There are 63,360 inches in a mile; a little more than 190,000 in a high school Cross Country race. That’s so many inches that it’s hard to pay much attention as they’re swallowed up, dozens per second. No one inch is really any more memorable than any other, and you the pain of running is such that you forget every single one the instant it’s behind you. But, as we are so often reminded, in Cross Country, sports, and life every inch matters.
Just ask our Varsity. After the DVC Title had been decided by relatively comfortable margins the past couple of years, the 2017 race came down to a lean at the end of a final sprint, a surge past a determined, focused competitor. Two talented teams scrapping like alley cats for position. As he has all season, Zach Kinne (14:50) led the charge, with the Wheaton-Warrenville South team keying off 4th place Ryan Kennedy (15:04), effectively earning a tie through the first four places. The race was then to be determined by each team’s 3-4-5, with Wheaton South’s #3 sneaking in two places before Chris Keeley (15:12). Danny Winek (15:23) struck next, and Alex Johnson (15:30) stepped in just ahead of Wheaton South’s #4. By the time Tyler Bombacino (15:32) and Dakota Getty (16:02) finished, the score favored the Wildcats by three points. Two teams’ seasons, built of millions of inches, and it all came down to the last clutch.
The clash of inches was less fraught at the Frosh/Soph Race, where we finished a distant 4th. Still, the race proved a fitting cap for many athletes’ seasons, as several PRs came out of the race. Led by the ascendant trio of Vasant Fong (16:45), Ramsay Johnson (16:47), and Collin Searls (16:47), the Wildcats also welcomed strong performances from Leif Anderson (17:06) and Dylan Bushelle (17:12). Stephen Smilie (18:12), William Fu (19:29), Jack Wharton (19:29), Guilherme Reginato (19:36), Ethan Lockwood (19:38), Hadi Moukallad (19:55), Jack Ashby (19:58), Max Keenan (20:38), Dominick Gramarosso (20:50), Zaid Fakhruddin (21:03), Pranav Rajaraman (21:06), and Ted Walsh (21:58) all bested their Twilight marks, turning in season’s best times. Perhaps the best part of each of these races was the finish, as the young runners flew into the chute, straining for place, unwilling to yield. Though there are many miles laid out before them, they are already mastering the careful accounting of millimeters that proved so essential in the Varsity race.
The Open Race showcased the reaping of such sowing. Taking the pack out hard, a crowd of Neuqua runners took turns leading the pack, each seeking to end his season a Conference Champion. There was Keanan Ginell (15:52), the gnawgahyde-tough mile-chewer; Michael O’Connor (15:51), the single-shoed legend-in-the-making; wily senior Quinton Quaglianao (15:57) and nervy juniors Matt Jett (16:12) and Nick Drechsler (16:18). In the end, O’Connor seized the final straightaway, and his second-straight JV title. Joined on stage by Jack Orengo (16:31), Kevin Daneliak (16:37), “Professor” Matt Lindell (16:41), and Evan McVittie (16:43), the Wildcats proudly claimed their third straight DVC Open Championship.
The day belonged, however, to the seniors: Ginell, Quagliano, Lindell, McVittie. Danny Speckels (17:02), Paul McIntyre (17:14), Calvin McIntyre (17:18), DJ Sauer (17:21). Michael Dy (17:52), McKenzie Mitchell (18:00), John Kubicki (18:01), Chris Wiemer (18:12). Matt Thomas (18:54), Joseph Walwer (19:27), Kai Thomas (19:34), Patrick Hong (19:38), Carter Stradling (19:45). Stephen Potoksnak (19:51), Mitch Donahue (20:06), Jeremy Hagerman (20:15), Matt Cowen (20:28). Norman Dong (20:35), Darren Huang (20:37), Ife Oketona (21:40), Ajay Smith (21:44), and Brandon Chow (24:28). For some of these men, it was the end of their first season as Wildcat distance runners; for others, it was the last mile in a journey of four years. As they finished their races, bodies spent and emotions full, they took a little longer to recompose themselves and moved more slowly from the field. It’s not every day that you remember a moment for the rest of your life. Seniors get this.
That is the thing about 190,080 inches, of course. Stretched out before you at age 14, they seem infinite. There’s no way you’ll ever run them all. But the gun is raised, the shot calls out, and off you go. Across the field, around the flag. Into the woods, and out again. Hill and dale, shale and lea. On, on, on—faster, harder, as your coaches, your friends, your parents cheer you on. Until all of a sudden, there’s the chute, the strip, the end of the race. Eighteen years old already. All those inches gone. And not a one was wasted.