Naperville North senior Judy Pendergast steals the headlines at FTTF (Steven Bugarin photo)
The cross country faithful could not have asked for a better day for watching a cross country race. It was just a glorious day at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Illinois with the sun shining and an early fall temperature high of 70 degrees when the last race went off at 1:40 pm.
There were several story lines coming into the race such as how dominating would #1 Naperville North be against a great field or how would 2A #1 Yorkville hold their own against the best competition they could find. The four-time defending state champion Lady Foxes and head coach Chris Muth asked the meet management if they could switch to the 3A race. As it played out afterwards, Yorkville stunned the favored Huskies who finished third with 119 points. The victors took the title using a 23 second scoring split to amass 69 point. #10 Batavia ran extremely well in taking second with 101 points. Barrington and Lake Forest closed out the top five respectively.
Muth viewed his team's great accomplishment with insightful perspective. "The [girls] raced well with this being their first of the year with a little bit of rust," he said. In reference to beating the US#5 team Naperville North he said: "I don't think it was a full reflection of us beating a #5 team. I know they were down a few girls." To Muth's own credit though, he was missing one of his top girls. But a win is a win and whenever you can beat a great team, take it.
Naperville North Coach Dan Iverson did not use the fact that he had two of his top guns out of action. "Credit goes to Yorkville and Batavia. We did not run well enough to win," he said seemly miffed by his team's performance. This is what what makes Coach Iverson one of the best to do it in the coaching ranks. No excuses from him or his team.
The individual race was an amazing race to watch. Naperville North senior Judy Pendergast got out well on the strength of a brisk but steady pace ahead of the pack during the first 800m. Behind her was a pack that contained the Minooka trio of Emily Shelton (So.), Ashley Tutt (Jr.), and McKenzie Callahan (Jr.). Also there was Jocelyn Long (So., Barrington) and Emma Stephens (So., Batavia). Pendergast hit the first mile in 5:22 and the others were 5:30. We have seen a fast pace before and we have seen fast times as well. But we were on pace to see something only witnessed in a state championship.
Pendergast continued her assault on the field as she roared past two miles in 10:47 (a time that would have given her 2nd place in the outdoor state 3200m). The same chase pack from the mile post was still intact at 11:15. The rest of the field was spread out but fast. A ton of girls hit under 12:00 with one mile to go.
Ms. Pendergast was amazingly intact and blazing toward the finish line. She hit the mark with seemingly more energy to spare in 16:18.95 officially. This time is currently the fastest in the United States for three miles. On a fun note, Pendergast's mark is the fastest ever for the month of September. The sky is the limit in her mind. "I don't have a goal time for the season," she said. "I change my goals from time to time." Well, it appears that she may need to change her goal of running sub-16:00 if she keeps up this pace. A total of five girls including Pendergast broke 17:00 on the second weekend of real cross country racing. Long (16:49), Tutt (16:55.1), Shelton (16:55.7), and Stephens (16:56) all got under the barrier.
The team title produced less drama than the girls in that #3 Lyons Twp. and #4 Hinsdale Central were the heavy favorites. True to form it came down to great pack racing and closing the race with precision. Lyons used a 33 second split to upend the Red Devils 80-96. #11 Buffalo Grove bounced back with their full squad with 160 points. #7 New Trier clocked fourth scoring 209 points. Fishers, IN kept #8 Chicago Whitney Young from getting 5th place 231-242.
The opening mile was fast and furious in 4:41-4:44 range for the leaders. Kevin Salvano (Buffalo Grove), Blake Evertsen (Hinsdale Central), Connor Madell (Lyons Twp.), Clayton Mendez (Whitney Young), Vince Zona (Lyons Twp.), Martin Barr (Niles North), Brett Davidson (Highland Park), and many others streamed along route 29 north and into the "Bermuda Triangle." Out of the tour of the back loop and into the front past the two mile was Salvano and Evertsen neck and neck in 9:37. Barr was 9:39 but starting to hurt. A steady stream of runners were starting to form behind him.
The pair stayed glued together over the next half mile which seemed to be 12:00 at 2.5 miles. "I stayed off of Blake until 400 to go. I felt like I had something left," said Salvano of his decisive move to close out the race in a personal best 14:22- the #1 time in the nation for three miles. Evertsen had a banner day as well. He crossed in 14:25 which appears to be a school record and the nation's second fastest time. Evertsen is maturing into the extreme talent that was expected of him entering high school two seasons ago. Zona closed out Barr just meters from the finish line to take third 14:40-14:42. Brett Davidson finished fifth in 14:43. Overall, there 19 young men who broke 15:00. Danny Rosen (Chicago Northside Prep) represented the CPS well with a 7th place finish in 14:43- one of the three fastest times in league history and a major threat to do even more come November.