2013 Class 3A Cross Country Season Awards

The official 2013 cross country season is now in the books now that 35th Footlocker Cross Country National Championship concluded things last weekend in San Diego.  Before we head off to the 2014 track and field season, we need take some time and reflect on some amazing accomplishments of this past harrier season.  It should be noted that thousands of boys and girls trained hard over the past summer to accomplish their goals and dreams.  To them we want to say nice job and congratulations.  However, there are a few special lads that stood out from the rest and we would like to offer them special recognition.

Among the awards for consideration are athlete of the year, most improved runner of the year, and the 5th man of the year.  

Boys’ co-athletes of the year: Patrick Perrier & Jesse Reiser

It is not often that you have two athletes so equal in talent, performance, and production. Patrick Perrier (Sr., O’Fallon) and Jesse Reiser (Jr., McHenry) both had wonderful seasons in which their camps can proudly boast.

Patrick's dream season comes with good and bad-
Before the Stanford bound perfectionist better known as Patrick Perrier heads off into the California sunset next fall, it is certain that he will take a pause and reflect on the wonderful season that he had. The dream season can be looked at in a number of ways- the major one being that he gave his all on the course throughout the season.

The 9:03/4:12 spring track stats set everything up nicely for Perrier this fall. The smooth striding 6'4" harrier handpicked his schedule in an attempt to reach maximum performance in late November and into December.  In Perrier's season opener at the Forest Park XC Festival, he won in meet record time (15:03 5k) against some of Missouri's best runners.  That performance was a nice set up for his stateside debut at the Richard Spring Invitational.  He cruised to victory over Plainfield South senior Dan Lathrop 14:24-14:35 on the fabled Detweiller Park three-mile course.  After taking a six week hiatus on serious competing Perrier set another record by smashing the Edwardsville Sectional course record in 15:11 (5k).  The set up for the state championship was intriguing because the goal was to simply win the individual crown but at the same time work to capture the team title. Perrier opened up a close race at the  halfway point to about 5+ seconds in the final mile. The end result was a victory over his friend Jesse Reiser 14:21-14:22.  It was undoubtedly a dream come through for Perrier and his O'Fallon family.

There were some disappointments in the dream season run.  Perrier injured his foot prior to the MW NXN race that ultimately forced him to drop out with one kilometer to go.  However, at the rebound race (FLMW) in Kenosha, WI, Patrick qualified easily for the Footlocker Nationals affording himself one final opportunity to reach his ultimate destination.  It looked like for a brief moment that Perrier was going to accomplish a special feat in San Diego when he assumed the lead just after the mile and held it through 2k.  It would be for not as he eventually faded to 37th. He did not offer any excuses afterwards. He indicated that his ankle didn't bother him. He simply did not follow his instinct that he used all year in destroying his foes.  He did not move out in the surge gear.  It may be the perfectionist gene that was the real demon. But remember the lasting words as winter approaches, "back to the  [drawing ] board for track."

Coach Jon Burnett’s comments:
Patrick had an interesting season. He had to juggle training with taking college visits. When you add in the high level of expectations, you get something that no athlete in our program has ever had to go through. In spite of all this, Patrick kept his wits about him and performed at a high level every time he took the course.

As a person, Patrick has been impressive. He is ranked near the top of his class. He was also named OTHS student of the month for December. He is a student of the sport of running. He is constantly studying times and thinking about racing and training strategies. Thank you for giving this honor to Patrick.

Patrick's season race profile:

14:21.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship   
14:45.43    2013-10-18    Southwestern Conference Championship   
14:24.00    2013-09-21    Richard Spring Invitational   

16:19.20    2013-12-14    Foot Locker Nationals   
15:15.00    2013-11-30    Foot Locker Midwest Regional   
15:11.92    2013-11-02    3A Sectional - Edwardsville   
15:03.00    2013-09-14    Forest Park XC Festival

Jesse earns equal footing with Perrier-

There isn't a nicer kid that Jesse Reiser- not even in defeat.  He always had the same stoic demeaner throughout the season.  When he won his first invitational of the season at Wauconda in early September, he praised his competition eventhough they were no where near him when he crossed in the finish chute. It the same at the Palatine Invitational when he lost a hardbreaker down the stretch. “I definitely felt pressure because York is one of the best teams in the nation,” he said after the loss.  “I knew they were going to be picking on me and I knew they were going to make their move and work together."

