3A Boys Cross Country Team Preview: #15-#1

The last several years at the top of the 3A food chain has seen Hinsdale Central (enjoying the spoils of victory above last year) eating mighty good. The Red Devils fought off their key would be hunter in Orland Park (Sandburg) in earning a second consecutive state championship. This season the challenge looks to be bigger than ever as Sandburg is much more hungrier. The Eagles are all in this time around and it will be interesting to see how "the short season" plays out not only for Hinsdale Central and Sandburg, but for all teams who think they have an opportunity to feast on the big prizes.

storylines by Ray Lewis (raymond.j.lewis@vanderbilt.edu) twitter: @raymilesplitil

15. Wilmette (Loyola Academy)

Coach: Jack Seeberg

Last Year’s Finish: 15th at 3A State

Impact Runners:

Paolo Tiongson (Jr.): (15:19,9:30,4:31)

Patrick Reilly-Hayward (Sr.): (15:34,4:34,2:00)

Matthew Kadus (Jr.): (15:37,9:56)

Andrew Niewiarowski (Jr.): (15:49,4:34,2:01)

Daniel Pasco (Sr.): (16:51,9:59)

Devin De Hueck (Jr.): (16:24)

Scott Berens (Sr.): (17:19)

William Shortal (Jr.): (17:34)

Ray's outlook: The 2014 CCL Champions (and the highest-rated private school in these rankings) lose 3 of their top 4 scorers from last year’s 15th place state team. However, young runners stepped up throughout the 2015 track season, particularly members of the class of 2017, and are now the prominent part of the Rambler’s varsity team. Returning first is Paolo Tiongson (87th) who qualified for the 3200m last year by just a few hundredths of a second. Matthew Kadus (158th), Andrew Niewiarowski (167th) and Daniel Pasco are all sub-10:00 3200m runners and will comprise the main Loyola pack throughout the year. After these runners, Loyola suffers from depth issues. These problems were magnified when returning state runner Patrick Reilly-Hayward suffered a stress fracture earlier in the summer. He will return during the year. In the meantime, however, Loyola will look to Devin De Hueck, Scott Berens and William Shortal to give Loyola the pack they need to compete in the Lake Park sectional.

Coach Dan Seeberg outlines the goals for the season: “Each season the implicit goals are to compete hard for the CCL title and then to grab a top-five at sectional and a date at Detweiler in November. We have had consistent success accomplishing both for a good stretch, and we are proud of that. However, we have spoken of neither of those goals to the team. Instead, we have asked each runner to focus on being a good teammate and on making today the only day of the season that matters. If each stays accountable to those two challenges, we will be a good team.”

14. Plainfield (South)

Coach: Jason Crowe

Last Year’s Finish: 7th at Marist Sectional

Impact Runners:

John Partee (Sr.): (15:21,4:21,1:53)

Andy Bhatia (Sr.): (15:49,10:02,2:12)

Austin Brown (Sr.): (15:46,4:35,2:06)

Jake Willison (So.): (16:11,9:59,4:33)

Colin Pickering (Sr.): (15:28,9:52,4:32)

Hunter Dyer (Sr.): (15:44,10:09,4:48)

Andrew Nunez (So.): (16:10,10:34,4:40,2:04)

Donovan Harkins (Jr.): (16:02,2:06)

Ray's outlook: The Cougars finished an impressive seventh in the Marist Sectional last year, but were still 67 points away from qualifying. That gap should decrease significantly for South this year, if not completely disappear, as they return a very good team with strong senior leadership at the top. It starts with John Partee, who has run 4:21 for the 1600 and is the #1 returner in the 800 in the state (1:53.23 last fall). He is followed by returners Andy Bhatia, Austin Brown, Colin Pickering and Hunter Dyer, all of whom have run under 10:10 for 3200 and bring valuable varsity experience to the team. In addition, the emergence of Jake Willison boosts the pack potential of Plainfield South; Willison ran 9:59 and 4:33 as a freshman in the 2015 campaign. The Cougar’s sectional will continue to be the most top heavy sectional and if all the favorites run as they are expected to run, there may be room for only one team from the pack to join the state meet conversation.

