Just like the Frosh / Soph squad traveled to the York Invitational this past Monday, a select group of 23 juniors and seniors trekked to Culver Academy in Indiana to test their meddle against teams we ordinarily do not race. The result was a 5th place finish for the Varsity squad and a complete domination for our open, or "reserve," crew.
Without Nicolas Dovalovsky leading the way in the Varsity race, the 6 remaining competitors chose to pack up and take on the race in a group effort. Quinn Kennedy led the way through the first mile, pacing the group at 5:25 on the water-logged course. Aidan Stone then began his move through the masses, eventually moving up approximately 40 places to finish in 15th for 17:25. Kennedy was next in at 28th place for 17:42. Leif Anderson and Vasant Fong held together for the last two miles, finishing just seconds apart - Anderson at 38th for 17:53 and Fong at 40th for 17:54. Stephen Smilie (50th, 18:01) and Luke Suman (53rd, 18:04) rounded out the day. The weather and the course conditions were definitely a challenge, but the commitment to the pack and one another throughout the race was the difference maker and a sign of progress with this team.
The "Reserve" race closed out our day at Culver, and these men raced like anything but reserves. Of the top 6 places, Neuqua walked away with 5! And of the top 30 racers receiving medals or ribbons, 13 members of our team placed!!! A special shout out has to go to Luke Mennecke for executing his race plan to perfection and winning in 18:08. After the race all he could talk about was how much faster he knows he can be. Sam Stuart was a man on a mission on Saturday. His intensity before the race was palpable and a true example of getting "dialed in" mentally. He came away with the runner-up position at 18:16. Finally, Alex Majus took a year away from running and decided to rejoin the us this season. With every race, he gets better and better. He was 6th overall in 18:37, and we could not be happier for him. He has a special talent, and we believe he can be a major contributor down the road.
The Neuqua Valley squad returns to action this coming Saturday, October 4th, for the Lockport "Locktoberfest" Invitational. And the Naperville Twilight Invitational is just around the corner as well - Wednesday, October 9th, at Naperville North High School.
Full results of the Culver Invitational can be found HERE!!!
On the first day of fall at Berens Park in Elmhurst, Henry Golden swung his leg anxiously. Two days after a sweltering Open race on Detweiller, he was taking the line in the annual Gary Goss Freshman/Sophomore invitational. After fully committing himself in the summer, Henry was anxious to better his mark from the previous year, when he finished 28th in a field of 216. He was making progress, and he saw an opportunity.
Right from the gunshot, Henry raced with purpose, and his Open teammates followed. They were resolute in their race plan and devoted to one another. We’ve been waiting for this, their posture seemed to say. Let’s see what we can do.
The freshmen, banged up by some tough track workouts, raced twenty minutes later. Once again, the gregarious Nico Castillion (14th, 10:56) let his legs do the talking, followed by Andres Lopez (18th, 11:00), Joseph Cyrus (11:03), Logan Brown (11:09), and Connolly Corbin (11:20). The freshmen finished 4th in a talented field, with Matthew Gutierrez (11:23) and Ryan Palmer (12:13) rounding out the top seven.
For the rest of the underclassmen, the Open race was a chance to show the depth of their program and the volume of their training. Golden (10:57), Ian Kim (11:01), and Cory Papasthathis (11:01) packed together and held together, finishing 1st, 3rd, and 4th respectively. They were soon joined in the chute by fellow sophomores Ben Serna (11:23) and Josh Kubicki (11:25). Other sophomore stalwarts included Ashwin Rajan (11:39), Alex Del Genio (11:58), Wei Jiang (11:43), Angelo Lavacchi (12:01), Zach Thompson (12:08), Blake Fleming (12:44), Prithvi Thakur (13:36), Patrick Conniff (13:47), and Hisham Alam (13:47). As for the freshmen, honorable marks were established by Sam Hotchkiss (11:37), Nick Lapetino (11:37), Brady Gudauskas (11:47), Connor Boehm (11:57), Zephyr Windmiller (12:05), Clark Minnerick (12:10), Jacob Neal (12:19), Kyle McGladdery (12:27), Matthew Xu (12:37), Colin Benjamin (12:51), John Xu (12:54), Ben LeGrand (12:55), Tyler Pham (13:11), Alan Wei (13:31), and Ethan Hung (13:56).
