The sad truth of most Cross Country races is that they take place in other sports’ fields. It’s rare that an invite doesn’t bend around a soccer pitch or frolf course. Even Detweiller’s legendary lea is marred by football goalposts. That’s why it’s such a joy to bring the team to the Lockport Invitational every year. Because even though the first mile features more diamonds than Jared, the back half offers surprises and curiosities runners won’t find anywhere else in the state.
The day started at 9:00 AM with a memorable Freshman/Sophomore tilt. The trio of Ramsay Johnson (17:37), Vasant Fong (17:37), and Quinn Kennedy (17:42) led the way, finishing 15th, 16th, and 21st. Collin Searls (17:56) continued his impressive freshman campaign, trailed closely by fellow 9th graders Ryan Horn (18:20) and Leif Anderson (18:21). The race also featured a break-through effort from David Towa (18:31) and a 5k PR for Brian Jett (19:13). The 5th place finish gives the crew plenty of motivation moving into Wednesday’s Twilight Invitational.
For the second straight week, the Varsity added an extra 0.1 to their racing diet. Zach Kinne (15:13) out-dueled a gutsy Clayton Mendez, at one point passing the pacer cart. Ryan Kennedy (15:58) careened after him, very nearly spilling into the gulch by the two-mile mark. Seniors Tyler Bombacino (16:00) and Danny Winek (16:05) rolled over Dead Man’s Hill, with junior Chris Keeley (16:06) shutting the door for a first place team finish. The race of the day may have belonged to senior Dakota Getty (16:08), who was our 13th man at the Hinsdale Invitational. Meanwhile, junior Michael O’Connor lost a shoe in the first half mile, weathering the rocks and debris of another brutal 4000 meters. It was a reminder that O’Connor’s calamitous misfortune is regularly met by an indomitable toughness and determination.
However, there are few men on our team more determined than Keanan Ginell (16:59), who seized the Open Race from the cannon blast and never relinquished his hold. Lacking Bombacino’s stature or Winek’s pedigree, Ginell has built himself into one of the grittiest competitors in program history. However, he had plenty of company at the front of the parade—ten of the first 12 finishers bore the Neuqua logo. Runner-up Nick Drechsler (17:17) was closely pursued by senior DJ Sauer (17:25), juniors Kevin Daneliak (17:32), Blake Storoe (17:31), Spencer Teske (17:38), and Jack Orengo (17:43). Seniors Evan McVittie (17:44), Paul McIntyre (17:52), Matt Lindell (17:53), Danny Speckels (18:18), and Calvin McIntyre (18:23) each produced seasons’ best races, while tenderfooted underclassmen Sam Stuart (19:35), Alex Majus (19:58), Stephen Smilie (20:05), Daniel Gutierrez (20:15), and Luke Suman (20:16) all proved their mettle on the crushed rock hummocks of the second and third mile.
Back in the woods, away from the crowds, amidst the loose earth and arduous inclines, the athletes at Dellwood Park often discover things in the third mile that had previously lay hidden. They may find that their training has strengthened their bodies and spirit, that their pride has grown stiffer than rebar. It may surprise them that the names they practiced with all those miles in July are suddenly attached to bodies closer than kin. They may catch hold of—and hang onto—the vision they’d had of themselves when the training first began. It’s no longer an insubstantial visage. It has a face. And it’s climbing.
“Run for fun and Personal Bests” Often, I think of the underlying wisdom of these six words for those who ultimately absorb the perspective to know yourself, accept who you are, and ultimately make the most of your “God Given Talents” through their work ethic. Do the best you can with the gifts you are given and be yourself.
“The hardest this is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you into something you are not.” Unknowingly at the time, one of my former athletes had a major influence on me personally and as a coach when he spoke those words while traveling to a track meet. (I believe Emerson was the original source). I can mark the spot on the highway when I first heard them.
Fortunately, the message continues to be a reference point for me while walking that fine line between molding athletes into a team, yet not interfering with their individuality.
As an athlete, I recognized the importance of knowing who you are while competing at the Milwaukee Journal Games Indoor Track Meet one Saturday in 1962. Keep in mind that Jim Beatty, a world class runner coached by the great Hungarian Mihaly Igloi, had run a 3-minute, 59.7 seconds mile race in the Chicago Daily News Relays the previous night.