At this moment in the preseason, the Cougars are the fifth ranked team in that sectional and they will try to capitalize on their talent to make way to Peoria this fall. Coach Jason Crowe with his take on the team’s prospects thus far: “Summer Running has been going really well. The team has been showing up a putting in an excellent number of training miles together. We have 4 of our Top 7 back from last year with the addition of Jake Willison who had a very good track season for a freshmen. We have the goals of winning the Southwest Prairie Conference and qualifying for the State Meet as a team.”

13. Park Ridge (Maine South)

Coach: Greg Nordahl

Last Year’s Finish: 12th at 3A State

Impact Runners:

Brian Sodaro (Sr.): (15:12,4:26)

Reese Jordan (Jr.): (16:17,9:27,4:29)

Ralph Patejunas (Sr.): (15:23,9:53,4:35)

Brian Shanahan (Jr.): (16:37,9:56)

Zach Fishman (Jr.): (16:16,2:01)

Alex Ortwig (Jr.): (15:56,11:19)

Vince Leonard (Sr.): (16:55,10:50)

Anders Cox (Sr.): (16:56,10:56)

Ray Sutschek (Sr.): (16:43,4:58)

Ray's outlook: Maine South finished 2 points ahead of the 5th place tie at Niles West and managed to squeak into the state meet, avoiding the 6th place curse that has had the Hawks just on the outside looking in three times in the past five years. South has a strong top 3 runners returning who will do their best to lead the Hawks back to Peoria. Brian Sodaro (62nd and 4:26 in track) and Ralph Patejunas (96th) are both top 100 returners and will point the Hawks in the right direction from a senior leadership perspective. Former football player Reese Jordan (199th) burst onto the scene by running a 9:27 3200 at state as a sophomore and rounds out a strong top 3 for Maine South. Close behind them has been 9:56 runner Brian Shanahan and should be the fourth runner.

The key for Maine South will be their search for a fifth runner, and look to a group of runners that includes Zach Fishman, Alex Ortwig (177th, recovering from injury), Vince Leonard, Anders Cox and Ray Sutschek to provide the rest of the varsity team. Coach Greg Nordahl knows this is a team with strong state-level potential but they are not looking past the sectional meet: “Our biggest challenge is the Roselle/Lake Park sectional race. If we place top five here we are a top ten shoe-in. It seems impossible to look to the state meet with this Goliath separating us from that goal. If we get that 5th runner we will make it to state and do well there. Looking at our top four I see a team that has top 10 potential. But without that elusive fifth runner we may not achieve our goals. If we can get someone to step into that position (15:30ish) and we can stay relatively healthy we could be a very formidable squad.”

12. McHenry

Coach: Jim Wheeler

Last Year’s Finish: 11th at 3A State

Impact Runners:

Michael Hahndorf (Sr.): (14:53,9:18,4:22)

Daniel Tonyan (Sr.): (15:17,2:09)

Maki Mohr (So.): (15:32,1:56)

Tyler Lay (Sr.): (15:32,10:01,4:51)

Jacob Dewitt (Jr.): (15:37,10:30,4:43)

Cole Overbey (Jr.): (17:28,11:03,5:03)

Matthew Shefner (So.): (18:02,2:12)

Andrew Pilat (So.): (17:00)

Ray's outlook: McHenry proved last year they were more than a one man team with superstar state champion Jesse Reiser throughout the 2014 season, and came on particularly strong in the postseason, following a runner-up finish at the Schaumburg Sectional with an 11th place finish at State. Now, Reiser is gone and McHenry looks to a new frontrunner, Michael Hahndorf, to lead the Warriors back to Peoria. Hahndorf (75th) ran a 9:18 3200m at the Fox Valley Conference and a 4:22 1600m at Tim Holt Invite to highlight his track season. Following not far behind are Daniel Tonyan (74th) and super sophomore Maki Mohr (129th). Coach Jim Wheeler is impressed with the progression of Tyler Lay (127th), Jacob Dewitt (164th) and Andrew Pilat and will look to these runners to help round out the scoring for the Warriors, especially with the team struggling because of injuries following the track season. Despite this and other challenges, Wheeler looks ahead with strong expecations for his team: “We would like to finish near the top of our conference and certainly be ready to advance in the postseason, ultimately making it to the state meet again. I think we are capable of doing that but we will have to stay healthy since our numbers are not strong.” If the pack follows close behind Hahndorf then we will see McHenry qualify for state for the second consecutive year.

