It was the best of (race) times, it was the worst of times; it was the course of hills and gullies, it was the course of straight lines and trapezoids; it was the epoch of steady deluge, it was the epoch of overcast-yet-calm skies; it was the season of mud-laden plodding, it was the season of quicksilver racing; it was the spring of PRs, it was the winter of “We’ll get ‘em next week,”; we got an apple at the finish line, we got a limp granola bar on the bus ride home; we were all going east to Lockport, we were all going two and a half hours south – in short, the Saturday was so far like any other Saturday of a suburban family, that it scarcely bears mentioning. Of course, if it’s a Saturday where we are fortunate enough to win one varsity race and finish 4th in another, a few sentences recalling the day seem appropriate.
On October 1st, 2016, we split our squad between two races, with Coach Vandersteen leading a crew of seven back to Detweiller and Coach Janota marching the rest of our forces to Dellwood Park for Lockport High School’s annual Locktoberfest Invitational. The clouds opened early in Lockport, accelerating the schedule for what was already a tight and well-managed race. It’s hard to put into words the sight of 500 runners, muscles tensed, leaning across a painted line in a storm, waiting for a cannon blast, but if we had to pick one word, it would be epic.
Peoria Invitational. Our focus for this meet was to give some underclassmen an opportunity to experience a varsity race. We had some guys run really well, especially since they got out way faster than they are used to doing. As Coach Hartner, my son, and I stood at the mile, we watched in amazement as freshman Rodrigo Alvarez and sophomores Michael Madiol and Chris Keeley came by the mile between 4:55-4:59. Considering all of their mile pr's are within 4-5 seconds of this, we wondered if they could hang on. Rodrigo and Michael both managed to do so and ran great races. Rodrigo pr'd by 30 seconds to record one of the fastest freshman performances in our history. His 15:49.6 ranks as #3 all-time. Michael ran almost a minute faster than his best, running 15:54.2. Chris did not fare as well. He has lacked training due to a shin stress fracture, and the fast pace was too much to handle for his current fitness. Once things started to spiral out of control physically, the mental side also took hold and he faded badly. However, we all know Chris will rebound and run much better in his next race when he is in control of the first mile.
Speaking of sophomores, Zach Kinne recorded the 2nd fastest sophomore time in our history, running a solid 9th in 14:50.9. Only Aaron Beattie's performance in the 2007 State meet (14:46) is better. Zach has a huge upside, and once he starts to be a little more aggressive that 2nd mile, he will only lower this time. Our final three performances were recorded by a senior and two juniors. The only senior of this seven, Jeremy Hayhurst, continued his meteoric rise and finished 24th in 15:14.1. For a young man who could not crack 18:00 as a sophomore, this is truly an amazing performance. Junior Tyler Bombacino ran a better race than last weekend, and ran a pr of 15:36.5. Once we get him some rest, the faster-twitched Tyler will run the last mile with fresher legs, and run much faster. Junior Ryan Kennedy did not run the race he is capable of running. Luckily, there is nothing physically going on, and he has a pattern of running well at the end of the season. It is time for him to latch on to our pack and let them take him for a ride!
We ended up finishing 4th as a team in this loaded invitational. Without five of our top eight guys, we are looking forward to putting it all together as we begin the last phase of our season.
Overall Results Team Results
Lockport Invitational The Freshman/Sophomore Race began the festivities, fitting into their box without frontrunners Chris Keeley, Rodrigo Alvarez, Michael Madiol, or Michael O’Connor, dispatched to Peoria or the injury report. It fell to our second pack to try and keep the scores low, and on a grueling 5k spread out over a considerable field, the race came down to a single body. Steady-Eddies Nick Drechsler (5th, 17:36) and Spencer Teske (6th, 17:36) had their best races of the season, finishing 0.2 of a second apart. They were trailed closely by a stubborn Matt Jett (13th, 17:49), whose race almost perfectly mirrored his older brother’s. Human-whimsy Jack Orengo (25th, 17:59) fell behind early, but kept he himself close enough to the lead pack to stave off oblivion. However, the day’s heroics belonged chiefly to Blake Storoe (71st, 18:58), who kicked down two competitors before outleaning a third at the finish. As it turned out, the Sophomores defeated Wheaton North’s squad by a single point, a stirring reminder that amidst 5,000 meters and 500 bodies, every place and second counts. Kevin Daneliak (75th, 19:00.0), Quinn Kennedy (78th, 19:00.7), Erik Thompson (93rd, 19:13.5), Joseph Klaips (129th, 19:45), and Luke Huenecke (131st, 19:45.6) rounded out the team’s efforts.
Less than a half hour later, the Varsity Race was underway, the rain steadier and the hills slicker. Senior Jake McEneaney (2nd, 16:02) broke his pack in the third mile, while Jackson Jett worked his way up (16:24) to a 5th place finish. Josh Mollway-- whose breakthrough race came a year before at Dellwood-- finished 11th in 16:36. Junior Alex Johnson (40th, 17:08) muscled through a chase pack, while the redoubtable Evan McVittie (66th, 17:28) closed the door, beating a competitor by less than half a second. While not as close as the Freshman/Sophomore Race, the Varsity tilt also required a second pack to race with aggressively and uncomfortably. Dakota Getty (86th, 17:41), Alan Poe (89th, 17:44), Erik Huenecke (92nd, 17:47), Keanan Ginell (107th, 17:57), and DJ Sauer (112th, 18:02) met that challenge.
By the time of the Open Race, the trails of Dellwood had dissolved into streams the color of oatmeal and melted chocolate, pockmarked by 1,000 sets of spikes. Yet in the slowest of conditions, our Open runners still recorded some of their best races of the season. Senior Josh Patel (13th, 18:26) triumphantly returned to the lineup, while classmate Paul Neubauer showed greater grit and patience (21st, 18:43). “Professor” Matt Lindell (18:49) broke through in 23rd, while fellow junior Austin Nguyen (27th, 18:53) proved himself a happy warrior. Other noteworthy efforts were submitted by Danny Speckels (18:56), John Kubiki (19:07), Ramsay Johnson (19:13), Calvin McIntyre (19:31), Michael Vivo (19:49), Sam Stuart (20:22), Jairaj Narendran (21:04), Javed Mohamed (21:59), and Luke Janek (23:47).
After two weeks of split squads, different schedules, and separate buses, we eagerly anticipate Wednesday’s Twilight Invitational. We have yet to see how our full lineup fits together at any level. It’s time to start putting these disparate chapters into one volume about one team, telling one story. If these early sections are any prelude, 2016’s book could potentially end with a far, far better race than we have ever run, leading to a far, far better bus ride than we have ever known.