The scene above will be duplicated this Saturday at the ultra First To The Finish Invitational
Opening Remarks: We could not ask for a better day at beautiful Detweiller Park in Peoria. Sunny and 60 degrees with some showers the night before to soften the ground a bit is as ideal as it could get. That said, although 1A is obviously not the fastest division in Illinois, expect some already intense competition really get a boost in times from the weather.
As far as teams go, there are many ways this race can pan out, especially with four of the top five ranked teams showing up. We have #1 Decatur (St. Teresa), the obvious favorite *bites lip*...but that is not to say that all other teams should be counted out of this race. While I see a favorite, I have not seen that burst of Dominance yet which happened with the bulldogs about last year starting from the mid-season. Other teams expected to show up for a top 3 finish are #3 Freeburg, who look exceptional as a team who beat #4 Rochester who was the preseason second place choice. Being beat by teams that they were ranked to beat in the preseason (Freeburg and Petersburg), they Rockets appear to be starting the season off slow and getting slowly but surely gearing up for late races. Nevertheless, expect them to be in it. #5 Kewanee-Wethersfield has started out the season winning some quiet meets, but it will be an interesting change in scenery this week as these Flying Geese show up for some race action! #6 Urbana (University) is yet another team that could surprise many, with their 1-2 punch plus a nice pack to follow through. #9 Eureka was known last season for their pack, and one should expect them in the hunt for a trophy as well. Other dark horses include #10 Carterville, #15 Elmwood, #16 Herrin, #19 Macomb. Finally look for Canton to break into the rankings after this race.
For individuals, Freshman Arielle Summit of Urbana University really looks like the big deal finishing only 50 seconds behind super sophomore Anna Sophia Keller at last weekend’s Cowchip Classic... which believe it or not is pretty good and she stands clearly as the number one runner on her team over her teammate sophomore Annemarie Michael who appears to be her main competition this race. Also look out for junior Taylor Bartolozzi of Rochester who may have started the season off slow running with her teammates thus far, but has the potential talent to be right up there with the top individuals. Senior Bree Tschosik, junior Lauren Evelti, and junior Kelsey Cleary of St. Teresa all are looking to be strong individual factors this race and also should be watched. Junior Nicole Beebe is individually ranked in the preseason and will be coming down as well, which should also be interesting.
While this race is not as loaded team-wise as the girl’s race, the boy’s race will be a major indicator as to which mid-ranked teams stand out in the very densely competitive mass of 1A boys teams. The main question will be posed: Where in the early season does #1 Elmwood stand in this race? We already know the Trojans will be running this race “in sheep’s clothing,” as the saying goes from observant 1A fans. But even their “tempo” effort seems to outshine other teams, as we saw last week from the Canton Invite in both the varsity and fresh-soph race. The only thing that seems to be stopping them from winning this race is themselves, and how much effort they decide to actually put in this race... and #4 Rockford (Christian). Here is a team with a strong front runner (more on him in the individual paragraph) plus a strong pack of six who will all run together. Expect them to either win if Elmwood doesn’t try hard enough or at least finish in the second slot. Afterwards is participation from four really close teams in depth. We first have #8 Rochester who appeared to be starting this season strong in their last two races; expect low points from their top three. Next up is #9 Pleasant Plains who really look as strong (if not stronger) than they do last season, especially up in the very front.
The dense packs that #10 Freeburg and #11 Tremont will bring along are besides the question. The Midgets and/or the Turks could really be very surprising if junior Jonathan Kraus and/or senior Wilson Pfenderer dig deep in the low points with the team following. #12 Winnebago and #14 Mt. Zion appear to be still working on the overall fitness of their base five, with it still being very early in the season. But never count these two reputable programs out of the race. They have both the raw talent up front and the potential to get better in the back that a breakout race from both the Indians and the Braves is to be expected... better now than later. Finally we have #16 Eureka, #17 Beecher, #18 Olney, and #19 Carlinville who are all dark horses. Also be on the lookout for Johnsburg in this race to be a rank buster.
Just because Oakwood junior Jon Davis will be running at the PBL Invite does not mean that the individual race will not be representative of the state meet. Out of the top 10 preseason ranked individuals, we have seven showing up to this race. This includes Tuscola senior Erik Ponder and Kewanee-Weathersfield senior Michael Cook- both standout athletes who should be racing each other head to head. There is also Mt. Zion senior Curtis Reed who will be hunting for the vital low points his team needs. He has never failed at that for the last two years of being a front runner for the Braves, and neither has his teammate fellow senior Mohammad Hosseini, who should also be in the mix of top runners. Rockford Christian junior Nick Monkemeyer has finished in the top in this race before, and could very well do it again! He’s so far been opening up the season very strong going undefeated in his first two races.
Junior Tyler Johnson of Pleasant Plains may have not been an extremely notable factor last year, but he opened up the season like a champion in the making over at Rochester and there is no reason why he cannot do the same here. And speaking of Rochester, Michael Gleason will be a mighty challenger, too, who could make more noise than expected. While Elmwood senior Nate Herridge and junior Matt Osmulski might not go all-out, still expect them just outside the top ten finishers if not in the top ten themselves. Sophomore standout Tanner Chada has been opening up the season strong and will be ready to compete. The same is true with Carlinville junior Cory Landon who has really shown much potential over the years. Pfederer could emerge a top dog as a star runner on the team, not to mention Winnebago seniors Nathan Ambrose and Nathan Smith who look to be strong individuals this year as much as they were team pack running assets last year. This is a very deep list of top 1A individuals to say the least!