11. Oak Park (O.P.-River Forest)

Coach: Jose Sosa

Last Year’s Finish: 10th at Niles West Sectional

Impact Runners:

Irwin Loud (Jr.): (14:39,9:06,4:20,1:56)

Eric Mulshine (Jr.): (15:56,9:58,4:31)

Jack Monaghan (Sr.): (15:34,11:26,4:29,1:59)

Kimathi Johnson (Sr.): (15:55,11:56,1:59)

Henry Harper (Sr.): (16:17,9:57)

Chance Bayles (Jr.?): (17:10,10:56,2:10)

Martin Pimentel (Sr.): (16:02,10:11)

Matthew Politis (Jr.): (16:09,9:57,4:42)

Ray's outlook: A big reason why the Lake Park Sectional is going to be so tough this year is because Oak Park-River Forest got very good very quickly over the course of this past year. The performance of their star harrier, Irwin Loud, acts as a microcosm for the progression of the Huskies over the last couple of seasons. Loud emerged onto the scene as one of the top runners in a very good sophomore class last cross country season, finishing 11th in 14:39. His real breakthrough occurred during the latter stages of the track season, crowned by a courageous 9:06 2nd place finish in the 3200m championship race. Likewise, the Huskies used a handful of strong track performances to show that they are ready to compete for a state qualifying spot out of Lake Park this year. Eric Mulshine, Matthew Politis and Henry Harper all ran under ten minutes in the 3200m this past spring. Jack Monaghan and Kimathi Johnson primarily contributed to the 4x800m relay team, but showed ability to run well on the cross country course, and are returning scorers from last year’s sectional team. Jose Sosa’s squad has been praised by competing coaches for having a strong frosh-soph team, and now the team is packed with juniors and seniors ready to make an impact on the 3A State scene. This OPRF team has been a few years in the making and now we will see what they can produce in the near Western Suburbs.

10. Buffalo Grove (H.S.)

Coach: Zack Crandall

Last Year’s Finish: 6th at Schaumburg Sectional

Impact Runners:

Kevin Salvano (Sr.): (14:27,9:04,4:19)

Tom Cleary (Sr.): (15:05,9:40,4:32,2:05)

Mitchell Guittar (So.): (16:02,9:51,4:38)

Josh Hellyer (Jr.): (16:38,10:16,4:47)

Jack Lenard (Sr.): (15:43,10:17)

Arturo Bautista (Jr.): (16:17,4:35)

Evan Schmidt (Sr.): (15:48,9:53,4:46)

Billy O’Connor (So.): (10:17)

Ray's outlook: Last year, Buffalo Grove entered the season with high expectations coming from these previews and finished just outside state qualifying range, finishing 9 points behind Hoffman Estates for the final spot out at Schaumburg. Coach Zack Crandall and the team are determined to come back strong after a disappointing finish, and he has the strength up and down the roster to do it. The Bison attack clearly begins with Kevin Salvano, last year’s 4th place finisher and the top senior in 3A this year. Salvano’s line of 14:27, 9:04 and 4:19 is as good as anyone else in the state and he will be a rock leading this team. Tom Cleary is a very solid #2 and takes the second leadership role as a senior. Then comes a little bit of youth: 2014 Mid-Suburban League Frosh/Soph individual champion Mitchell Guittar will be an impact varsity runner and coach Crandall will also look to Josh Hellyer to compete for a top 3 spot on the team. Look for Jack Lenard, Arturo Bautista and Evan Schmidt to round out the top 7. “We want to compete for the MSL East Championship, which we won last year, and for the overall MSL Championship. We plan to win the regional again and compete for a place in the state meet. The guys worked very hard this summer. They put in the miles and did the work. They continued to get together as a team after our official summer camp ended to do workouts and long runs together. Our team is in an excellent position to be successful this season, now we just have to capitalize on our potential.”

