Lockport Invite: Zack Smith Looks Smooth, Lyons Township Cruises To Team Title

On-Site Coverage

The drive into old historic Lockport, IL on Route 171 has a sign that reads: “The city that made Chicago famous.”  It is on that same road further south of downtown and east on 18th street is Dellwood Park.  It is the site of one of the fast growing invitationals in the state.  The Locktoberfest is an all boys affair that features three competitions: freshman-sophomore, varsity, and open.

Dellwood Park from the outset has the appearance of most park district ran entities.  The landscape was well manicured and clean. There were baseball and softball facilities in place and giant hill in the background.  Meet director and Lockport Boys head coach Tom Razo said the park district added some new playing fields which caused his crew to move the start and finish line. Now, it's virtually impossible for fans to get to the mile, two-mile, and finish line without some type of motor vehicle. Still, the course has enough viewing sights to enjoy a cross country meet.

Naperville (Neuqua Valley) started the festivities with a convincing frosh/soph competition win over a talented Chicago Whitney Young squad 33-105.  It serves notice to all that the Wildcats will be locked and loaded for the next generation of distance running. Hinsdale Central freshman Chris Brenk scampered home alone to win in 16:58 for the 5k distance.

The highly anticipated varsity race did what it predicted to do in terms of shaking up the rankings for the upcoming week.  There were eight 3A ranked teams in the field so something had to give.

#14 Lyons Township took full advantage of its competition’s shortcomings to score a second title in a row by tallying 115 points.  The Lions, who have been running well of late, used a controlled and conservative race in order to keep the scoring pack together. It worked.  It was interesting to see them running in yellow uniform tops instead of the normal blue.  Were they used to disguise themselves against the competition? It wasn’t for certain but no other top team wore the banana colored uniforms.  The Lions did their best to spot one another throughout the race. Henry Hostettler (Jr.) ran a very spirited race to lead his team in 11th place (16:14).  Ed McCarter (Sr.), who fancies middle-distance races, stepped up in the second role to place 19th.  Senior leaders Dan Lupano and James Ryan were the fourth and fifth runners but placed 26th and 31st respectively.  The scoring split of 25-seconds was the key component in defeating #2 Hinsdale Central.

Hinsdale Central completed a tough week of racing by earning runner-up honors (133 pts.).  However, it would be the Thursday matinee dog fight against top ranked Elmhurst (York) that resulted in a 32-23 loss which led to Saturday line-up changes. Head Coach Jim Westphal made a choice to sit two of his top runners in Billy Magnesen (Sr.) and Blake Evertsen (Fr.) as more of a precautionary measure.  “Billy was actually cleared to run on Thursday,” Westphal said prior to the awards ceremony. “He had some issues with his IT band and we didn’t want to rush him back [into action]. I felt better about sitting him and getting ready for conference. As for Blake, he ran hard on Thursday and we need to be careful in how we use him.” Kevin Huang (Sr.) stepped in as the top runner and ran extremely well.  He overtook several runners in the final kilometer and held his second place spot all the way to the end of the race.  TJ Caveney (Sr.) also ran well finishing in 13th place.  The 1:01 scoring split was adequate considering the omission of two major runners. The normal #7 runner Alex Domiano (Jr.) was thrust into the #5 hole and he completed the task well by finishing in 46th place.

The ninth-ranked Neuqua Valley team may have been overlooked by some but it didn’t seem to bother head man Paul Vandersteen. “We’ve been battling some injuries all season and I didn’t run my #3 guy today because he has some issues with his patella,” said Vandersteen referring to his team’s low profile status thus far this season.  Still, the Wildcats were able to muster a third place effort (134pts) on the strength of Daniel Weiss (Jr.) and Nick Bushelle’s (Sr.) 8th and 10th place finishes. Bushelle is the team’s top runner but was plagued with a stomach cramp throughout the race.  He was able to battle through the discomfort and finish well. Weiss picked off a few runners late in the race to solidify his premier team spot. The scoring split of 45-seconds was adequate enough to get the healing Wildcats back into the state trophy talk picture.

#7 New Lenox (Lincoln-Way Central) held serve against a formable field to score a fourth place finish that netted 172 points.  The Knights beat #15 Naperville North on the sixth man tie breaker as sophomore Nathan Coppens placed 54th ahead of the Husky junior Andrew Laduer’s 59th place effort.  Top runner Chris Kaminski (Sr.) was with the leaders throughout the meet hung on to seventh place ahead of Weiss. He is his team's heart and soul. The Knight's supporting cast then produced a 50-second 1-5 split and an even sweeter 51-seconds through seven runners.

Naperville North fought off some rust with their fifth place finish scoring 172 points.  Junior Kerry Gschwendtner led his team with a 14th place finish.  The Huskies ran a strong pack throughout the entire race that produced a 32-second scoring split.  The top six spread was 39-seconds which means if someone falters on the back end of the pack they will be picked up.  The key moving forward will be to get the 2-6 runners up a little further in big competitions.

#5 Downers Grove North placed sixth with 205 points. Superstar in the making Zack Smith (Sr.) repeated as champion and his ace teammate Ryan Clevenger (Jr.) did his best to keep the team’s meet title hopes alive. It would be for not as Head Coach John Sipple rested senior Jared Spilky- a key member who is an integral part of the Trojans success. Spilky won the team’s dual meet against WSC Silver foe Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West) last Thursday.  Health is going to be an important part of this team’s future because the scoring five spread was a concerning 1:59.  Of course, that number would be significantly lower with Spilky in the line-up, but there will not be any room for error when the post-season arrives.

#6 Buffalo Grove has suddenly come to a crossroads in their season.  First, they were routed by MSL rival #4 Arlington Heights (Hersey) 19-41 in a dual meet this past week that had divisional champion imprints on it.  The lackluster effort was without top man Steven Salvano (Sr.) who has been in and out of the line-up with a lingering illness.  Secondly, the Bisons finished a disappointing eighth place (244 pts). Steven’s brother Kevin Salvano (So.) has been running with a vengeance of late- putting the team on his back. He would continue to impress with a solid 12th place effort.  The rest of the team was spread out all over the place.  They will need to regroup soon as the MSL championship is on the horizon.

There wasn’t much doubt after the first mile about who was going to win the individual race.  Zack Smith charged up the sharp hill and past the checkpoint in 4:47.  He knew a talented field was close behind him but the decision to put in a surge at that moment would not deter him. Smith essentially left the chase pack led by Dan Lathrop (Sr., Plainfield South) followed by  Kevin Huang, Simon Thorpe (Sr., Dixon), Ryan Clevenger, Joseph Suarez (Jr., Plainfield East) and a surprising Peter Johnsrud (Jr., Oswego) to fend for themselves.

The second half of the course stayed away from the main cheering section in the hilly backwoods.  Smith put on a show for the sparse crowd of brave souls who ventured there to watch him.  His lead opened up to nearly 10-seconds heading past 4k and back into civilization. This is where Huang would make his move into second and overtake a slightly tiring Lathrop.  Clevenger had faded from second to fifth or sixth during the period.  Thorpe held strong as did Johnsrud.  The next group of strung out runners included Chris Kaminski, Suarez, Weiss, and Bushelle.

The finishing straight did not change much at all as Smith cruised home to victory in 15:42.  His time was slightly off from his 15:35 from a year ago.  But on a slightly soggy course and the race well in hand early, it was wise for him to save a Superman performance at a later date.

Race Video/Interviews by Tony Jones