV runners a chance to mix things up in a varsity tilt. The competition was formidable-- programs like Oswego East are clearly building a strong identity, and Normal University High’s pack executed their race plan as though they had trained together for a decade. Our runners were tasked with representing our idea amidst a talented field and an unfamiliar race.
To a man, they executed. In some ways, it was our most complete varsity race of the season. Matt “Mongoose” Milostan (4th; 14:42) led the way with a smart, cagey race, improving on his time last year by over 30 seconds. He was trailed by junior Ryan Kennedy (11th; 15:04), whose toughness and tenacity were fully activated. Fan-favorite Jeremy Hayhurst (15th; 15:09) showed remarkable poise and doggedness for the third straight race, and juniors Tyler Bombacino (21st, 15:24) and Alex Johnson (26th, 15:31) flew into the chute quickly enough to seal a 2nd place finish.
Our next five runners likewise honored our team’s idea. Junior Evan McVittie (64th; 16:09) reflected hard work, while classmate Keanan Ginell (70th; 16:14) embodied toughness. Senior Erik Huenecke (72nd; 16:21) represented heart, while junior Dakota Getty (75th, 16:23) showed discipline and intelligent pacing. And senior Isaiah Robinson (77th, 16:24)-- a star in another sport-- personified steely competitiveness.
Programs rise and fall; there have been seasons where we’ve been elite, and there are seasons where we’ve been middle or back of the pack. But as long as the idea of our team remains fixed, we will be proud. In Saturday’s race, each guy carried that idea across the line. It’s a great reminder that no matter where you sit on the depth chart-- from battle-hardened senior to tender-footed freshman-- you have a responsibility to the intangible, imperishable belief that is NVXC.
In high school, a lot can change in a year. Boys often return from summer with deeper voices and broader chests; girls with new alliances and fresh ambitions. One trip around the sun can remake a runner from a back-of-the-pack afterthought to a lead-chasing thoroughbred. Ask Scott Anderson, Michael Widmann or Chris Derrick how much a calendar matters.
The annual York Freshman/Sophomore Invitational is a reliable measuring stick for how much our guys have grown. Last year’s freshmen left this meet in 2015 with a bad taste, having lost a 6th man tiebreaker to Naperville North, the champions. A grueling summer followed an arduous Track season, and the newly minted sophomores laced up this past Monday hoping to avenge that stinging loss.
They had to do so without frontrunners Zach Kinne and Chris Keeley, who were resting following a pair of draining performances over the weekend. But bound by the camaraderie and trust of heavy miles and hills, the class of 2019 put forth their most complete race of the season. Led by the indefatigable Michael Madiol in 5th place, the Wildcats reversed the previous year’s results, this time beating Naperville North by 40 points. Madiol was trailed by Matt Jett, Michael O’Connor, Jack Orengo, Nick Drechsler, and Spencer Teske in 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th place respectively (It is worth noting that 7th man Kevin Daneliak also had his most complete race of the year). Each of these runners had something to prove in this race—whether it was the discipline to run up front or the focus to hang on or the tenacity to finish. And each one answered that challenge in resounding fashion.
Theirs will be a good example for the freshmen, who found themselves buried early in their race. While Rodrigo Alvarez (10:39) continued to dazzle with a first place finish (a tradition he now shares with program luminaries Zach Kinne, Jake McEneaney, and Connor Horn), the gap between him and our second man was vast and yawning. Daniel Conway and Quinn Kennedy picked off a few runners in the last mile, and Ramsay Johnson, Josh Rodriguez, and Sam Stuart finished within striking distance of a respectable pack. But the team’s 7th place finish gives them plenty to work for in the months to come. Flanked by Dylan Bushelle, Rahul Koul, Adam Gutierrez, and Joey Spencer, the young Wildcats have a committed core to build around.
For inspiration, they need only look at the sophomores in the Open Race, which featured a championship performance by Blake Storoe (11:31.7). The stalwart Storoe grew more committed by the week this summer, and showed a predator’s instinct in the final 50 meters, out-leaning his talented runner-up. Joining Blake on the honoree’s podium were the redoubtable Erik Thompson, the resurgent Luke Huenecke, and the inestimable Joey Klaips in 8th, 10th, and 17th place respectively. Each of these runners deserve this moment’s glory, as each of them grew in the season of commitment and challenge following last year’s race. Strong efforts were also submitted by Alex Kiefer, Nick Pope, Neel Pai, Aditya Sathyaprakash, and Rahul Nair.