Last year, the champion of the Open Race was Aidan Stone. He was coming off a serious injury and unsure of the stability of his knee. But Aidan, too, saw an opportunity. A year later, firmly ensconced in the Varsity, he ran a PR on Detweiller. It’s a good lesson for Golden, the other sophomores, and the freshman squad. A lot can happen in a year. Let’s see what we can do.
The night before the race, nervous coaches poured over the weather forecasts for the greater Peoria area. The screen showed a pulsing green map slowly overtaken by a yellow and red blob. “That’s not good,” said Coach Vandersteen. “We may be in for a wet day.”
And then, as often happens in meteorology, the forecast changed. The rain would hold off until the mid-afternoon. We had a window.
What we did in that window was important, for it was happening on the legendary Detweiller course. The park, a simple emerald postage stamp a few ticks south of the Caterpillar plant, is hallowed ground for distance runners, the harrier equivalent of a Midwestern battlefield. Ghosts are on that course, the remnants of great teams running gutsy races. Every runner wants to write their name on its November ledger.
The work started with the Varsity race, which featured some of the state’s best squads. As he has done all season, Nicholas Dovalovsky (4th, 14:38) carried our banner, making impressive moves in the final 800 to chase down several decorated runners. He is the first runner in our program since Chris Derrick to break 14:40 on Detweiller in September. Once again, he was trailed by junior Aidan Stone (54th, 15:34) and senior Quinn Kennedy (15:40). The junior trio of Vasant Fong (16:04), Leif Anderson (16:08), and Stephen Smilie (16:08) closed the door for the Wildcats, who finished 9th overall.
The Freshmen/Sophomore squad took the baton next, with a few scratches in the lineup due to injury. Nevertheless, the team committed to one another and found blue and gold jerseys to pack with through the back field. Charlie Rook (16:51) was the low stick, followed by Nathanael Howard (17:03) and Sachin Fong (17:08). Jacob Nauman (17:22) thundered in next, and the redoubtable Andrew Gutierrez (17:30) shut the door, with a respectable 39 second compression. Freshmen Connolly Corbin (17:39) and Andres Lopez (18:26) put down respectable markers for their first three-mile race.
But the Open Race yielded the greatest harvest of P.R.s, as many runners ran their fastest in the humidity of early afternoon. A pair of Lukes—Suman (16:14) and Mennecke (16:16)—led the way, followed by Brian Jett (16:21) and Josh Rodriguez (16:26). Strong performances were also recorded by seniors Sam Stuart (16:30) and Ethan Lockwood (16:43), juniors JD Hastings (16:46), Ryan Horn (16:47), Alex Majus (16:59), Avik Vaish (17:31), Kevin Saju (17:41), Daniel Gutierrez (17:46), and Andre Park (19:46). Sterling underclassmen included sophomores Liam Dorsey (17:30), Alex Del Genio (18:22), Cory Papasthasis (18:15), Ben Serna (18:22), Zach Thompson (19:55), Angelo Lavacchi (20:19), and Prithvi Thakur (21:57), as well as freshmen Matthew Gutierrez (18:41), Connor Boehm (18:46), Logan Brown (17:48), Brady Gudauskas (19:12), Sam Hotchkiss (18:51), Nicholas Lapatino (19:12), Ben LeGrand (20:51), Kyle McGladdery (20:46), Clark Minnerick (19:44), Jacob Neal (19:51), Ethan Hung (23:17), Matt and John Xu (20:52, 21:05), and Alan Wei (24:28).
