2A Boys Cross Country Team Preview: #25 to #21 Countdown

Cross Country season is now here! Over the next couple of days, we will be taking a look at the top 25 2A Boys in Illinois, as well as some of the other teams who might crack that top 25. These rankings take many things into account: first, the strength of returning runners and their times. The heaviest priority is placed on recent 3200 PRs and recent 3 Mile XC PRs at Detweiller or courses known to be longer than Detweiller. 1600, 800, and other 3 Mile times are also considered. The progression of runners over their high school careers, the depth of the team, and historical team success and repute are also factors for this rankings. Remember, rankings are just that: rankings! There are many races to be run this season and the rankings at the state meet are what count. Once again, many thanks to all of the coaches who have helped contribute to this preseason report!

-story by Ray Lewis, 2A editor (raymond.j.lewis@vanderbilt.edu) twitter: @raymilesplitil

21. Normal (Community West)

Coach: Steve Destri

Last Year’s Finish: 6th in East Peoria Sectional

Key returners:

Alex Hillegass (Sr.): (15:38)

Tyler Dunn (So.): (15:44)

Matt Degroot (Sr.): (15:44,9:58)

Nick O’Neil (Sr.): (16:14)

Colin McQueen (So.): (16:40,10:20)
Zaine Losk (So.): (17:01,4:56)

Benn Zinn (So.): (17:14)

Team outlook:

Community West returns all seven of their varsity runners (as well as their 8 th runner) from a team last year which missed qualifying for the state meet by just seven points. Alex Hillegass, Tyler Dunn and Matt Degroot form a front pack of 3 and will be trailed by Nick O’Neil, Colin McQueen, Zaine Losk, Benn Zinn and Glenn Kinley. This team has already logged some solid times from Detweiller at Dark and will be hoping to use its strength training from this summer to return to Peoria. Coach Destri on the goals for this year: “Our goals are to win Big 12 Conference, qualify for state and compete well at state.”

22. Salem

Coach: Geff Purcell

Last Year’s Finish: 7th at MacArthur Sectional

Key returners:

Hayden Wimberly (So.): (16:05)

Caden Owens (Jr.): (16:16)

Blake Quandt (Jr.): (16:17)

Dawson Webster (So.): (16:43)

Dawson Linder (So.): (17:23)

Isaac Morton (So.): (17:51)

Team outlook:

Salem returns an incredibly young team, with 6 of the 7 runners from last year’s varsity team which placed 11 points behind Sacred Heart-Griffin for a state berth. These returners are entirely sophomores and juniors, and have the potential to make some noise in the mid-south Illinois sectional. Hayden Wimberly is the top returning sectional finisher and will be good enough to run for an individual berth if need be. Caden Owens, Blake Quandt and Dawson Webter will try to run within 20 seconds of Wimberly. If Dawson Linder, Isaac Morton or another runner can help round out the top 5 then Salem will be looking at a state berth.

23. Champaign (Central)

Coach: Argie Johnson

Last Year’s Finish: 6th at MacArthur Sectional

Team outlook:

Ashton Hyatt (Sr.): (14:55,4:18)

Henry Sills (Sr.): (15:44,4:35)

Noah Brunson (So.): (17:07)

Zack Macadam (Sr.): (16:58)

John Miller (So.): New to XC

Team outlook:

Central, who missed the state meet by eight points in the MacArthur sectional last year, return this year with four of their runners from last year’s sectional team, and this team is accentuated by 12 th place state finisher and 4:18 miler Ashton Hyatt. Hyatt and Henry Sills are a strong 1-2 for Central, but a steep dropoff occurs in the pack after they will rely on the experience of Noah Brunson and Zack Macadam to close the gap. Expect newcomer John Miller to help round out the scoring. Coach Johnson: “I feel that our team will stay near the top of the conference, finish near or at the top of the regional, and finish top 5 at the sectional with our #1 runner moving closer to the top as an individual.” A sectional improvement for Central means a state qualification.

24. Springfield (Sacred-Heart Griffin)

Coach: Josh Bluhm

Last Year’s Finish: 19th at State

Key returners:

Nate Fierstos (Sr.): (15:28)

Devin McReynolds (Sr.): (17:07)

Dustin Moles (Sr.): (17:21)

Michael Bracco (So.): (18:12)

Billy Swift (So.): (18:18)

Connor Duke (Sr.): (18:21)

Andrei Tarter (Jr.): (18:21)

Team outlook:

Sacred-Heart Griffin returns 3 of the runners from last year’s 19 th place team. Nate Fierstos is the clear frontrunner on the team, and is coming off a track season with a 4:35 1600. They will have to look to Seniors Devin McReynolds and Dustin Moles, who have state meet experience, to lead a much younger pack back to the state meet through the Springfield section, which will have many teams returning several runners.

25. Wheaton (St. Francis)

Coach: Scott Nelson

Last Year’s Finish: 24th at State

Key returners:

Nick Brouch (Jr.): (15:55)
Alex Hernandez (So.): (16:24)

David Keifer (Jr.): (16:34)

Mike Herrmann (Jr.): (17:34)

Mark Berkowicz (Sr.): (18:17)

Jacob Kolker (Sr.): (18:29)

Team outlook:

St. Francis squeaked into the state meet last year, finishing just four points in front of Riverside (R.-Brookfield) and finished 24 th at Peoria. They lose two of their scorers from last year but Nick Brouch will provide a solid top option for St. Francis this year. Alex Hernandez, David Keifer and Mike Herrmann are all young runners who now have state meet experience and must step up as reliable scorers now. St. Francis will work towards returning to the state meet, now running in a slightly thinner sectional now that Illiana Christian is moved out of the division.