Reiser's resume was just as impressive as Perrier's coming into the season with 9:05/4:19 times and a 7th place finish in the state 3200m to boot.  But yet he was considered a heavy underdog with the rest of the lot.  After Palatine, things began to click.  Jesse took his best shot and ran one of the Peoria trifecta meets on the Detweiller course.  He won the Peoria Central Invite in 14:33- the second fastest time behind Perrier.  Reiser would go undefeated until the state championship.  Perrier the fan and media favorite went out and executed his race to the fullest.  As well, Reiser and pal Zack Smith of Downers Grove North actually conspired to overthrow Perrier in the "Bermuda Triangle" telling Smith that they had to move if they wanted to beat him. Once again in defeat he congratulated the champion with praise.

Reiser's season was not complete.  He would travel to Terre Haute, IN and compete in the NXNR and place second- earning himself a trip to Portland, OR for the NXN final. Reiser indicated that he only wanted to run the best to his ability in the Nike final.  He did a bit more than that when he earned All-American honors with a great 13th place finish against a marvelous field.  The last meet of the year would be the Footlocker Nationals and a chance to battle Perrier and a fleet of the nation's best runners.  The ending was not as fruitful as he expected but 33rd place isn't the worst thing in the world.  The bottomline is Reiser put himself on equal footing with Perrier and established himself as a marked man in track as well as next fall.

Coach Beth Czubik speaks:

Jesse has had a phenomenal season. His passion for the sport, dedication to training, and drive/desire to compete allowed him to build upon each success. It's very exciting as a coach to watch a young athlete aim high and do all the right things in order to achieve his goals. I'm extremely proud of all Jesse has accomplished throughout his career.

His personal character is one of great maturity, intelligence, and integrity. He displays much poise on and off the field, treats others with respect, demonstrates a positive attitude, and promotes service to others. He is highly committed to always doing what it takes, whether that's in athletics or life.

Jesse's season race profile:

14:22.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship   
15:03.24    2013-11-02    3A Sectional - Schaumburg   
14:55.00    2013-10-26    3A Regional - Palatine   
15:30.50    2013-10-19    Fox Valley Conference Championship   
14:34.00    2013-10-05    Peoria Invitational   
14:44.90    2013-09-28    Palatine Invitational   
14:46.72    2013-09-14    Wauconda Invitational   
15:33.90    2013-08-31    McHenry County Invitational

15:59.80    2013-12-14    Foot Locker Nationals   
15:20.00    2013-12-06    Nike Cross Nationals   
15:11.00    2013-11-30    Foot Locker Midwest Regional   
16:11.10    2013-11-17    Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional   
16:34.30    2013-09-07    Crystal Lake South Invitational
Most improved runner of the year: Nathan Mroz

The York senior actually started his climb as the state’s most improved runner of the year during the final stages of the 2013 track season when he ran 9:22 and 4:19 on the track with very limited training.  The stats of course were not up to his standards, but it validated that he came a long way from the hip stress fracture that derailed his entire 2012 cross country season.

Mroz entered this fall campaign on a mission in first race scoring a fifth place finish at the Richard Spring Invitational at Detweiller running a fine 14:42. York, being the top ranked team at the time was very deep. Being deep sometimes overshadows the best runner.  On any given day the Dukes had three other exceptional runners that Mroz had to share with: Alex Bashqawi (Sr.), Matt Plowman (Jr.), and Kyle Mattes (Sr.).  

Mroz really took off in the final portion of his cross country season when his mates unexpectedly fell back. He did his best to offset Bashqawi who got ill during the state final run.  Nathan won his first sectional title in impressive and comfortable fashion 14:51.

The state championship proved to be a pivotal race for Mroz’s season.  He ran a great race in which he weaved his way through a crowed mile and moving into the top 15 at two miles.  The last mile showed why he earned the most improved runner of the year by charging home to a fifth place finish in a personal best 14:33.  For most runners the accomplishment would be vindication and satisfaction.

Nathan was not quite done with the 2013 harrier season as he competed in the Nike Cross Midwest Regional with his teammates and kept the York tradition of having at least one runner qualifying for the national championship. Mroz was the fourth Midwest individual across the finish line and 35th overall in 15:36 for 5000m.  
We like to commend Nathan Mroz on his fine season…..

