Last year’s state championship saw the battle of two powerful small school empires. The first is St. Thomas Moore, a non-bordered catholic school in Champaign notorious for attracting the area talent in Champaign County. The second is Elmwood, a school whose team Coop’s with Brimfield. In an area passionate about distance running, Elmwood athletes train at a young age, typically part of either the Elmwood or Brimfield middle school team before transitioning on to high school.
It appears as though the battle between these two schools for the state championship will continue as both teams retain a majority of their rosters from last season. However, it would be a mistake to count out the many other contenders who are poised to fight for a championship.
Last year’s finish: 2nd place
Possible Roster: Nate Herridge (Jr.) 15:38, Kelley Hoffman (Jr.) 16:08, Bed Adkins (Jr.) 16:12, Ian Armbruster (Jr.) 16:18, John Barrat (Fr.)
Team outlook: This team loses their 1, 6, and 7 runners which means that only four of last year’s varsity returns. Is this the end of the Elmwood superpower? Far from it! Anyone that knows Elmwood and distance running well knows that there is underclassmen power untapped who will step into the varsity scene next year. One of those athletes may be incoming freshman John Barrat who ran 11:25 in the IESA 1A state meet. This team is known for running mid-season races in racing flats, so while this squad is ranked here at the moment as they should be; expect them to oscillate in these rankings until the high tide rises in November.
Last year’s finish: State Champion
Possible Roster: Nick Hess (Sr.) 15:03, Sam Powers (Sr.) 15:40, Brendan Remington (Sr.) 15:44, David Horn (So.) 16:48, Jack Bolger (Sr.) 17:03
Team outlook: The Sabres only losing #2 and #5 appears unscathed from senior graduation. But appearances can be deceiving. This team was an unbeatable force last year with their strong scoring pack. If one of their top runners is out of the equation, it will bring a serious question into how well they’ll fare against Elmwood or any of the top rated squads. They have the best returning top three in the classification, all of whom are looking to make the top 25 with Nick Hess as one of the individual title favorites. It really would be something to see this team win both the team and individual race.
Last year’s finish: 7th place
Possible Roster: Nathan Ambrose (Jr.) 15:59, Nathan Nozzi (Sr.) 16:07, Nathan Smith (Jr.) 16:23, Alan Daly (Sr.) 16:24, Jeff Swanson (Sr.) 16:35, Ryan Traum (Sr.) 17:07
Outlook: A great pack of boys. All are back this year except for their low scorer, Alex Keliback, which is a great loss but it doesn’t affect this team’s trophy potential too much. Their 1-5 split is only 36 seconds with the fastest fifth man in the division.
4) Mt. Zion
Last year’s finish: 6th place
Possible Roster: Curtis Reed (Jr.) 15:12, Mohammad Hosseini (Jr.) 15:16, Noah Gingrich (Sr.) 16:48, Aiden Gerhardt (Jr.) 17:02, Tyler Wilhelm (Fr.), Alex Cutler (Fr.), Matthew Babich (Fr.)
Team outlook: A very respectable program that has shown up well at state for the last two years since getting down bumped to 1A. This team has always had a tradition of strong front runners and that doesn’t appear to be changing with the 1-2 punch of Curtis Reed and Mohammad Hosseini. This team was hurt last year because of the large gap after their front guns. The X factor that’s going to determine if a trophy is in the cards trophy will be their incoming freshmen- especially Tyler Wilhelm who clocked10:58 IESA state meet. If he transitions into three miles, then he could be a solid third man that just might give this team the trophy edge.
Last year’s finish: state-10th
Possible Roster: Daniel Plunkett (Sr.) 15:12, David Plunkett (So.) 16:08, Mitch Johnson (Sr.) 16:22, Tyler Johnson (So.) 16:22, Connor Riddle (Jr.) 17:06, Seth Owens (Jr.) 17:37, Adam Ely (So.) 17:44
Outlook: This team returns their whole entire varsity, including low scorer Daniel Plunkett (and expect his little David brother to step up), so it’s only fair to rank them here. This team has the fastest fourth man returning this season, but after that, there’s a discrepancy between four and five that will need to be fixed if they expect to trophy.
Last year’s finish: state-13th
Possible Roster: Nick Godsell (Sr.) 15:55, Austin Woodard (So.) 16:03, Dawson Dodds (So.) 16:36, Kyle Gately (Sr.) 16:40, Joe Baker (Sr.) 17:03, Robbie Decker (So.) 17:17, Jacob Ping (Sr.) 17:22, Nathan Seiler (Fr.), Noah Williams (Fr.)
