On this blustery, rainswept day in West Chicago, the march toward the State Championship at Detweiller Park in Peoria official commenced. And the race could not have ended any better...once again with a perfect score of 15 points and the IHSA Regional Championship plaque in our hands.
With Connor Horn out due to injury, along with the the greatest depth of talent this team has ever seen, the line-up assuredly changed from last week's DVC Championship. Toeing the line as representatives for the 140 members of Neuqua Valley Cross Country were Aidan Livingston, Dominic Dina, Patrick Wolak, Matt Milostan, Danny Winek, Jack Jett, and Josh Mollway. With the pack strategy as our key strength, the boys took to the course at a blistering pace. The many downhills in the first mile contributed to all seven crossing the mile marker at 4:51. The pace would slow in the second mile, but the pack would not yield.
Still together during the mile 2, Livingston led the boys through at 10:12 with the rest to follow in mere seconds. The biggest gap came between Winek, our fifth runner, and Jett, our sixth man. Near the 1.5 mile mark, Jett turned his ankle yet gutted through the remainder of the race.
As the race clock ticked past 15:00, Livingston pulled away from the race and took control to finish 1st in 15:29. Dina, Wolak, and Milostan all entered the chute on top of one another...2nd, 3rd, and 4th were ours at 15:31. Winek closed the gap with 5th place at 15:36. Jett willed himself to 12th in 15:49, and Mollway was right behind in 13th for 15:57.
Congratulations to Plainfield North, Naperville Central, Oswego, Oswego East, and Waubonsie Valley for all advancing to the IHSA Sectional Championship in Aurora next Saturday! We wish them nothing but success. Daily Herald Article
Full individual results can be found HERE.
Team results can be found HERE.
One of the quirkier aspects of Cross Country is that our races are usually run around other sports’ facilities. We zip around baseball diamonds and soccer fields, over fields and suburban dales. These are ordinary tracts of land where extraordinary things take place. It’s nice when we come to a school like Lake Park-- where the course is neat, uniform, and easy to learn. “One, two, three loops, and you’re in,” we told our guys. “Wow,” said a freshman. “That looks fast.”
And it was. We were proud and fortunate as a team to sweep all three levels in our inaugural DVC Conference Race. In many ways, it was our best top-to-bottom performance since the last time we visited Lake Park in 2007. At the Frosh/Soph level we earned five All-Conference distinctions, led by 2015 champion Ryan Kennedy. In the Open Race, we placed 1-7 (if you count Scott Anderson :)) and took eight of the top ten places. And in the Varsity Race-- for the second time in team history-- we swept the top seven places in a Conference Race, with senior Dominic Dina taking the Conference crown. 15 runners broke 16:00, a Neuqua record for Conference that pays off a season of faith, discipline, and hard work.
But the story is best told by class, as each level’s season reached a fitting (and sometimes surprising!) conclusion on a brisk October afternoon. At the freshman level, Zach Kinne (15:08) continued to amaze, easily setting our school record for a freshman at Conference. He was joined by Chris Keeley (16:07), Michael O’Connor (16:45), Matthew Jett (16:50), Nicholas Drechsler (16:51), and Michael Madiol (16:53) in the sub-17:00 group, the most we’ve had on a freshman team since 2006. P.R.s were also earned by Jack Orengo (18:51), Alexander Kiefer (18:57), Blake Storoe (19:12), Spencer Teske (19:15), Luke Huenecke (19:42), Khalil Knight (19:45), Erik “Berzerker” Thompson (19:48), and Nick Pope (19:58), among others. Rahul Nair, Nate Spencer, Joey Klaips, and Andrew Schloderback similarly capped inspiring freshmen campaigns. Every freshman represents a dizzying potential-- no one knows who will become the next Dominic Dina, Caleb Ferguson, or Peter O’Neill. But on Friday, they were all excited to find out.