Prior to the Milwaukee Competition, I was sitting in my hotel room when one of my Illini teammates called to inform me that Beatty was eating right next to him in the hotel restaurant. Needless to say, I rushed down as fast as I could to find Beatty finishing a full course roast beef dinner, topping it off with a dish of ice cream.
Back then, it was my pattern to eat a specific light meal with no less than four hours prior to competition. Bolstered by what I saw, I took the risk and ordered everything Beatty was eating. After all, he was world class and would be competing that evening much earlier than myself. What was good enough for a world class runner would certainly be most likely even better for me.
Well, it all went downhill from that meal on. Not for Beatty. He won in another world class performance. As for me, after my race I dashed straight to the nearest restroom, sick to my stomach with undigested food, wiped out, and wondering why I was getting a second look at that roast beef dinner. Not surprisingly, at that moment, I realized I was not Jim Beatty.
Along this line of thought, there are times in the midst of a workout I will ask an athlete for his name. While thinking coach’s short term memory had just taken a turn for the worst, he states his name with a puzzled response.
“Then why are you being influenced to run someone else’s workout?” I ask him.
No one’s workout fits everyone perfectly. Trust yourself and run your own practice (dress rehearsal) so you can run your won race. Also, often during meets athletes attach too much importance to other external variables beyond their control, causing them to lose focus over what things they do control (i.e. who is in the race, how many are in the race, weather conditions, etc.) Clearly, the more the athlete is distracted by outside circumstances, the more he gives them the power to influence his race.
Next, performance is at its best when one listens to his intuitive signals and is supported within a cooperative team environment. Through it all, this is a tough concept to understand and implement. I’m convinced that letting your intrinsic intuitive feelings guide you, yet supporting selflessly your teammates in pursuing a common goal, is far more influential in achieving personal bests than competing against one another.
We need each other to maximize our God given talents in the development of our potential. No one does it on their own. To that end, synergy, on the idea that the whole is greater than its parts, is a powerful unifying performance force.
My dad once told me that one horse harnessed to a wagon can pull up to 6 tons of material. In contrast, Dad said two horses working together side by side can pull 32 tons. The math did not make sense to me but the concept was clear. When it really gets down to it, we achieve more working together than working separately.
It seems to me it begins with learning who you are, where you want to go, let nothing external distract you, surround yourself with supportive people sharing similar goals, and believe in who you are to become the best you can be to reach personal bests! In other words, Run Your Own Race!
As we pulled away from the high school in the early morning darkness, we knew when the sun came up, we were in for a battle. The battle was twofold: Running against some formidable opponents was one, but the greatest opponent this day was the big yellow ball in the sky. Fortunately, despite the hot and humid conditions, our guys ran smart, and we had some good performances.
We took 20 upperclassmen to this meet. 10 guys would run in the varsity, 5k race, and the other ten in the Open race which was trimmed down to a 3k due to the heat.
Our plan was to run this race very similar to the last two - get out conservative and pick it up the last mile if we felt okay. The varsity race started at 10:50 a.m. (9:50 a.m. our time) and it was already 83 degrees with high humidity, and no breeze.
The gun fired to start the varsity race and the guys got out well and settled into a rhythm. As they approached the mile mark, Zach “Zmundo” Kinne had established a clear position in 2nd, ahead of the chase pack, but well behind Danny Kilrea from Lyons. Ryan Kennedy was in the top ten and the rest of the top seven in about 20th-25th. As the race proceeded up an incline on the soft ground, our pack began to inch forward. Zach continued to gap the field behind him and cruised into finish 2nd. Danny Winek was able to catch Ryan and they both captured top ten positions. Juniors Michael Madiol and Chris Keeley (with a wound on his shoulder from getting too close to a tree), rounded out our top five finishing 17th and 20th. Tyler “Bombazine” Bombacino rebounded from his blister-ridden poor performance of last week to finish strong behind Chris. Alex “Cabbage” Johnson ran his best race of the year and Michael “Maurice” O’Connor defied all logic, running very well in the heat. Dakota Getty and Keanan Ginell ran strong, rounding out our top ten, finishing in 38th and 41st in the 160 man field.