As we gathered for a team meeting, the clouds finally opened and made their deposit. We boarded the buses and aimed for home. Freshmen, wearied but excited; seniors, saddened but proud. It’s a small window, these four years. So much can happen in between.
This past weekend, we took 45 athletes on a road trip to St. Louis for the Forest Park Invitational. When other coaches hear that we take this trip with such a large team, they cannot believe it. They worry about the risks, but we think about the benefits. For us, this trip gets us ready for travels in the future, for example, to Peoria for the State Meet. There is something magical about being removed from your usual surroundings. It levels the playing field for everyone and allows our team to bond during an adventure and the challenge of a race.
Unlike our first trip last year, this year was not marked by a mud fest on the course. This year, we had dry conditions and the presence of the Sun, nearly guaranteeing better times than last year.
The Varsity team went first and had a plan. Nicolas Dovalovky (Jr.) would do his own thing and the rest of the group would get out quicker than last week, pack up as a group and run hard through the last mile. While we did not out as quickly as we would have liked, we did pack up well and race the last part of the race. At the first mile, the team was in 10th place but by the second mile, we had moved into 2nd place. In the end, Nicolas Dovalovsky (16:03.1) would take 4th overall and after moving from the pack after 1.5 miles, Aidan Stone (Jr.) (16:51.2) charged during the last mile to take 15th. The leader of the pack, Quinn Kennedy (Sr.) (17:14.8) took 40th and was followed closely by Leif Anderson (Jr.) (17:17.2) in 42nd place, Stephen Smilie (Jr.) (17:17.4) in 43rd place and Vasant Fong (Jr.) (17:18.1) in 44th place. Luke Mennecke (Jr.) (17:29.1) would round out the Top 7 in 54th place. The team race came down to three teams, Liberty, Neuqua Valley and St. Louis University within two points of each other. Liberty took the win with 140 points followed by a two-way tie with us and St. Louis University at 142 points which was decided by the 6th man tiebreaker, giving us the advantage and 2nd place.
In the Junior Varsity race, it was obvious from the beginning that Neuqua Valley would be at the top of the team race with so many of our athletes near the front. We did just that with a winning 28 point total compared to Liberty’s 49 point total for 2nd place. After about 1.5 miles, Noah Schalliol (So.) pulled away from the rest of the group and never looked back. Noah finished nearly 35 seconds ahead of 2nd place for the win in a time of 16:53.0. Luke Suman (Jr.) (17:40.7), Josh Rodriguez (Sr.) (17:46.1) and Brian Jett (Jr.) (17:55.9) would all place in the top 10 with places of 3rd, 4th and 8th, respectively. The remaining members of the top 7 included Charlie Rook (So.) (18:07.3) in 12th place, JD Hastings (Jr.) (18:12.4) in 17th place and Sam Stuart (Sr.) (18:22.2) in 22nd place.
When the Freshmen began, we were not sure what to expect, but it was obvious that the Freshman group from Kickapoo was solid. As their young runners passed us, they were moving like Varsity runners. But then, we saw our Freshmen chasing them down. Our Freshmen runners were running without fear and kept looking forward trying to pass the next place. While they beat us in the end, our Freshman were excited by what they had been able to accomplish in their first time racing in Missouri and were already looking forward to returning in a year. Our top 7 Freshmen all placed in the top 20 overall. Nico Castrillon (Fr.) (10:45.1) and Connelly Corbin (Fr.) (10:46.9) took 6th and 7th place while the trio of Joseph Cyrus (Fr.) (10:50.4), Ryan Palmer (Fr.) (11:01.1) and Andres Lopez (Fr.) (11:03.7) took 9th, 10th and 11th keeping our scoring runners in the top 11. Logan Brown (Fr.) (11:10.2) and Matthew Gutierrez (Fr.) (11:16.9) would finish 16th and 17th and complete the top 7.
As we look toward next week and the Richard Spring Invitational at the State course in Peoria, it is time reflect on the lessons that this trip has taught us as we prepare to take another trip. However, this time it will be to run on the fabled course in Detweiller Park and take another step forward toward the end of the season.