The sophomores similarly received abundant recompense for a half year spent chasing improvements. Danny Winek (15:10) seized the Open Race title to join Kennedy as the first sophomore dual champions in team history. Tyler Bombacino (16:06), Quinton Quagliano (16:07), and Alex Johnson (16:28) matched the times run by David Wing, Billy Klimczak, and Carlton Folster in 2007. And Evan McVittie (16:45), Keanan Ginell (17:05), DJ Sauer (17:07), and Danny Speckels (17:15) all sliced massive hunks off their previous best. Their triumph was shared by Michael Dy, Austin Nguyen, Blake Reichert, John Kubicki, Justin Chen, a resurgent Carter Stradling, Patrick Hong, Vincent Kim, Matt Thomas, and Matt Cowen, among many others.The squad stands ready to ascend to JV and Varsity battles, bedecked in the 2015 F/S Team Championship.
Meanwhile, the Juniors made their play to assume the mantle of deepest class in Neuqua history. Conference runner-up Jackson Jett (14:55) dipped under 15:00 for the first time ever, trailed closely by stalwarts Jake McEneaney (15:01) and Matthew “Mongoose” Milostan (15:06). In the Open Race, Josh Mollway (15:17) continued his late-season surge, while Josh Patel (15:51), Jeremy Hayhurst (16:07), Paul Neubauer (16:22), Michael Vivo (16:49), Rishi Pandey (16:53), Mason Crockett (17:47), Javed Mohamed (17:51), and Zach Hernandez (18:24) all ran season’s best marks. Scott “Scandy” Anderson (15:43) returned to the line-up with a solid pace, while Sam Ellis, Conrad Tkcaz, and Garrett Hazdra revealed heart, toughness, grit, and conviction as while carrying the spirit of injured teammate Joe Letourneau.
But the day belonged-- as it should-- to the seniors, for whom many high school miles and hijinx reached a fitting denouement. The results cannot tell the full story of what took place-- in the Varsity Race there was Aidan Livingston (15:05) and Patrick Wolak (15:09) pulling more from their legs and lungs than they ever had. Special note should also be made of Dina, the team rock to whom Coach Janota has compared Michael Widmann over and over again. Dina went from the seventh best runner on his freshman squad to Conference Champion through an inimitable blend of toughness, flint, and industry. Over in the Open, State Race vets Caleb Ferguson (15:19) and Austin Kinne (15:33) paced their younger teammates to impressive P.R.s. All down the line, the race was studded with special senior moments-- Peter O’Neill (15:58) incredibly, improbably capping his senior year by breaking 16:00; Wiley Anderson (16:11) demonstrating again what has made him such a formidable competitor, Lukas Weber (16:18) fulfilling the promise of his character, Matt Wolff (16:30) and Anand Haran (16:33) proving themselves again the spirit and beating heart of the Class of 2016. Season’s best were registered by Shiva Singh (16:37), Andrew Huang (16:37), Matt Murray (16:38), Tanner Karbonik (16:45), Patrick Conway (16:46), Ethan Ohlhausen (16:57), Matthew Pradzinski (17:16), Joey Edell (17:41), Tyler Hughes (17:41), Alex Mackowiak (18:25), and Danny Groth (18:43), each of whom has overcome personal weakness, insecurity, doubt, and timidity in their growth as young men.
Watching them celebrate, it hit us how quickly time had moved on. It wasn’t that long ago when-- as freshmen-- Camden Leahy and Will Ackerman were leading the team in hacky sack circles. Fresher still is the memory of Joey Hynes (as a sophomore!) promising an injured Connor Horn that his class would make up his points for him at the York Invitational. Only a year ago, Tim Fanelle and Evan Novak pushed each other as friends and competitors to run faster and more seriously than either might have on his own. And now, as they crowded beaming around Illinois XC luminary Mike Newman for a photograph, it dawned on them how close they now were to the center of the high school Cross Country world.
They were young. They ran. They grew up. One, two, three loops and you’re in. And it all went by so fast.
Results Video of Varsity Race Video of FS Race Dominic Dina Interview Daily Herald Article
Dyestat Recap Naperville Sun Article
One of the coolest Cross Country invitationals returned for a spectacular fifth year on Wednesday night. After initial fear that 2014 would be the last year of the Twilight Invite, New Balance and Naperville Running Company stepped forward with sponsorship to continue this amazing tradition. Music pumped, lights flashed, fans screamed, and Neuqua Valley emerged victorious.
