The three amigos: watch for Matt Pereira, Zach Dale, and Jesse Reiser to cause an uprising on enemy turf this weekend
On-Site Coverage Team: Tony Jones, Jimmy Stevenson, Jeff Bryant, Colin Boyle
• Where to follow: Tony Jones twitter @ilptt; hashtag: #nxnmw; webcast: nikecrossnationals.com/Midwest
Location: Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course; Terre Haute, IN
Eligible States: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio
Championship race time: 1:30 pm (Eastern Time)
Awards: 2:15 pm
Key teams to watch for: IL- #2 3A- Hinsdale Central (The Dale), #1 3A-Orland Park Sandburg (Sandburg XC Club), #2 2A-Lansing (Illiana Christian), Arlington Heights Hersey (Hersey XC Club), Elmhurst York (KROY), Lyons Township, (LTXC) Maine South (Nordahl XC Team), Naperville North (North Naperville XC Club), Downers Grove North (Northern Grove Distance Project), O’Fallon (O’Fallon Running Club), New Trier (Sheridan Athletic Club), Wilmette Loyola Academy (Wilmette XC Club).
Out of state--- Festus, Missouri- state champs, Mason, Ohio- state champs, Cincinnati St. Xavier, OH (Team AMDG); Carmel, IN (Lemrac), West Lafayette, IN, Waterford Mott, MI
Key individuals to watch for: Jesse Reiser (Sr., McHenry), Zach Dale (Sr., Hoffman Estates Conant), Ryan Clevenger (Sr., Downers Grove North), Kevin Salvano (Jr., Buffalo Grove), Matt Pereira (So., Lake Zurich), Graham Brown (Sr., Palatine), Brady Bobbitt, ( Jack Carroll, Wes Schoenthal (Edwardsville), Brydon Groves-Scott (Edwardsville), David Rodriguez (Sr., Hersey)
Out of state: Ben Veatch (Jr., Carmel), Zach Snider (Sr., Indy Brebeuf), Waterford Mott, MI
The record breaking field of entrees (over 1700) is expected to be the deepest and best in meet history. It was just last weekend that Illinois produced an all-time great state meet and residuals of that affair trickle down in Terre Haute. With that being said there will be two automatic team and five individual coveted spots to Portland, Oregon to be obtained.
Team-wise Hinsdale Central will be one of the premier favorites to return back to Portland. Before the Red Devils prepare to have their tickets punched to Oregon, they will need to stifle some great competitors. One of those competitors is Sandburg. Sandburg is a team that was favored to win the 3A state title last weekend in Peoria, but instead the Eagles got a little overconfident leading up to the championship. When the race actually got underway, they found themselves in a surprising hole which then made it difficult for them to overcome. But their attention this week has been all business and the Eagles should be ready to show out. Both schools have tremendous front runners along with the ability to run in a tight pack. That will be the key to advancing. Hinsdale Central will probably lean on its strong pack running up top led by one of its leaders. Blake Evertsen (So.), Chris Brenk (Jr.), and Josh Feldman (Sr.) earned all-state honors and each broke 14:50. If those three followed by the fourth and fifth perform a duplicate performance similar to last weekend in Peoria, then a trip back to nationals is a shoe-in.
But keeping the spotlight on Sandburg is what the fans are going watch for.Keep in mind the Eagles had a great state meet on paper with all seven runners placing in the top 45 team spots. The scoring split was just a scant 11 seconds. If they can get a better race start and have their striking position to move before the 4k, they may be able to win the regional outright. Twin juniors Sean and Chris Torpy along with fellow junior Tom Brennan are going to be like a pack of killer bees that has been stirred up. They will be ready to adjust their approach to racing when called for; they will be ready to sting their competition.
Neuqua Valley is the third dangerous state team in the field. The Wildcats finished fourth at the Illinois state meet one point behind Lyons Twp. This squad has been to the NXN mountain top if you recall. Back in 2007, the living legend Chris Derrick led his team to the national championship. The Cats are strong enough to place in the top five and certainly among the top three teams. Connor Horn has had a great junior year leading his team along the way. The key to getting one of the bids will be staying ahead of the out of state teams and possibly knocking off one of the favored teams ahead of them. The Midwest region has a solid history of qualifying three teams to Portland. This may be the first year that one state gets three bids.
Lyons Township is a team that should not be slept on. The Lions have been underrated and underappreciated during much of the state side season. Despite graduating 9 of 12 varsity runners from a season ago, the Lions went out and quickly reloaded which in turn produced a tremendous season. They opened eyes in the Hoosier land in late September at the Culver Academies Invitational. Lyons beat then #2 West Lafayette scoring 93 points. A bevy of other Indiana schools were slayed in the contest. The race was won by a strategic plan of pack running up top led by Connor Madell (Jr.). The scoring split ran 32 seconds to get the job done. Mason, Ohio’s best team and largest classification state champion, was also a victim of Lyons Township.
