The night before the race, nervous coaches poured over the weather forecasts for the greater Peoria area. The screen showed a pulsing green map slowly overtaken by a yellow and red blob. “That’s not good,” said Coach Vandersteen. “We may be in for a wet day.”
And then, as often happens in meteorology, the forecast changed. The rain would hold off until the mid-afternoon. We had a window.
What we did in that window was important, for it was happening on the legendary Detweiller course. The park, a simple emerald postage stamp a few ticks south of the Caterpillar plant, is hallowed ground for distance runners, the harrier equivalent of a Midwestern battlefield. Ghosts are on that course, the remnants of great teams running gutsy races. Every runner wants to write their name on its November ledger.
The work started with the Varsity race, which featured some of the state’s best squads. As he has done all season, Nicholas Dovalovsky (4th, 14:38) carried our banner, making impressive moves in the final 800 to chase down several decorated runners. He is the first runner in our program since Chris Derrick to break 14:40 on Detweiller in September. Once again, he was trailed by junior Aidan Stone (54th, 15:34) and senior Quinn Kennedy (15:40). The junior trio of Vasant Fong (16:04), Leif Anderson (16:08), and Stephen Smilie (16:08) closed the door for the Wildcats, who finished 9th overall.
The Freshmen/Sophomore squad took the baton next, with a few scratches in the lineup due to injury. Nevertheless, the team committed to one another and found blue and gold jerseys to pack with through the back field. Charlie Rook (16:51) was the low stick, followed by Nathanael Howard (17:03) and Sachin Fong (17:08). Jacob Nauman (17:22) thundered in next, and the redoubtable Andrew Gutierrez (17:30) shut the door, with a respectable 39 second compression. Freshmen Connolly Corbin (17:39) and Andres Lopez (18:26) put down respectable markers for their first three-mile race.
But the Open Race yielded the greatest harvest of P.R.s, as many runners ran their fastest in the humidity of early afternoon. A pair of Lukes—Suman (16:14) and Mennecke (16:16)—led the way, followed by Brian Jett (16:21) and Josh Rodriguez (16:26). Strong performances were also recorded by seniors Sam Stuart (16:30) and Ethan Lockwood (16:43), juniors JD Hastings (16:46), Ryan Horn (16:47), Alex Majus (16:59), Avik Vaish (17:31), Kevin Saju (17:41), Daniel Gutierrez (17:46), and Andre Park (19:46). Sterling underclassmen included sophomores Liam Dorsey (17:30), Alex Del Genio (18:22), Cory Papasthasis (18:15), Ben Serna (18:22), Zach Thompson (19:55), Angelo Lavacchi (20:19), and Prithvi Thakur (21:57), as well as freshmen Matthew Gutierrez (18:41), Connor Boehm (18:46), Logan Brown (17:48), Brady Gudauskas (19:12), Sam Hotchkiss (18:51), Nicholas Lapatino (19:12), Ben LeGrand (20:51), Kyle McGladdery (20:46), Clark Minnerick (19:44), Jacob Neal (19:51), Ethan Hung (23:17), Matt and John Xu (20:52, 21:05), and Alan Wei (24:28).
As we gathered for a team meeting, the clouds finally opened and made their deposit. We boarded the buses and aimed for home. Freshmen, wearied but excited; seniors, saddened but proud. It’s a small window, these four years. So much can happen in between.