Outlook: Even in a rebound year, this team has made a statement that they will always be a contender in state no matter how tough the sectional or how many runners they lose in the following year. This squad looks to be a trophy contender yet again, as they not only return their whole varsity but possibly add some solid freshmen to their roster. And with Dirk Stirret as the coach and veteran Nick Godsell as the captain, this team has undoubtedly put in a quality summer program in place.
Last year’s finish: state-11th
Possible Roster: Matt Norvell (Jr.) 15:56, Jesse Galaway (Sr.) 16:17, Justin Furcich (Jr.) 16:31, Will Montgomery (Jr.) 17:08, Sawyer Biddle (Sr.) 17:13, Cole Cary (Sr.) 17:20, Brent Buffenbarger (Fr.)
Outlook: Monticello is also another one of those teams that always seems to put it together for state. They lose all-state standout, Andrew Hanselman but return the rest of their top seven plus gain standout freshman Brent Buffenbarger.
Last year’s finish: state-21st
Possible Roster: Caleb Imig (Sr.) 15:43, Wilson Pflenderer (Jr.) 16:37, Conor Ehnle (Sr.) 16:40, Brock Holmes (So.) 17:10, Daniel Smalley (Jr.) 17:16, Colin Siedleck (Jr.) 17:22, Matthew Henrey (Fr.)
Outlook: Tremont underperformed massively at state last year. This is not to insult this team, but to only point out that this is a talented team deserving of this ranking. They’re ranked here assuming a better race from their top runners, but this team could surprise everyone this year and possibly redeem themselves for a trophy this year. They beat Pleasant Plains at sectionals last year and could do so again at state.
Last year’s finish: state-17th
Possible Roster: Ryan Van Dyke (Sr.) 15:24, Connor Stine (Jr.) 15:56, Chase Thurman (Sr.) 16:47, Liam O’Rourke 17:02 (So.), Tom Evelsizer (Sr.) 17:23, Nikolai Van Wye (So.) 18:06
Outlook: This team definitely has it made for a top ten showing at state this year, with two low scorers and a pretty decent pack following after that. For this team to place any better than this the gap between the 2-7 runners is going to have to decrease.
Last year’s finish: state- 10th
Possible Roster: Michael Gleason (Jr.) 15:41, John Freveletti (Jr.) 16:26, Eli C Cook (Sr.) 16:29, Colin Beisiada (Jr.) 16:53
Outlook: Another top ten worthy team with 1, 4, 5, and 7 returning and most-likely a JV runner to step up as a fifth man. Depending on how well they pack it up this year, this team could surprise many.
Last year’s finish: state-16th
Possible Roster: Chris Alt (Sr.) 16:39, Jonathan Kraus (So.) 16:41, Matthew Waller (Jr.) 16:49, Riley Keleher (Sr.), 16:50, Dylan Meuth (Sr.) 16:55, David Merz (Sr.) 17:03
Outlook: This team loses low scorer, Jacob Marler, but returns a very solid pack of six boys with only 24 seconds between them. A lack of prominent front runners may hurt this team from a top ten crack, but expect this team to be in the mix this fall.
12) Sterling (Newman Central Catholic)
Last year’s finish: state- 12th place
Possible Roster: Bryson Reyes (Jr.) 15:50, Quincy Coomes (Jr.) 16:11, Micah Trancoso (Sr.) 16:43, Drew Rosengren (Jr.) 16:49
Outlook: They return their 1, 2, 4, and 5—a strong aspect of their roster that will undoubtedly assure qualification and a decent showing. This team will be in dire need of a fifth man if they expect to do much better than this.
13) Chicago (Latin)
Last year’s finish: state-15th
Possible Roster: Aiden Sarazen (Jr.) 16:24, Michael Gross (Jr.) 16:55, Max Bucksbaum (Jr.) 17:03, Miles Baker (Jr.) 17:29, Alexis Lopez (Jr.) 17:29
Outlook: Another young team looking to prove themselves at Detweiller Park. Aiden Sarazan will lead but the rest of the pack will have to step up to do anything more significant than this projection.
14) Rockford (Christian)
Last year’s finish: state- 8th
Possible Roster: Nick Monkemeyer (So.), Alex Wilfong (Jr.), Erik Reck (Jr.), Steven Reiersing (Jr.), David Macklenburg (Jr.), Brian Smith (So.), Josh Thor (Jr.), Noah Wells (Fr.)
Outlook: This is a team with a lot of depth that just did not have their way at sectionals. They have potential to be the next big team years down the road once they mature. We’re talking about a team that returns everyone, juniors or younger, including sophomore state veteran Nick Monkemeyer who has the potential to be all-state once again. They also get a pretty solid incoming freshman on top of that. If there’s any team that missed state last year that goes in with a surprising bang as did Shelbyville, it’s Rockford.