Coach Jim Hedman asserts:

Nathan is such a team guy.  Here is something that many people don't know about. We held him back early in the first mile so he could help keep his teammates in the race.  He actually didn't mind it because he doesn’t look at personal accolades.  I feel a little bad because who knows how well he could have done.  

Nathan has been wonderful to coach for the past four years, but I know that his future is bright. He has been accepted into West Point Academy.  He interviewed with  congresswomen Tammy Duckworth for a letter of recommendation.  Keep in mind that she only gets one per constituent per year.

Mroz has grown tremendously since his freshman year and he has something to prove for the track season… getting to NXN helped him in that he knows that he can run and succeed as an individual.

Nathan's season race profile:

14:33.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship   
14:51.05    2013-11-02    3A Sectional - Lake Park   
15:04.00    2013-10-26    3A Regional - Fenwick   
15:25.90    2013-10-19    West Suburban Silver Conference Meet   
14:45.50    2013-09-28    Palatine Invitational   
14:42.00    2013-09-21    Richard Spring Invitational

15:36.00    2013-12-06    Nike Cross Nationals   
16:21.00    2013-11-17    Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional

5th runner of the year-

Chris Brenk may be one of the future stars for the state champion Hinsdale Central. The sophomore had a solid season which included a frosh-sophomore victory at the Locktoberfest Invitational. Coach Jim Westphal deployed Brenk in the starting lineup for the majority of the season leading up to thestate championship.  Keep in mind that the Red Devils had a few hiccups with an injury and some illness to its roster.  Brenk provided depth in the 4th, 5th, and 6th man role when needed. In his biggest race of the season at the state championship, he ran extremely well finishing 43rd overall in a big personal best 15:13.  The future is indeed bright for Brenk and the Red Devils.

15:13.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship    
15:20.31    2013-10-26    3A Regional - Lyons    
15:32.88    2013-09-14    First to the Finish Invitational    
15:58.57    2013-09-07    Hornet/Red Devil Invitational

16:58.00    2013-10-05    Lockport Invitational

Girl’s athlete of the year: Mimi Smith

Mimi’s success may not be a surprise to most folks… it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Ms. Smith is the successful runner that she has become. However, many girls fall off when they grow into maturity or when their mentors move on.  

Smith has become the opposite in what has been the norm in girls running.  In fact, she has improved in production every year since entering high school: freshman- 10th, sophomore- 12th (16:56), and this year state champion.

There were no better mentors than former New Trier legendary teammates twins Courtney and Jessica Ackerman for the two seasons they were all together.  The Ackerman sisters took a lot of pressure off of Smith who entered the Lady Trevians family as the most decorated distance runner in middle-school. Their success allowed Smith to mode herself in a supporting role. It gave Smith a proper channel to mature on her own without undue pressure.  In her first race, she opened up the season with a second place finish at the Hinsdale-Hornet Invite.  If you recall, Mimi led for almost two miles before Alexa Haff took off in the final mile for a surprising win.  Smith recovered quickly and enjoyed a wonderful Illinois campaign in which she finished first or second in every race against stateside foes.

The state championship race was a little different in that she appeared to learn something being a stauch frontrunner.  There was no need to lead with Madeline Perez and Haff in the race.  Smith race a smart and calculated race for over two miles. She never lost sight of Perez and Haff duking it out up front.  As insiders often say 'if so and so falter she will be right there to pounce.' Smith took advantage of that scouting report when both aforementioned front runners dropped back. Mimi made her final move with a half-mile remaining and took the lead.  As she opened up daylight the crowd sensed victory and so did she.  It was curtains in 16:43- a new champion from New Trier. She accomplished something that her mentors could not do in four years as a tandem.  But in the end it was a victory for them all. 

Coach John Burnside’s comments:

From the onset of the season, New Trier knew we are going to depend on Mimi like we had never depended on one single runner before.  She is going to need to lead us in scoring as we'll as an inspirational leader during every practice.  She, however, started the season off with a second place finish at the Hinsdale Invite. This was a reminder for her, how talented the girls in the state of Illinois are. She became very cognizant of the fact that if she loses her focus, for even a moment in these races, she could get beat.  Mimi worked tirelessly throughout the season to fine tune her race strategy and improve her conditioning.  The Wheaton North Falcon Classic marked a turning point for her. It was her first major meet victory of the season.  It was also the first team victory for New Trier.  She never got discouraged when she got beaten in races later in the season but continued to look for ways to improve, always knowing that to win races, she was going to need to be near perfect.