Look for Indiana state champion West Lafayette or Carmel to continue the streak of getting one of its own to Portland.
Jesse Reiser is favored but don’t expect a fast race-
The individual race is going to be a good one no matter what the pre-game tactics are. No need to hype things up. None of the key challengers are going to play their trump cards. Not publicly anyway. Illinois 3A state champion Jesse Reiser is the favorite here. The US#8 Reiser has been battled tested this season several times but only in the tactical race department. He has no intentions of going after the meet record of 14:53 set by former Sandburg great Lukas Verzbicas. “The goal is to qualify because the main emphasis is on nationals,” he said. No one has yet dared to go out in a blistering pace in an attempt to defeat him. He ran the last mile at state in 4:27. There are several candidates who could challenge Reiser and possibly turn a strategic affair into a race of champions. Carmel junior Ben Veatch won the Indiana state meet in a fast 15:09 on the Laverne Gibson layout. He defeated senior Zack Snider of Indy Brebeuf in the process. Snider has the state’s fastest 5k of 14:58.
Zach Dale finished second to Reiser also indicated that he has no intentions of burning the course up unless he feels good or some wise guy threatens his top five positioning late in the contest.
Ryan Clevenger, Kevin Salvano, and Matt Pereira will have an excellent opportunity to place among the top five to top ten provided they are still in peak condition.
Cincinnati St. Xavier senior Michael Vitucci is the Ohio champion; he is undefeated and has a great resume. Vitucci is primarily a miler (4:07.96 for 1600m) and anchored the US#1 4x800m relay team to a national championship last season at New Balance Outdoor Nationals. His serious speed could turn a tactical race in his favor.
The best of the rest will include freshman York star Charlie Kern Jr., Sam Oh of Stevenson, Dustin Macuiba of Warren, Henry Mierzwa of Maine South, Jack Carroll of Loyola, John Klaiber of Naperville North.
Audrey Belf of Birmingham Seaholm, MI is set to put on a display rarely seen before by an outsider (D. Rauglis photo)
Race Time: 1pm (EST)
Key teams to watch for: IL- Naperville North (North Naperville), New Trier (Wilmette Running Club), Geneva (Geneva XC), Yorkville (the Ville), Neuqua Valley (Catpack), Palatine (Palatine XC), Hinsdale Central (Hinsdale XC), Naperville Central, Lockport
Individuals: Anna Sophia Keller (So., Effingham St. Anthony), Olivia Ryan (Sr., Fenwick), McKenzie Altmayer (Geneva), Mimi Smith (Sr., New Trier), Audrey Ernst (Fr., St. Charles North), Rachael Lau (Jr., Plainfield North), Arielle Summitt (Fr., Urbana U High), Mary Claire Leonard (Chicago Marist), Alexa Haff (Hinsdale Central), Brooke Wilson (Prospect)
Newly crowned state champion Naperville North will seek their second straight trip to Portland, Oregon when the bells and whistles start that includes fireworks go off at 1pm. The Huskies are now hitting their peak as a team. In last weekend’s championship, the top five girls went out aggressively (not a track of Naperville North) and up top to catch #1 Glenbard West off guard. Judy Pendergast, Elly DeTurris, and Claire Hamilton earned all-state honors. More importantly, it was the tremendous depth that turned back Palatine and Glenbard West. The Huskies women scored 73 points on the strength of a 26 second split. All five runners placed inside the top 25 team scorers.
Palatine also had a nice state meet. Junior Kelly O’Brien led her team with a second place finish at state. She will be a top candidate for all regional honors by placing in the top 14. Her team is on an all-time high with good health and tremendous awareness in racing. The Lady Pirates have been to Portand before and have what it takes to be among the top three squads. Their chances of advancing this year have enhanced with a stronger schedule and better output.
US#2 Carmel is considered the favorite to win and move on. The Lady Greyhounds recently won the Indiana State meet with ease over fellow nationally ranked Avon 55-124. Carmel used a swift 21-second split in getting the job done. The Greyhounds also won this meet easily last year. Avon will counter with prized sophomoreTaylor Nicholson who finished 2nd in the state.
Michigan will enter a team for the first time due to their state association easing up on its hardened rules. Birmingham Seaholm is the Wolverine State's top squad. Individually, watch for the super senior Audrey Belf to put on a show. Belf is one of the nation's top runners and she is undefeated and has a 16:54 best for 5k. The fans are going to be in for a treat for sure. She may just go for the course record.