Complete results from the meet can be found at the link below.
There’s a Zen parable called “Good Horse, Bad Horse” that comes to mind at the beginning of some seasons. It has to do with the value of pain and struggle. In the parable, a Zen master is touring a livery and learning about horses. The stable owner tells him that there are four types of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver’s will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second best will run as well as the first one, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates the marrow of its bones.
“The bad horses feel the most pain,” said the stable owner. “They know the most suffering.”
“Yes,” said the Zen master. “And that is why THEY may actually be the best horses!”
The point of the parable is that when you learn too easily, you’re tempted not to work hard, and you’re surprised by struggle. The “worst” horse can be the best, for if it perseveres, it will have learned the art of running in every screaming nerve.
This is a good lesson to keep in mind after the shock of the first race, where a burning set of lungs and heavy pair of legs overwhelm the senses. Tough workouts and steady long runs are one thing, but there’s no substitute for the jolt of the gunshot. You feel it in the bones, and your bones are learning.
It helps, of course, if the weather is as nice as it was on Saturday, when we returned to the Hornet/Red Devil Invitational for the first time in two years. The day began with a blistering Varsity race, showcasing the defending State Champions. The Tigers looked every bit as dominant, as senior William Hauernstein edged out Nicolas Dovalovsky (14:55) by 0.3 of a second. Fellow Junior Aidan Stone (15:44) finished 16th in his first Varsity race, while senior Quinn Kennedy (34th, 16:10) and juniors Stephen Smilie (44th, 16:26) and Luke Mennecke (55th, 16:41) each ran impressively at different points of a race in which the Wildcats finished 4th. The top seven was capped by juniors Vasant Fong (16:44) and Daniel Gutierrez (16:49), who PRed by more than 40 seconds. Also notable in the opening tilt were Austin Burke (16:59), Josh Rodriguez (17:01), Ethan Lockwood (17:04), Sam Stuart (17:12), JD Hastings (17:18), Joey Spencer (17:30), Alex Majus (17:34), Dominick Gramarosso (17:52), Kyle Kretovic (18:31), Akshat Maheshwari (18:38), and Jack Wharton (18:48), and Ethan Smetana (19:56).
The sophomores had never run Katherine Legge before, and so every root, drumlin, and creekbed was a new shudder.But they picked up where they left off, showing courage and ambition. Led by the frequently mispronounced Noah Schalliol (4th, 16:04), the Wildcats placed five in the top 30 to finish 2nd overall. Charlie Rook (20th, 17:06) and Sachin Fong (22nd, 17:12) surged at key points, while Jacob “Stick Man” Nauman (28th, 17:27) and Nathanael Howard (30th, 17:30) stayed close enough to hold off our rivals. Strong races also came from Liam Dorsey (17:37), Iam Kim (18:00), Andrew Gutierrez (18:07), Henry Golden (18:08), Adam Johnson (18:16), Ben Serna (18:18), and Josh Kubicki (18:30).
But it was the freshmen who had the most to learn as they laced up for their first high school race. In one of the most talented fields in years, the neo-Wildcats earned their jerseys and a 6th place finish. Nico Castrillon (16th, 10:41) led the way, followed by Joseph Cyrus (30th, 10:58), Andres Lopez (41st, 11:07), Logan Brown (43rd, 11:13), and Connolly Corbin (52nd, 11:21). Also showing surprising moxie were Sam Hotchkiss (11:40), Connor Boehm (11:44), Ben Nylen (11:48), Matthew Gutierrez (11:52), and Nick Lapetino (11:53).
Perhaps the most exciting moment of the day was the first, when Nicolas Dovalovsky was edged out in a final lean. It’s the sort of moment that every runner despises, to have a fifteen minute gauntlet determined by a fraction of a second. But it’s often the best thing for a horse who wants to be the best. It hurts. But we remember and learn.
Mike Newman Recap Results MilesplitIL Recap NCTV Video