15) St. Joseph-Ogden
Last year’s finish: 6th- Effingham sectional
Possible Roster: Braydon Crozier (Sr.), Corey Thompson (Sr.), Matt Knipfer (So.), Austin Earp (So.), Bryant Anderson (Sr.), Justin Phillips (Fr.)
Team outlook: Every year this team is competitive but they just haven’t been cut a break with sectional assignments at all. They are always placed in the toughest ones with the Central Illinois competition. Well this team was closer than ever to a team qualification, only nine points behind Tolono who they beat at regionals. Unfortunate for last year, but looks good for this year as they return five of their pack of seven that always runs together in a tight group. They also gain promising freshman, Justin Phillips, who went 11:16 in IESA state. Matt Knipfer also has much potential to mature as he’s the brother of last year’s senior leader, Drew Knipfer, with a solid middle school resume of his own. Watch for this team as they hopefully make it out of the Central Illinois war zone this time to make a statement at state.
Dark Horses (Unranked in alphabetical order):
Belleville (Althoff Catholic)
Last year’s final finish: 6th -Edwardsville sectional
Possible Roster: Jack Buese (Sr.), Michael Barnes (Sr.), David Rall (Sr.), Addison Maine (So.), Phillip Miller (Sr.)
Outlook: When one looks at possible state qualifiers, one always has to keep in mind the south. This team unfortunately was one place off of qualifying state, but the future looks quite optimistic for them as last year’s Edwardsville Metro-East ( Lutheran) qualifiers (such as Herrin and Salam) lose a considerable amount of depth whereas this team returns five of their top seven.
Last year’s finish: state- 9th
Possible Roster: TJ Pitcock (Sr.) 15:44, Nick Wagner (Sr.) 16:28
Outlook: This team only returns two of their top seven in an overall senior laden team. This team should have the JV reserves to put together another state qualifying team, though, especially with a low scorer like TJ Pitcock.
Edwardsville (Metro-East Lutheran)
Last year’s finish: state- 22nd
Possible Roster: Jace Dumont (Sr.) 16:22, Matt Morrissey (Sr.) 16:57, Derek Benning (Sr.) 16:59, Paul Klarich (Sr.) 18:36
Outlook: This team’s really going to have to find a fourth and fifth man that can keep up with their first three if they want to do any better than last year. This team will almost certainly qualify out of the southern sectionals that they typically host so they’re worth keeping an eye on.
Fairbury (Prairie Central)
Last year’s finish: state- 8th place
Possible Roster: Brandon Allsup (Sr.), Ryan Masters (Jr.), Daniel Costa (So), Avery Walter (Jr.), Bjorn Johnson (Sr.)
Outlook: As the Lisle sectional area is losing depth, things are looking very good for this team as they return five of their varsity seven roster led by individual state veteran Brandon Allsup.
Last year’s finish: state-12th
Possible Roster: George Luhman (Sr.), Thomas Walsh (Sr.), Adam Resendez (Sr.), Brice Wagner (Sr.), Ryan Walsh (So.), Sam Reifsteck (Jr.)
Outlook: Yet another dark horse in the same situation as Fairbury, for they return six out of seven of their varsity roster.
Last year’s finish: state-(7th place
Possible Roster: Cade Martens (Sr.), Brain King (Sr.), Kade Walters (Jr.), Kyle Dujakovich (Sr.), Cody Williams (Sr.)
Outlook: Like St. Joseph Ogden, this team is another example of a team that has a way of being placed in tough sectionals. They made it out of the Elmwood Sectional two years ago, but it could be a daunting task season with power house teams like Tremont, Pleasant Plains, and Elmwood. The good news is they return five of last year’s varsity roster, including longtime veteran Cade Martins, who just missed all-state by two places (and is ranked 13th in the individual previews).
Last year’s finish: state-11th place
Possible Roster: Brett Genenbacher (Sr.), Jonah Peter (Sr.), Brady Cook (So.), Connor Wolf (Sr.), Evan Schreacke (Sr.), Connor O’Neil (Fr.)
Outlook: Like, Heyworth, they could be a huge surprise as yet another team that had it tough in the Elmwood sectional. They lose two of last year’s varsity roster, but could easily make up in freshmen they’re getting from a 9th place IESA 1A finals team, including individual champion Connor O’Neil who went 10:54 in that race. Hopefully he can rise up to be the team leader that will give this team the low scoring edge they need to qualify.
Manilus (Bureau Valley)
Last year’s final finish: state-9th place
Possible Roster: Ryan Taylor (Sr.), Kane Eastwood (Sr.), Colten Peterson (Sr.), Daniel Trone (Sr.), Kody Church (Sr.), Andrew Smith (Sr.)
