Peoria Notre Dame Richard Spring Invite Preview: It's More Than A Name

Full entry list of teams

This is the reason that the commonly phased Peoria Notre Dame Invitational or PND will be officially referred as the Richard Spring Memorial Invitational on paper: “Richard Spring, a 1981 graduate of Bergan High School in Peoria, ran cross-country, the mile, and the two-mile. Participating on two state championship teams, Richard personally finished third in the single-class IHSA state tournament in his senior year. Richard died running at Augustana College in 1982.”
Richard passed away doing something that he truly loved. Those competing in this block-buster of the Peoria trilogy series races held on the famous Detweiller Park course must exhibit the same output as Richard Spring himself did.
The race time weather is expected to be fabulous with climes reaching up to 80F. It has been unseasonably cool over the past 10 days statewide but the general warm up four days before the weekend should acclimate the runners back to warm weather competition.
Race schedule-
9:00a Girls Frosh/Soph (10 entries)
9:40a Girls Varsity (10 entries)
10:20a Girls Open (unlimited entries) 
11:00a Boys Varsity (10 entries)
11:40a Boys Frosh/Soph (10 entries)
12:20p Boys Open (unlimited entries)
Girl’s scenario-
Glenbard West will be ready this Saturday (Tony Jones photo)
Let’s meet the key teams: 
3A- #1/US#8 Glen Ellyn Glenbard West, #4 Schaumburg, #5 Palatine, #12 Naperville Neuqua Valley, #13 St. Charles East, #14 Downers Grove North, #21 Fox Lake Grant, #22 Wilmette (Loyola Academy), #23 Orland Park Sandburg, St. Charles North, Oak Park-River Forest, Chicago Lane Tech, St. Charles North; Pleasant Valley, Iowa- #5 in largest classification
2A- #2 Mahomet-Seymour, #6 Chatham-Glenwood, #9 Normal (University High), #12 Springfield, New Lenox (Lincoln-Way West)
1A- #3 Petersburg (Porta), #7 St. Joseph-Ogden
Although the depth of quality teams (at least in numbers) won’t compare to last weekend’s First To The Finish Invitational, the key squad to watch will be top ranked Glenbard West. As of today the Hilltoppers is the state’s best team top to bottom. They have everything a great team needs: 1) elite front runner, 2) chemistry, 3) scoring pack; 4) depth beyond top 7; 5) great coaching. These are the things that should standout on Saturday. Another item to watch is how will Glenbard West attack the race and then go after the 17:24 scoring average that FTTF winner Hinsdale Central put up. Junior Lindsay Graham is the team leader and subject to pending individual entitlements. She will lead a strong supporting cast that includes Janie Nabholz (So.), Kathryn Kenwood (Jr.), and the rejuvenated Lisa Luczak (Sr.). The Hilltoppers put up a rock solid 1:11 scoring split with all 7 girls in the top 20 at last weekend’s Harvey Braus Lake Park Invite. All of this without freshman Lindsey Payne.
But remember that a good coach will always look for more: “As always we are looking for improvement from week to week.  Specifically, we would like to narrow our split of Nabholz, Kenwood, and Rogers from Graham to approximately 60 seconds and, preferably, have those three finish within 5-10 seconds of each other; we may not accomplish that this weekend, but we are certainly working towards that end and the girls have already made positive steps toward that goal the last two weeks.  The field of competition at Peoria is always strong so that fact, combined with being at Detweiller Park, will hopefully bring out the best in our performances.”  
Schaumburg will be fighting two races on one front. The first will be against longtime rival Palatine in the first of several meetings. The Mid-Suburban League has mandated dual meets they have to contest during the mid-week. It so happens that the Saxons will duel the Lady Pirates before traveling to Peoria. PND will be another opportunity for the Saxons to get a bit of revenge against Glenbard West who defeated them soundly at Harvey Braus. In that affair they were mauled despite producing a 33-second scoring split. The key the second time around is to get Erin Falsey (Sr.), Lauren Kubinski (Fr.), and Ellie O’Connell (So.) closer to GW and the key teams by the first mile. 
Palatine is Palatine. Coach Joe Parks’ squad is having another solid season to date with a third place finish at the Hinsdale Hornet/Red Devil Invitational on their resume. The keys to success for the Lady Pirates will begin with top runner junior Kelly O’Brien. O’Brien is a strong front runner and will need to pull her teammates with her. Junior Sabina Yosif had a rough time at  Hinsdale finishing 55th in 19:45. The Lady Pirates are defending meet champions and that will help them from a psychological standpoint.
The adjoining list of teams will reach near 60. With that quality it is imperative to keep a keen eye on such as teams like Neuqua Valley with junior Julia Pena. She led her team to a victory at the recent Joliet Invitational. Downers Grove has been performing well and will seek a bid into the top 5 teams with another good team pack performance.
There will be several classification battles sandwiched in between the main event. 2A #2 Mahomet-Seymour will look to stay ahead of central Illinois rivals #6 Chatham-Glenwood, #9 Normal (University High), and #12 Springfield. There have been some sentiments of possum playing among the contingent. Mahomet-Seymour will be out to prove that their #2 ranking is not a fluke.
Individually, this race has an opportunity to be as good as the FTTF 3A one. McKenzie Yanek (Jr., Pleasant Valley) is the defending champion and undefeated coming in. She busted the Illinois faithful for a 16:49 clocking. Things may be a little tighter now with a refreshed Graham locked and loading from Harvey Braus. The hometown favorite is Maryjeanne Gilbert. The Peoria Notre Dame junior has only one race of note on her resume and that was an easy 17:39 winner at Canton. Gilbert established herself as one of the best returners in all of Illinois and in the Midwest when she ran 10:34.37 on the track. Her finishing leg speed is adequate enough go for a kill late in the race. It just may come down to Yanek, Gilbert, and Graham in the end.
