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.