As dusk began to settle on the newly minted course at Naperville North High School, the FULL Frosh / Soph squad toed the line. Yes, for the first time in the entire season, Zach Kinne, Danny Winek, and Ryan Kennedy would all join together with the remaining squad to showcase the bright future of Neuqua running. Kinne, Winek, and Kennedy took the top three spots with only 23 seconds separating them. Tyler Bombacino and Chris Keeley closed out the five-man scoring with 8th and 11th places, respectively, earning Neuqua the win with a mere 25 points over 2nd place Yorkville with 93 points. The action didn’t stop there at all. With only two races remaining in the season, these freshmen and sophomores raced with all their will and determination as they entered the stadium to finish on the soft turf field. Kudos to Michael Madiol and Nick Drechsler who continue to improve with each race. Matt Lindell cracked the top 100 with a finish of 18:01.4. Calvin McIntyre was aggressive with his race plan this evening, finishing in 18:41.2, and John Kubicki skated in under 19:00, crossing the line in 18:58.1. Racing together is a key strategy we employ; Patrick Hong, Matt Thomas, Nathan Spencer, and Khalil Knight all finished together at around 20:35. With only the Conference race remaining for these young men, they are primed and ready for the challenge. Results Jake McEneaney Interview Video Race Highlights FS Video Race Highlights Jake McEneaney Interview II Coach Vandersteen Interview Chicago Tribune Article
With night clearly upon us, hopes from coaches and the runners were rather high for the Open race. Wylie Anderson, Peter O’Neill, and Josh Patel charged to the front of the pack and took control of the race immediately. Coach Rossi and I raced to the mile mark to monitor their progress, but there we waited for over seven minutes. Racers passed us but they weren’t the leaders we had seen just moments ago. Over two minutes later, the true leaders of the race passed by. All the coaches and spectators soon surmised what had happened…the racers had unfortunately gone off-course. In the midst of the dark fields, parents had crowded a key turn, and the racers were mis-directed and ended up adding somewhere around an additional quarter mile or more to their race. While not everyone followed the lost leaders, the entire race was then thrown into disarray. No medals or team trophies could be awarded because of the mishap. Many runners were certainly upset, but thankfully there is still the Conference Championship next week to channel their frustration and energy into.
With Connor Horn a game-time decision before the Varsity race, Jake McEneaney decided to rise to the occasion and become our top runner for the evening. The pack raced closely behind him and held strong through the second mile. With Horn having to drop out after a half mile, our boys did not skip a beat; 6th place through 10th were all Neuqua…Dina, Livingston, Jett, Milostan, and Wolak all passed the inflatable finish line arch within 9 seconds of one another, a mere 18 seconds from front-runner McEneaney. Neuqua won with 32 points, upending Hinsdale Central, who scored 56.
Decisions will need to be made regarding line-ups for Conference and the upcoming State series, and, clearly, the depth of this team will make those decision difficult. But it’s a great problem to have!
Full results can be found HERE.
Videos and a recap from Dyestat can be found HERE.
One of the best Green Day songs for Cross Country runners is “Wake Me Up When September Ends” because it so perfectly sums up the natural breaks in the season. The wind stiffens, the ground hardens, the leaves brown, and the knit hats come out of storage. Finally-- after a golden September-- it feels like XC season.
With the clouds hanging low, we split our squad between two of the most legendary courses in Illinois-- The Lockport Locktoberfest Invitational at Dellwood Park and the Peoria Invitational at Detweiller. With each Varsity team at diminished capacity, we were looking to test our fitness, toughness, and depth against some of the best competition in two radically different races.