Boy’s scenario-
Can Matt Plowman and the York express get back on the winning trail? (Steven Koch photo)
Let’s meet the key teams:
3A- # 2 Orland Park Sandburg, #5 Wilmette (Loyola Academy), #7 Elmhurst York, #10 O’Fallon, #11 Naperville North, #16 Arlington Heights Hersey, #18 Palatine, #20 St. Charles East, #24 Barrington, #25 Park Ridge Maine South; Pleasant Valley, Iowa- #5 in largest classification
2A- #4 Mahomet-Seymour, #6 West Chicago (Wheaton Academy), #11 Springfield, #14 Darien (Hinsdale South), #17 Chatham-Glenwood, #18 Springfield (Sacred Heart Griffin)
1A- #2 Monticello, #9 Pleasant Plains
Many questions will be asked and many will be answered after Saturday-
The other half of the running ledger elite will meet in the battle of the unknowns. Sandburg, Loyola Academy, and especially York have yet to be tested and none of them have been exposed like other stout teams Hinsdale Central, Neuqua Valley, Lyons Twp., Yorkville, Illiana Christiana, and Downers Grove North. After this weekend, the puzzle will be complete and we all we have an idea of how good everyone really is (until the next big invite).
Sandburg comes in as one of the deepest teams in the state with virtually all of their 2013 state finalists and reserves back for another run at a top finish in November. But first thing is first: 1) test the limits of the competition on the hallowed Detweiller Park grounds; 2) Test themselves mentally and physically in what is a virtual meet vs. Hinsdale Central and Neuqua Valley; 3) get on the bus and out of Peoria healthy and happy. All of these items can be achieved if Sean Torpy (Jr.) can continue to emerge as a front runner for his team. The supporting cast includes Chris Torpy (Jr.), Tom Brennan (Jr.), and Max Lehnhardt (Sr.). In their season opener the Eagles rocked Lyons Twp. at their invite. But that meet might as well been a dual meet with 13 of the 20 finishers coming from those two schools. Coach John O’Malley says his team plans on “tearing up” the course on Saturday. That also could mean the competition as well.
Loyola will begin their invitational season on Saturday. The Ramblers spent the last two years retooling their team and they now look ready to challenge all takers. Christian Swenson (Sr.) will lead a veteran team that finished 12th in the state last time they ran in Peoria. And just like Sandburg the verdict will be read around noon on Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest question out of any team listed in the field and in general is York. The Dukes will make their invitational debut after enduring a long offseason. There will be a lot of questions asked and answered about the Dukes. Assistant Coach Jim Hedman stated during his pre-season quest that: “we are a little short on talent so you see guys moving up as the season goes with this work in progress.” He indicated that his team can be as good as it wants to be. Not trying to sound like a pre-season preview [again] but there are a lot of unanswered queries on the Yorksters. York is the defending champions and senior Matt Plowman ran 14:47. All arrows were pointing up. The season did not end as well as the PND indicated it would. This is a new season and a new start with Richard Spring once again providing the ledger to ask and answer questions.
Naperville North did not run at FTTF last weekend despite the meet being on the team calendar. Coach Dave Racey indicated that it was an error and that FTTF is his team’s usual bye weekend. The Huskies will be fully charged on Saturday.
Mahomet-Seymour like their girls team will be running a battle from within the large scope. The Bulldogs will test their mettle against some outstanding team 2A teams: #6 West Chicago (Wheaton Academy), #11 Springfield, #14 Darien (Hinsdale South), #17 Chatham-Glenwood, and #18 Springfield (Sacred Heart Griffin). Alex Keeble (Jr.) will get an opportunity to not only lead his team but run in the biggest meet since the state championship. He was not able to compete last year because of an extremely high fever the morning of the meet. Keeble and Mahomet-Seymour will be ready on Saturday.
Individual look-
Hoffman Estates senior star Zach Dale has been itching and anxiously waiting for his turn to compete on the state’s grand stage. He will now get that opportunity. Dale opened his season earlier in the week by breaking the Busse Woods course record with a 14:48 solo clocking. What’s in the cards for Mr. Dale on Saturday? He isn’t sure but the guess inside his soul would be to at least match what friendly foe Jesse Reiser (Sr., McHenry) did last weekend end at FTTF. Reiser raced to a state best 14:20. On paper Dale is virtually equal to Reiser and he will be out to prove that on Saturday. “To be honest, I was pretty bummed I couldn't race Jesse and Ryan last week at FTTF,” said Reiser earlier this week. “And seeing all these new results I was starting to get anxious to throw a fast time down.” 
There will be others on display. David Rodriguez (Sr., Hersey), Joseph Suarez (Sr., Plainfield East) has been injured prior to the season and may be still on the mend. Dorrian Gordon (Sr., O’Fallon) assumes the top spot for the Panthers and will make his case for elite status after winning at the Forrest Park Invite in Missouri last weekend. Class A champion Jon Davis (Jr., Oakwood) should not be discounted just because of his classification. He has a 14:46 personal best on this course. If he is near that shape his chances of contending inside the top five is a reality. Graham Brown (Sr., Palatine) won his season opener at Hinsdale Invite signaling that he is back among the state's elite. Sophomore sensation Matt Pereira of Lake Zurich will get to test his mettle against a great cast. He recently pumped out a sub 15:00 clocking at a low-key meet. Don’t forget Maine South senior Henry Mierzwa. He has really improved as a runner since the beginning of last school year.