Class 2A Boys Pre-Season Preview: The Opening Bell #25 to #16 Squads

The opening bell could be seen as a contradiction of sorts. There are some really good teams barely making the cut, and there are some other squads who were bubbling a year ago, now have an opportunity to be ranked and move up. At the end of the day rankings are important and a good recognition for those involved, but the final rankings on November 4 are the most important ones (Steven Bulgarin photo).

25. Lansing (Illiana Christian) 

Head Coach: ​Jim Piaskowy

Last year's finish: 15th- 3A Skokie (Niles West) Sectional 
Key returnersAustin Ohm (Sr.), Derek Van Prooyen (Sr.), Alex Wondaal (Jr.), Kyle Mulderink (Jr.), Dominic Turkstra (So.)
Jim's synopsis: The days are counting down as an Illinois team for the Vikings who are slated to move to Dyer, Indiana for the start of the 2018-19 season. As a going away present, the Vikings were dropped to 2A where they had tremendous success which includes a runner-up trophy in 2013. Five returners who have sectional meet experience will make their team a squad to watch closely this season.

24. Deerfield
Head Coach: Scott Friedlander
Last year's finish: 13th- 3A Waukegan Sectional
Key returners: Matthew Gold (Sr.), Henry Shore (Sr.), Benjamin Wolfe (Sr.), Bradley Brodsky (Jr.)
Synopsis: The Warriors are back in 2A (barely) after spending the last few seasons in 3A where they were highly competitive. The four returners are seasoned vets and ready to show and prove in their new classification. A group of hungry Warriors traveled to Detweiller Park for the "Detweiller at Dark" event to show off their summer training. Bradley Brodsky led the way for his team with a 16:01 clocking. This is especially good since the state meet is 3.5 months from that date.

23. Elmwood
Head Coach: Patrick Sheridan
Last year's finish: 25th- State Championship
Key returners: Devon Schumann (Sr.), Carlos Sanchez (Jr.), Khris Vicencio (Jr.), Alex Martinez (Sr.), Justin Nieves (Sr.), Mike Jones-Plasencia (Jr.), Mitchell Wojcik (Sr.)
Jim's synopsisPatrick Sheridan had a great start to his coaching career, taking his team in the right direction as the headed down to Peoria. Expect the Tigers to continue to improve and grow with seven bonified returners back. Hopefully for Sheridan's troops in November, they will be staring up at a top 10 finish.

22. Aurora (Illinois Math and Science Academy)
Head Coach: Paul McLeland
Last year's finish: 20th- State Championship
Key returners: Daniel Chen (Jr.), Istvan Kovach (Sr.), Daniel Soto (Jr.), Jake Sutter (Jr.), Kir Nagaitsev (Sr.),
Harry Smith (Jr.), Gabe Bryk (Jr.), Andrew Peev (Sr.)
Jim's synopsis: In last year's pre-season preview, the Titans were nowhere to be seen. The end result was a Wheaton Academy runner up trophy and top 20 finish at state. It is probably another slight to rank this team a little low with five state starters returning and depth beyond compare. Perhaps it is a lack of a true front runner is the reason, but expect the entire team to be there in the end. 

21. East Peoria
Head Coach: Brandon Shaver
Last year's finish: 7th- Metamora Sectional
Key returnersMark Skaggs (Sr.), Tyler Billingsley (So.), Dawson Dobbelaire (Jr.), Kolby Miller (So.), Austin Safford (Jr.)
Jim's synopsis: Despite losing top runner Michael Church, the Raiders should be a top team with five returners who ran at the Metamora Sectional. Keep in mind that East Peoria missed qualifying for state by three points. While that marginal of a defeat had to be agonizing, it could serve as the motivation they need to make it to the big dance in November. 

20. Wheaton (St. Francis)
Head Coach: Scott Nelson
Last year's finish: 15th- State Championship
Key returners: Alex Hernandez (Sr.), Dan Weizeorick (So.), Jon Aquino (Jr.), Joe Leo (Sr.)
Jim's synopsis: Alex Hernandez is the leader of a team that expects to return back into the top 15. First, though, the mission is to get a bonified #5 runner. That is key along with a consistent scoring split around 45 seconds.

19. Peoria (Notre Dame)
Head Coach: Dan Gray
Last year's finish: 19th- State Championship
Key returners: Tony Haddad (Sr), Mitchell Mazander (Jr), Chris Gilbert (Jr), Mickey Lawless (Jr), Liam Owens (Sr), Alex Van Slyke (Jr) and David Robison (So)
Coach Gray's synopsis: "The Irish guys, as mentioned lost four of our top seven to graduation. We have a very compatible top four, possibly five who will try to run some pack races early in the season in order to get the newcomers a chance to learn racing at three miles. There are several freshmen and a few upperclassmen who have shown some possibilities of making the next step up. Senior John Couri hopes to get back to his freshman year form that saw him run at State. Junior Sergio Teran could challenge for a varsity spot as well."

18. Charleston
Head Coach: Brian Oakley
Last year's finish: 17th- State Championship
Key returners: Austin Ames (Jr.), Nick Oakley (Sr.), Lance Niemerg (Sr.), Luke Buescher (Sr.), Jonathon Phillips (Sr.)
Jim's synopsis: Here is a very underrated team that many dismissed because they squeaked through at the Decatur MacArthur Sectional without any name brand runners. Nick Oakley and Austin Ames return as a top duo in their area and they should finish high in most big invitationals. The rest of the Trojans should fall in line.

17. Belvidere North
Head Coach: Troy Yunk
Last year's finish: 9th- Belvidere Sectional
Key returnersAlec Scott (Sr.), Max Beutel (So.), Austin Harnois (Sr.), Virgil Muneymana (Sr.), Tyler Paddock (Sr.), Eric Rodriguez (Jr.), Teddy Roewer (Sr.), Chris Winters (Sr.).
Synopsis: A once proud program has fallen on hard times over the past few years. Finishing down the totem pole at a sectional is not the Blue Streaks way. Expect coach Yunk to get his soldiers on par to the championship formula.

16. Bensenville (Fenton)
Head Coach: John Kurtz
Last year's finish: 21st- State Championship
Key returners: Cristian Sanchez (Sr.), Alex Whyte (Sr.), Jeremy Lodewyck (Sr.), Michael Lieggi (Sr.), Bryan Medina (Sr.)
Jim's sypnosis2016 was a strong season for Fenton. The Bisons won their sectional and finished 21st at state. This year they hope to improve on that mark with 5 of their top 7 returning last year. How much this group progresses will decide how much they improve from last year.