First up was Lockport, annually one of the best-run, most memorable invites. There’s nothing better than walking the course with freshmen and neophytes and watching their eyes widen at the prospect of charging up the switchbacks out of the valley. The frosh-soph squad faced a daunting task of running without sophomore stalwarts Danny Winek and Ryan Kennedy, which makes their results so impressive. Tyler Bombacino (17:13), Chris Keeley (17:14), Alex Johnson (17:15), and Quinton Quagliano (17:17) demonstrated impressive resolve and commitment to one another, surging through the mile in 24th place and then steadily picking off flagging packs. But the hero of the day was sophomore Evan McVittie, who caught two runners heading into the chute to close the door at 17:58. Evan, a soft-spoken, modest young man nonetheless stands with any of our hardest workers, and the whole team celebrated his success. Freshmen Nick Drechsler (18:30) and Michael Madiol continued their impressive climb-- Madiol finished the race bloodied after a tumble at the mile and half mark, but proved indefatigable. And sophomore yeomen Keanan Ginell (18:18), DJ Sauer (18:57) and Danny Speckels (18:59) kept things close on the back end, setting high expectations for the Conference Meet.
In the Varsity Race, a determined Junior class announced “We’ve got next!” by recording some of the most astonishing in program history. Matthew “Mongoose” Milostan (15:58) seemed to grow stronger by the mile, becoming the first Neuqua runner since Taylor Soltys to break 16:00 and recording the tenth fastest time in team history at Dellwood. Senior Caleb Ferguson (16:16) was his usual flinty self, edging older brother Josh’s mark as a senior, and rising star Josh Mollway (16:16) matched him stride for stride, running just a few seconds behind Mark Derrick’s time as a junior. A dogged Ryan Kennedy (16:35) clocked the fourth fastest sophomore time in team history, trailed closely by junior Josh Patel (16:45) and seniors Wiley Anderson (16:50) and Peter O’Neill (16:51). The race was capped by juniors Jeremy Hayhurst (17:10), Erik Huenecke (17:32), and Alan Poe (17:33), each easily bettering the mark he ran as a sophomore. We were fortunate to finish third to two tough, talented teams from Whitney Young and Buffalo Grove, but our finish leaves us hungry and excited for the future. Results
But the day belonged, as always, to the seniors in the Open Race, where many of our most dedicated athletes were lauded for their diligence. Junior Paul Neubauer led nine Wildcats into the top 25, including the ebullient Lukas Weber, steely Ethan Ohlhausen, disciplined Andrew Huang, resurgent Joe Tarszowicz, reliable Matt Murray, tenacious Tim Fanelle, unbreakable Anand Haran, unflappable Patrick “Coach P” Conway, and combustible Matt Wolff. Strong races were likewise recorded by seniors Tanner Karbonik, Evan Novak, Will Ackerman, Michael Block, Darius Haery, Shiva Singh, Vishy Singh, Niket Gupta, Robby Oakley and Garrett Weber. Meanwhile, Rishy Pandey continued to collect impressive returns on his hard work, and the F/S wrecking crew of Michael Dy, Michael O’Connor, Matt Lindell, Calvin McIntyre, Paul McIntyre, Dakota Getty, Alex Kiefer, John Kubicki, and Danny Wu continued to swarm the line together. Results
Two and a half hours south, another Neuqua Varsity team took the line against some of the best teams in the country, including heavyweights Carl Sandburg and Lyons Township. We were beaten pretty soundly to the mile, but saw improvement in junior Jake McEneaney (14:55), senior Dominic Dina (15:00), freshman Zach Kinne (15:02), senior Austin Kinne, and sophomore Danny Winek (15:06), who each PR’d and collectively shaved more than a minute off their best times. Junior Jackson Jett (15:16) and senior Patrick Wolak (15:20) both showed some fatigue from a hard week of practice, but carry themselves with the same iron will that defines our best athletes. With a month left in the season, the hunger and humility that comes from this race can lead us to be more disciplined, resolute, and prepared for our next trip to Detweiller. Individual Results Team Results
Despite a separation of 125 miles, the same gray skies and 3rd place finishes bound our two Varsity battalions. Our legs throb, our lungs burn, and our spikes are packed with mud. It doesn’t matter. It’s October. We’re in the hunt. And everything feels right.