As our varsity began to try and cool down from their race, our next crew was getting ready. The sun was relentless at this point, but luckily the meet management was smart enough to make the adjustment to a 3k. Our guys started off well, with 4-5 guys bunching up as a chase pack behind a couple guys who got out really hard. At about the mile mark, Quinton “Q squared” Quagliano had caught the leader and moved into the lead. He held that position for his first-ever xc victory. Nicholas Drechsler moved past some guys for 4th. DJ Sauer and Spencer Teske finished 8th and 11th. The race of the day belonged to our 5th man in this race, Matt ‘The Professor’ Lindell, who finished 12th overall. Blake “Blakee” Storoe finished strong in 13th and Paul “Skinny” McIntyre showed some strength after battling the flu the week before last. Calvin McIntrye, Kevin Daneliak, and Erik Thompson rounded out our finishers, all placing 33rd or higher. We won the team title with just 36 points.
As we ate sandwiches brought by our parents, and admired the architecture of the buildings around us, we reflected on how fortunate we were to come out of this meet healthy. We hopped into the buses and headed to Culver’s restaurant where we gulped down milkshakes to cap off a great day.
Carlton Folster (Class of 2010) liked to tell a story about three men, each with a pile of bricks. Their foreman told them that they could build whatever they pleased with their bricks, so long as they did the work themselves. The first man quickly stacked his bricks, one atop the other, and built a wall between himself and the other two. The second man took a bit more time, laying the bricks in a rectangular configuration until he had a simple shed, in which he sealed himself. The third man wasn’t heard from for some time; when the foreman went to check on him, he found the man meticulously tracing a perimeter. “Look, buddy,” said the foreman. “I don’t know what you’re doing here, but the other two guys are already finished.”
And the third man nodded, looking over at his pile of bricks. “Well, I’m building a cathedral,” he told the foreman. “It’s going to take a little longer, but I’ve got the vision.”
I think of that story every year we lace up at the Gary Goss Invitational, hosted by York High School. It’s hard to make much of the results—the distance is irregular (2.1 miles), the teams dulled by the heat of a punishing weekend and the torpor of a Monday spent at school. Yet year after year, it’s a chance to get a preview of the cathedrals under construction by some of the state’s most storied programs.
The Sophomore Race ran first. For the second straight meet, Quinn Kennedy (11:14) set a mile PR in the first loop, bringing home a ribbon with an 18th place finish. Teammates Ramsay Johnson (11:23), Dylan Bushelle (11:24), David Tassone (11:49), and David Towa (12:01) filled out the remainder of the score sheet for the Wildcats, repeating last year’s 7th place finish, despite the Rodrigo-shaped hole in the lineup. Josh Rodriguez (12:11) and Sam Stuart (12:10) were the pushers for the team, posting a 1-7 split of less than a minute.
The Freshmen Race followed, and for the second straight week, the contours of a potent team came into view. Led by a gutsy race from Vasant Fong (11:08), the trio of Colin Searls (11:27), Leif Anderson (11:30), and Ryan Horn (11:39) each finished in the top 20. With Brian Jett (12:06), Stephen Smilie (12:13), and Daniel Gutierrez (12:42) to shut the door, the freshmen secured a second place finish for the second straight freshman race.
The Wildcats in the Open Race similarly laid down markers on future glory with some promising efforts. Luke Suman (12:29), Alex Majus (12:41), Gui Reginato (13:12), Jack Wharton (13:17), Jack Ashby (13:27), Avik Vaish (13:38), Henry Jordan (13:44), Angad Agrawal (13:46), Evan Schmidtgall (13:50), and Jerry Liu (13:51) each showed improved skill, strategy, and chutzpah as freshmen, and Jacoub Letourneau (12:53), Luke Janek (13:04), Hadi Moukalled (13:11), Ethan Lockwoord (13:25), and James Teune (13:35) reaped the benefits of increased mileage and race experience.
This year, we brought fewer men and came home with less hardware. But don’t mistake the modesty of haul for shallowness of vision. The kids are pacing the perimeter and measuring the field. They can see something remarkable in the future, and they’re building it—together—one brick at a time.
After a relatively mild summer with temperatures never consistently surpassing the mid-80's, along with the cool, autumn-esque weather of the past several weeks, the Wildcats faced saturating humidity and blazing temperatures on the dusty Detweiller course of the Richard Spring Invitational this past Saturday, September 16, in Peoria. With the safety of their athletes as their utmost concern, the coaches instructed all runners to hydrate early and often and to run a conservative race against the expansive field of over 60 teams. Thankfully, those instructions were heeded closely as the Varsity squad emerged victorious over top State contenders, and the Open runners notched a near perfect score to dominate that race.