Charles Smith’s comments (Mimi’s father):

If a large school could establish a cross country program and invite a student athlete in (irrespective of ability) and find a meaningful role for each individual…if that same program had a high level of excellence and put opportunity out there for the most talented and  driven…if a freshman came into a deep varsity program that offered mentoring, but also put pressure on her shoulders…if that athlete grew in the public face of the sport over a few years...if that athlete began to "own" her sport to the point of caring deeply what others thought about the sport and honored it by demanding her own focus and that of her teammates….if the coaches of that athlete consistently put her in a position to succeed and one of comfort…if the coaches committed as much as the athlete…if the state in which that athlete competed had some of the best meets and strongest competitors in the country…if the races in state and at nationals built up a steeled determination within that student athlete…if that athlete overcame the curse of most great athletes - being too hard on one's self at times…if that athlete feels butterflies, yet is smart enough to know how good those tingles can be…if that athlete commits to training, attitude and race plans….that athlete can sometimes become a kid like Mimi.

One week into "down-time" after NXN and she is visibly shaking and excited to start training for the track season…kind of cool to see from up close.

Thanks to all.

Mimi's season race profile:

16:43.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship   
16:54.95    2013-11-02    3A Sectional - Lake Park   
16:59.30    2013-10-26    3A Regional - Niles West   
17:17.01    2013-10-19    Central Suburban League Conference Championship   
17:18.50    2013-10-05    Wheaton North Classic   
17:22.40    2013-09-28    Roy Gummerson Invitational   
17:04.00    2013-09-21    Richard Spring Invitational   
17:34.10    2013-09-07    Hornet/Red Devil Invitational

18:12.90    2013-12-06    Nike Cross Nationals   
19:04.00    2013-11-17    Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional

Most improved runner of the year: Kelly O’Brien

In just one year of high school running, the sophomore O’Brien has went from the Lady Palatine Pirates frosh-team team to first team all-state placing sixth overall in Peoria.  The meteoric rise to stardom appeared to start around the MSL Championship when she placed third overall and became the team’s top runner.  She would never look back as she finished second and third in the  regional and sectional rounds.

O’Brien’s confidence continued for the then undefeated Lady Pirates entering the state meet.  In that race, O’Brien methodically moved up steadily from the 20s until she reached the top ten in the final mile.  She was able to close out the race and blaze past foes Lauren Opartney (Jr., McHenry) and Kaitlyn Ko (So., Buffalo Grove) who defeated her earlier in the season.  The future is indeed bright for O’Brien and it will be fun tracking her career for the next two years.

17:13.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship   
18:01.67    2013-11-02    3A Sectional - Schaumburg   
17:44.00    2013-10-26    3A Regional - Palatine   
17:27.92    2013-10-19    Mid-Suburban League Championship   
18:16.20    2013-09-28    Palatine Invitational   
18:05.00    2013-09-21    Richard Spring Invitational   
18:34.19    2013-09-07    Hornet/Red Devil Invitational

17:41.00    2013-10-12    Metamora Invitational

19:31.60    2013-11-17    Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional










Fifth runner of the year: Janie Nabholz

The freshman Nabholz was a constant scorer for the state champion Hilltoppers throughout the season and especially when star runner senior Madeline Perez was out of action for the majority of the season. Nabholz alternated between the fourth and fifth slots down the homestretch of the state title run.  Although the final tally was a convincing win over previous #1 Naperville North, Nabholz’s role and output should not be overlooked.  Keep in mind that the runner-up Huskies had a subpar performance in Peoria and if they would have ran their normal scoring split in the 30 second range, Nabholz’s position stands out more. Coach Paul Hass and the Hilltoppers nation have to be proud of Janie Nabholz and the contribution that she provided the program this season.  In addition, we at Milesplit Illinois say congratulations!

Janie's season race profile:

17:58.00    2013-11-09    IHSA Cross Country State Championship   
17:56.42    2013-11-02    3A Sectional - Lake Park   
17:46.98    2013-10-26    3A Regional - Fenwick   
18:46.20    2013-10-19    West Suburban Silver Conference Meet   
18:49.70    2013-10-05    Wheaton North Classic   
18:44.00    2013-09-21    Richard Spring Invitational   
18:25.20    2013-09-14    Harvey Braus Invitational   
18:54.62    2013-09-07    Hornet/Red Devil Invitational