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