With temperatures already inching into the mid-80's by 11:00 am, the Varsity competitors created a veritable dust bowl as they blazed down the rock solid ground of Detweiller Park. Zach Kinne, alongside Logan Hall, chased Dylan Jacobs for the entirety of the race. Ryan Kennedy settled very comfortably and aggressively into the chase pack, and Danny Winek began to show the impressive inklings of his superstar running talent as he continues his return from injury. Chris Keeley, Michael Madiol, and Alex Johnson fought as a pack against the conditions, and Tyler Bombacino was unfortunately hampered by blister-ridden feet. Though Kinne passed Logan Hall in the final 1200, Hall came back to take the runner-up position, and Kinne placed 3rd at 14:39.4. This time ranks him as one of only 9 runners in Neuqua Valley history to ever run 14:39 or faster. Some of those names include the Derrick brothers, Chris and Mark, along with Connor Horn, Danny Pawola, and Jack Jett. Clearly, he is among some rare air with those talented runners! Kennedy pushed hard through the final mile and came through the finish in 19th place at 15:08. Winek was through the timing mats in 30th place for 15:26, and Keeley was just behind him in 32nd place for 15:27. Madiol impressively held close to his teammates for 37th place and 15:30. Johnson was feeling the heat and humidity in the final half mile and closed his race in 57th place for 15:47. Bombacino finished in 118th place at 16:12. When his numerous blisters heel, he will be right back in the pack.
The team race proved once again how tough Wheaton Warrenville South and Hersey really are. Only 13 points separated the top 3 teams. Our hats go off to those impressive teams, and we look forward to racing them again down the road.
The Frosh / Soph squad kicked off their race in even more stifling conditions at 11:30 am. Ramsey Johnson and Vasant Fong ran stride for stride the entire race, pacing together and leaning on one another in the tough moments. Dylan Bushelle and Ryan Horn served as chasers just behind them. Colin Searls, Quinn Kennedy, and David Tassone fought their races individually among the over 300 hundred competitors out on the course. With temperatures and humidity levels rising, Johnson took 28th place in 16:48, and Fong was 31st in 16:51. Bushelle separated himself from Horn in the final mile and ended the day in 54th place with a time of 17:10. Horn broke the top 100 in 81st place for 17:25. Kennedy was hampered by the heat yet still pushed himself to finish in 105th place for 17:41. Searls was next in 119th place for 17:50. Tassone closed out his day in 177th place for 18:39.
Given the conditions and the enormity of the race, placing 10th among 48 Frosh / Soph teams is absolutely an achievement. These young men still need to commit to racing together through the pain and struggle of miles 2 and 3. They will have that opportunity this coming Monday as the Frosh / Soph team travels to Elmhurst for the York Frosh / Soph Invitational. We will see some of the same teams just two days later.
The starter's gun sounded at high noon to signal the start of the Open race with temperatures now nearing 90 degrees. It is races such as these that demonstrate the depth of Neuqua Valley Cross Country. According to the official results, 817 runners accounting for 37 different teams competed in this race. A perfect score in a Cross County race is 15 points, meaning that a single team takes the top 5 individual places. On this day, in these conditions, among so many talented athletes, Neuqua Valley runners accounted for 6 of the top 10 runners, and they scored a mere 17 points. The 2nd place team, Naperville Central, accrued 108 points. Yes, we defeated them by 91 points in a race that included nearly 1000 runners. Wow...just wow!
Congratulations to individual champion Dakota Getty for his impressive victory in 15:58. Keenan Ginell was the runner-up in 16:11. Michael O'Connor (3rd, 16:14) and Quinton Quagliano (4th, 16:15) raced together and helped to push everyone to great performances. Continuing their sophomore year pattern, Spener Teske (7th, 16:29) and Nick Drechsler (8th, 16:31) were together from the gun to the final stride toward the finish. Each of these young men are vying for top Varsity positions, and all the miles these past summer months are beginning to pay off for them. There were many, MANY more personal bests and amazing races on Saturday. With 75 total runners in this race, it's difficult to highlight everyone, but we will certainly try as the season progresses. We're very happy that everyone came through these conditions successfully and healthy!