It was one team but two very different buses on the ride home. The sophomores, newly robed in victory, and the freshmen, quiet and introspective. But this year’s dissatisfaction can seed next year’s bounty crop. Just ask the sophomores. After all, if there’s one other rule about high school, it’s that the years pass by quickly. Results
Runners are control freaks. They carefully curate their playlists, fussily perform their stretching routine, and triple knot their laces. Throughout the week, they arrange their schedule to optimize their workouts, minimize their wastefulness, and chain tasks together with a dancer’s economy.
So naturally the Running Gods must intervene to remind us that we actually control very little. You don’t control the fact that the person who touched the doorknob before you suffers from a highly contagious cold. You don’t control the traffic, the humidity, the amount of rain that soaks the field. When you look at the teammate boxed beside you before the gun, you remember that it’s not up to you how he handles the race.
That lack of control is exacerbated in a race with more than 50 teams and over 500 athletes. Some of the programs are old friends—Sandburg and York, for instance; others are welcome strangers. But the silence before ignition is one of the most intense moments in all of sports. Almost anything can happen.
So it is with relief and gratitude that we received the same results as our previous invite. Led by Captain Josh Mollway (14:59) and fellow seniors Jackson Jett (15:02) and Jake McEneaney (15:04), the Varsity team ran a smart and patient race on a sticky, swampy course. Zach Kinne (15:12) added to his impressive resume of Detweiller performances, and Matt “Mongoose” Milostan (15:21) found his way back into the fun after missing Hornet/Red Devil. Once again, seventh man Jeremy Hayhurst (15:40) ran a race worthy of his amazing haircut, and juniors Ryan Kennedy (15:32), Tyler Bombacino (16:05), and Alex Johnson (16:13) ran the disciplined, professional races that typify the Class of 2018. While we are proud of the results, we know there are miles to go—all week, we’ve battled viruses, mental hiccups, and the vague aches and pains of hard September miles. Thus far, this whole season has been a conversation about resiliency.
One of team experts on that subject is Chris Keeley, who made his triumphant return to racing in the Freshman/Sophomore race. Bedeviled by injuries since Track season, Chris has fought through stress fractures, stress reactions, and deep bruises to work his way back into the lineup. Flanked by freshman phenom Rodrigo Alvarez (16:12), Keeley gutted out a tough 16:35. He was trailed by the fully-shoed Matt Jett (16:42), the always-game Michael Madiol (16:43), and the suddenly clutch Michael O’Connor (16:57). Nick Drechsler (17:05) had an uncharacteristically middling race, but was present enough to be the tie-breaker against a hard-charging Naperville North, scoring the Freshman/Sophomore team their first team championship of the season. Spencer Teske (17:08), Jack Orengo (17:59), Daniel Conway (18:21), and Quinn Kennedy (18:22) rounded out the stat sheet. The sophomores have yet to put together a race commensurate with their workouts, but returning Keeley and Madiol to the fold will bring them closer to their potential.
By the time the Open Race got underway, the sun had assumed a pitiless position, and shade was at a premium. A spike-flattened course ran slow and steamy, but still yielded some impressive results. Tempo-king Scott Anderson (16:33) led the way, followed swiftly by junior Keanen Ginell, senior Eric Huenecke, and juniors Evan McVittie and Dakota Getty. For many of our runners, this was their introduction to Detweiller, and the odd juxtaposition of Mardi-Gras festivities of the front of the course and the lonely suffering of the trapezoid. Even beset on all sides by pain and doubt and heat exhaustion, our runners drew strength from the hundreds of miles and dozens of workouts stored within their mental vault.
And ultimately, those workouts are the only things in our control. We cannot do anything about other runners, other teams, or the reactions our bodies have to stress and germs.
Daily Herald Article Results Josh Mollway Interview Race video MilesplitIL Recap
DyestatIL Recap Open Results
One reason high school cross country is such a great sport is the blessing of the summer training season. As our athletes’ work loads are lightened and their concerns simplified, they narrow their focus to long runs, punishing tempos, and the spirited camaraderie of hundreds of miles. The sameness of weather and the ease of days can lull us into a certain comfortable rhythm. Yes, you will be physically tested. But there’s little to stress your spirit during mid-July strides.