Outlook: Manilus is a very reputable 1A program that has unfortunately been plagued in the recent past by tough sectionals and injuries. Last year, they lost a lot of their firepower and may spend this year retooling. It was most definitely a year-well spent as they return six seniors experienced and ready to show up again at Detweiller.
Last year’s finish: 6th- Elmwood Sectional
Possible Roster: Devin Clark (Sr.) 16:04.9
Nathan Ault (Jr.), Trevor Hatch (So.), Andrew Danes (Sr.), Dalton Hottle (Sr.), Josh Logsdon (So.), Jacob Winebright (Sr.)
Outlook: The placing of this team last year simply speaks for itself! They missed qualifying state by only 10 points to Stanford (Olympia) who has even more gaps than ever that this this team can exploit with their returning pack of six. While they don’t have all-state finisher, Devin Clark, to do them some low scoring justice, they still have a solid team that could surprise everybody this fall.
Niles Northridge Prep
Last year’s finish: state- 24nd
Possible Roster: Liam Mahoney (Sr.) 16:40, David Lechuga (Sr.) 17:15, Brennan Tobin (Jr.) 17:29, David Navarrete (Jr.) 17:45, Will Thornton (Jr.) 18:23
Outlook: This is a group that showed up at state and could possibly make a return visit as they return five of their top seven. They keep a pretty strong pack that has given them the qualifying edge at Lisle and most likely will again.
Last year’s finish: 7th - Effingham Sectional
Possible Roster: Nick Porter (So.), Grant Iverson (Sr.), Tyler Rubarts (Sr.), Kirk Vesely (Jr.), Corbin Riecks (So.), Josh Brocato (So.), Cole Eshleman (Fr.), Matt Harper (Fr.)
Outlook: No matter what the Track Talk forums say about this team “not putting it together” for various reasons, the stats are what they are. They placed seventh in pretty tough Effingham sectional and are not only returning six of their varsity roster from last year, but gaining some standout freshmen, including Cole Eshleman and Matt Harper who went 10:57 and 11:26 respectively in the IESA 1A state finals. This alone, assuming adequate three mile adjustment for these freshmen should fill any concerns about gaps that anyone might have. Definitely keep an eye out on this team as they might be a surprise to a lot of skeptics.
Last year’s finish: state- 3rd
Key returners: Drennian Martin (Sr.) 15:56, Marcus Skinners (So.) 16:20, Tyler Pasley (Fr.)
Outlook: This trophy team last year was a shocker for many and a team that many rankers slept on. Unfortunately for down the road this year, their team was heavily senior laden and they lose five of their varsity with only their 2 and 6 remaining. Doubtless from the depths of their JV, this team can very possibly show up to state again, maybe even surprise us once more! One guy that won’t be a surprise to see on their varsity roster this year is incoming freshman Tyler Pasley who individually ran the IESA 2A finals in 11:53. Keep an eye out for this team to see if they have any tricks up in their sleeves again.
Last year’s finish: state-19th place
Possible Roster: Kenny Heaton (Sr.) 15:41, Dylan Heuther (Jr.) 17:01, Gabe Marshall (Sr.) 17:02, Trevor Buckner (So.) 17:27
Outlook: A strong team representing the south, this team will doubtless find itself in the Peoria state scene once again as they keep their 3, 5, and 6, and low scoring Kenny Heaton to seal the deal. They are going to need to find a fifth man obviously if they want to surprise anybody, however.
Last year’s finish: 9th -place
Possible Roster: Arch Robison (Sr.), Vinay Shanbhag (Sr.), George Gunter (Sr.), Bryan Hwu (Sr.), Ansel Higgs (Jr.), David Bergvelt (Sr.), Andrew Nguyen (Jr.),
Outlook: A team that’s been pretty hyped up among local cross country fans to do well this season, this team is definitely worthy of a dark horse mention. They return their whole varsity for one thing, including recent state veteran, Arch Robinson, Vinay Shanbhag who has not qualified individually but has put solid times at Detweiller before on past team state showings, and 1:58 4th place 1A 800 finalist George Gunter. That’s a top three force to reckon with. They also gain countless freshmen from last year’s IESA qualifying team in their all-eighth grade junior high program.
Wood River East Alton
Last year’s finish: 7th - Edwardsville Sectional
Possible Roster: William McLemore (Sr.), Chance Liley (Sr.), Mike Hall (Sr.), Aaron Slattery (Sr.), Nate Billlings (Sr.), Zach Butkovich (Jr.)
In looking for the next teams from down south to qualify for state, this team definitely stood out, as one that missed it by two places and returns six out of their seven varsity roster from last year.