Meet Recap by Mike Newman
Photos Via our Facebook Page
Daily Herald Article
Zach Kinne Interview
The first race of the season is more than just the payoff for those halcyon summer miles. It’s the turning of a page, the realization that those you once looked up to have moved on, and now there are younger eyes looking to you for direction. Senior runners aren’t just pitting themselves against rival teams; they’re also racing the memory of upperclassmen who towered over them just a few autumns past.
Having graduated six of our top seven, the Neuqua Wildcats arrived at Katherine Legge Park dogged by thoughts of ascension, tradition, and legacy. Amidst a quiet warm-up and the busyness of tying laces, several questions went unspoken: how do we follow last season? What will they say about us when we’re gone?
Of course, all of that is so much nervous energy; when the gun fires and the stampede begins, there’s no time for anything other than the next breath. And so memories were filed away to make room for the immediacy of green hills and gray dirt, a merciless hill and an infamous creek. Same as it ever was, but somehow brand new.
One thing that remained the same was junior Zach Kinne. Coming off all-state performances in last year’s XC and Track seasons, Kinne (15:07) executed his Varsity race plan with precision and economy, becoming the first Hornet-Red Devil champion for Neuqua since Aaron Beattie in 2009. He was tailed impressively by senior Ryan Kennedy (15:10). His second place finish likewise echoed a remarkable precedent-- it was the first time Wildcats finished 1-2 at Hinsdale since Beattie followed Danny Pawola in 2008 and Jimmy Riddle trailed Chris Derrick in 2007. Senior Tyler Bombacino (15:29) ran an almost identical time to Taylor Soltys in 2010, and Junior Chris Keeley (15:39) wobbled across the finish looking uncannily like Nick Bushelle in 2011. And there was senior Alex Johnson (15:45), as steadying and methodical a presence as Carlton Folster in 2009, who shared Johnson’s time. Michael Madiol (15:51), Matt Jett (15:58), Michael O’Connor (16:20), Quinton Quagliano (16:24), Keanan Ginell (16:54), Blake Storoe (17:16), Matt Lindell (17:31), and Paul McIntyre (17:35) all ran races that might have been inscribed in previous seasons’ end-of-the-year highlights. Even Mac Mitchell (18:58) got into the nostalgia act, completing a creek-jump every inch as impressive as Tyler Hughes’ legendary leap of 2015.
The Sophomores’ race similarly echoed previous campaigns, matching the 6th place finish from a year before. Led by the stoic Ramsay Johnson (17:02) and the buoyant Quinn Kennedy (17:05), the Wildcats also received promising races from Dylan Bushelle (17:49), David Tassone (18:19), Josh Rodriguez (19:10), Luke Janek (21:05), and Ethan Smetana (22:08). If there is any symmetry between how the Sophomore campaigns of 2016 and 2017 opened and how they finish, then each of these runners have big PRs waiting just a few miles ahead.
The Freshman Race was its usual mix of comic pratfalls, jangled nerves, and thrilling suggestion. With little sense of pace and just a few months of training under their soles, the new kids set out to earn the logo on their jerseys. They responded with an encouraging 2nd place finish behind 3rd place finisher Vasant Fong (10:35), the surging packof Colin Searls (10:54), Ryan Horn (10:55), and Leif Anderson (10:55), and the hero-of-the-people Daniel Gutierrez (11:35). Brian Jett (11:53), Stephen Smilie (12:14), Aleksandras Majus (12:15), and Luke Suman (12:19) all ran races commensurate with past all-conference and all-state Wildcats, and the furious finishes of Guilherme Reginatto (12:44), Jack Ashby (13:09), Jack Wharton (13:09), Akshat Maheshwari (13:44), and Evan Schmidtgall (13:47) showed that though they may not yet know the stories, they understand the team’s legacy. It’s worth noting that their second place finish to Naperville Central mirrors the results of the same race, five years ago, by the Class of 2016.
The freshman cool-down was full of laughter and storytelling, as the events of the previous half-hour were slowly set down as mythology. They were establishing their own stories, their own traditions, claiming an ambition and path for themselves, even as it follows a familiar course well-traveled by runners they’ve never met. So be it. The past is names, times, and memories. This is a new team, and their race has just begun.