All that tranquility is violently upended by the first invite of the season. Suddenly, the athlete remembers-- the burning lungs, the retreat of mind, the seemingly untiring foe. There’s no simulating this heat in the summer. The testing has begun.
We are proud that our first test every year is at the Hornet/Red Devil Invitational, where some of the state’s most disciplined, decorated programs unveil their seasonal ambitions. Dozens of legendary athletes have left their mark on the field (including two-time champion Blake Evertsen), and it’s a familiar measuring stick to project into November. This year we disembarked without three of our most important runners (seniors Scott Anderson and Matt Milostan, and junior Danny Winek), uncertain as to what the race would reveal about their absence.
The Varsity race yielded some early positive returns on our summer’s preparation. A smart, flinty race by senior Jake McEneaney (3rd, 15:05) set the tone, eclipsing Connor Horn’s 2015 mark by a second. He was trailed by senior Josh Mollway (15:19)-- the “good captain” bettered his previous year’s time by more than 30 seconds. Sophomore Zach Kinne (15:22) and senior Jackson Jett (15:23) surged in their last mile, while junior Ryan Kennedy (15:37) dutifully closed the door for a first place finish. Other noteworthy performances included a cold-ridden Tyler Bombacino (15:53-- breaking 16:00 for the first time!), junior Alex Johnson (16:04), Evan McVittie (16:51), Keanan Ginell (16:57), Erik Huenecke (17:10), Quinton Quagliano (17:16), Dakota Getty (17:29), and DJ Sauer (17:30).
Compared to the smooth efficiency of the Varsity team, the Sophomore race was a madcap caper. For the first time since 2012, the sophomores were led by a freshman, rising star Rodrigo Alvarez (16:26), who negative-split his final mile in a smart race that belied his youth. Trailing behind were Nick Drechsler (16:54) and Matt Jett (16:55). Jett, whose flair for the dramatic is perhaps eclipsed only by his older brother, lost his chip shoe early in the race; it was handed off to him by an intricate relay of juniors. Although Matt carried the shoe across the line, the sensor did not read his finish, playing havoc with the official results. Fortunately, teammates Spencer Teske (17:01), Michael O’Connor (17:24), and Jack Orengo (17:44) finished close enough together to nail down a third place finish. Two other noteworthy races belonged to sophomores Kevin Daneliak (18:16) and Erik Thompson (18:24), two team favorites for their amiability and dedication.
The patient maturity of the Varsity team and the steady resilience of the Sophomores was contrasted by the wide-eyed inexperience of the Freshmen team. Despite repeated instructions throughout the week and on race day, the newest Wildcats couldn’t disguise their lack of familiarity with invitational conduct (“When do we warm up? Should we change into spikes now? How many laps is it?”). Yet from the starter’s pistol, the team showed a willingness to challenge the field, hazard pain, and engage the race. Led by a trio of program legacies (Quinn Kennedy--10:54; Daniel Conway--10:55; Dylan Bushelle-- 11:08), the tenderfoots achieved a sixth place finish. Notable debuts belonged to Ramsay Johnson (11:13), Josh Rodriguez (11:20), Rahul Kohl (12:08), Sam Stuart (12:12), Adam Gutierrez (12:30), and James Teune (12:44). Pouring over the results, the coaches came away convinced that somewhere in these times was the next Michael Widmann or Scott Anderson.
Nowhere was this truth more obvious than in the race by senior Jeremy Hayhurst (15:44). Hayhurst finished 147th in the freshman race in 2013; he was our 16th best freshman on that day. Yet sometime between his sophomore and junior seasons, Jeremy fully dedicated himself to the life of a runner. He has emerged as an inspiring symbol of the power of discipline, commitment, and belief, proof that it is more than genetics and natural efficiency that makes a great runner. “You guys want a speech?” he asked after our team picnic. “Let’s get after it this season. Let’s see what we can do.”
We resume our training with Hayhurst’s challenge hanging in the air. Like always, the Hornet/Red Devil was punishing; like always the road ahead is steep and fraught with challenge. But we learned on Saturday that we are ready. Summer is over. It’s time to be tested.
Results Daily Herald Article NCTV Video Coach Vandersteen Interview Dyestat Recap Splits