Enyaeva Michelin's closing leg speed was too powerful for Jocelyn Long (Tony Jones photo)
It used to be at the end of the regular cross country season that coaches would either have their runners sit or throttle their efforts in order to get ready for the post-season. Well over the past several years since moving to Heritage Park, Wheeling Invitational meet officials have provided teams and individuals a good backdrop for the conference championship weekend. This year once again provided the fans to see some quality teams and individuals compete at a championship level.
As predicted three of the state's premier runners laced them up them and competed. Enyaeva Michelin (Sr., Evanston), Jocelyn Long (Sr., Barrington), and Melissa Manetsch (Sr., Barrington) did not waste a moment in getting out to the front of the pack. Another runner, Molly Fitzpatrick (Fr., Barrington), joined in to form a Voltron. As a quartet they separated and destroyed the field of 125 runners. The Voltron would pass through the first mile in a modest 5:40, which put them about 15 seconds of the nearest runners Emily Burns (Jr., Lake Zurich) and Stephanie Kriss (So., Highland Park).
The three-mile layout features a giant sloping hill just after the first mile which undoubtedly slows things down for the runners. It was also desolate and a bit windy during portions of the second mile. The Voltron would stay intact as they passed the second mile in 11:50. Michelin and Long possess the best leg speed of the quartet and it is likely they would break off from Manetsch and Long somewhere late in the final mile. Long indicated that she was not aware of Michelin entered in the meet until she saw her warm up in school racing attire. It would be Michelin who made the final pivotal move to win the tactical affair by a single second 17:33-17:34. Manetsch held off Fitzpatrick 17:42-17:45 for fourth place. It was no sweat for the girls who will next compete in their respective conference championships next weekend.
Don't be dismayed by Barrington's high scoring split. The Fillies outset that eye sore with two of the top girls in the state. Four girls finished in the top 10 and six among the top 20 closed down any upset talk. Barrington scored 36 points to easily outdistance New Trier who scored 80 points.
Jack McNabola (Sr., Chicago Francis Parker) was a late addition to the field giving it an extra boost just in case key runners are held out. McNabola is a front runner and he has kept his peers honest in most of the contests this season. So it wasn't a surprise to see him lounge with Josh Methner (So., Hersey) and Alex Tam (Sr., Libertyville) for the first mile in 5:00. Things turned into a tactical affair just like the girls. It was hill and dale as the large contingent moved away from the fans and to the far northwestern part of the course.
Methner, Tam and McNabola continued to lead through two miles in 10:09. It did not seem as though anyone else in the field had the ability to challenge them. McNabola and Tam began their charge halfway through the final mile and slid away from Methner. McNabola held a tight lead against Tam coming into the finish line view which could be seen for near 200m out. McNabola was able to use his strong kick and hold off Tam for the victory in 15:13. Tam ran 15:14 just ahead of Methner's 15:14 time. New Trier's Patrick Norrick (Sr.) finished fourth in 15:35.
Hersey used this opportunity to prep themselves for next weekend's MSL Conference Championship. They are expected to be a favorite when the chips are laid down. The Huskies did not a particularly great scoring spread at 1:37 but they did put runners in the top 20 enroute to scoring 69 points for the win. New Trier ran well despite not having two of its top five runners. The Trevians have been building throughout the season in an attempt to get back to Peoria next month. Coach Dave Wisner's horses added four places in the top 20 on a 1:11 scoring split and scored 81 points.