9. Huntley

Coach: Matt Kaplan

Last Year’s Finish: 19th at 3A State

Impact Runners:

Keagan Smith (Sr.): (14:34,9:20,4:10,2:01)

Seth Conroy (Sr.): (14:54,9:24,4:20)

Mike Grocholski (Sr.): (15:14,9:45,4:28,2:01)

Matt Kapolnek (Jr.): (15:55,10:18)

Joey Ozzauto (So.): (16:07,10:35,4:51)

Zach Hollman (Sr.): (16:04,10:23,5:02,2:04)

Rafael Rivera (Jr.): (17:08,10:43)

Jadon Conroy (Fr.): INCOMING

Ray's outlook: In the fall of 2012, Huntley welcomed three strong freshmen from a deep IESA team and showed as much potential as any team in the state. Now, the class of 2016 are seniors and that potential has developed to become one of the most dangerous teams in the state, and it returns six of seven runners from last year’s top 20 State team. Huntley will be headed by Keagan Smith, a 1600 specialist (4:10) who has had enormous success on the Cross Country course as well (9th in 14:37 at state last year, third returning senior). Not far behind Smith are Seth Conroy (68th, 9:24 3200) and Mike Grocholski (69th). This core of seniors leading Huntley are as good of a 1-2-3 punch as many other teams in Illinois and will look to them for support for success throughout the course of the long season. However, if Huntley wants to make the necessary steps to compete for a trophy this year, there have to be major improvements from the rest of the squad. Matt Kapolnek (213th), Joey Ozzauto (191st) and Zach Hollman (207th) all return with very valuable state experience but need to translate that experience into result. Do not be surprised to see incoming freshman Jadon Conroy make an impact sometime later in the postseason.

Coach Matt Kaplan: “We are fortunate to have so many returning runners from last year's team. My goals for the season aren't very difficult from any other year. Our team looks to be competitive in the Fox Valley Conference. I'd like to see this team push to return to the state meet this season. With the experience gained from last season I'd like to see this group make an impact at the state meet this season. We have a great trio of seniors up front to lead the group to team success.” Huntley is the strongest returning team in a very tough Fox Valley Conference. This is a team that opposing coaches have eyed for quite some time now. Look out for this squad as they make their impact on the 2015 3A Cross Country season.

8. Winnetka (New Trier)

Coach: Dave Wisner

Last Year’s Finish: 9th at 3A State

Impact Runners:

Warren Blood (Jr.): (16:13,9:28,4:30,2:05)

Jack Litowitz (Sr.): (15:05,9:37,4:26,1:59)

Ted Oh (Sr.): (15:36,10:09,4:23,1:55)

Josh Derrick (Sr.): (15:53,10:20,4:47)

Tommy Eberle (Sr.): (17:53,10:22)

Jeremy Glickman (Sr.): (16:05,4:37,2:00)

Tristan Jacobs (Sr.): (16:30,2:04)

Zach Schreier (Sr.): (15:56,10:10,2:09)

Cooper Wolford (Jr.): (9:53)

Ray's outlook: For strong programs in Illinois, opposing coaches like to throw around the phrase ‘Reload rather than rebuild’. For the Trevians, who return just one of their seven athletes from last year’s 9th place team at state, this phrase could not be more fitting, as they manage to return enough talent to land in the top 10 once again this preseason. The reloading program is heavy with upperclassmen once again this year and is accentuated by a handful of athletes who qualified for the state track meet. Warren Blood (9:28,4:30), Ted Oh (4:23,1:55) and Jack Litowitz (9:37,4:26) are serious competitors who will also be worthy leaders on New Trier’s team. There are many athletes after these three who can step up and contribute as well. Josh Derrick and Zach Schreier have run strong cross country races already.

Coach Wisner looks to Tommy Eberle, Jeremy Glickman and Tristan Jacobs to help fill the varsity team out as well. The Trevians also add newcomer (former golfer) Cooper Wolford, who impressed with a 9:53 this past spring. Despite losing so much varsity experience last year, Coach Wisner is very optimistic about this year. Coach Wisner: “The New Trier Boys’ XC team had one of our best summers with regards to attendance, workouts, and overall team health. With only one athlete returning with state meet experience, it’s too early to determine where this team will ultimately finish at the state meet in November. There are many talented runners in our program, but it will take time for them to adjust to varsity competition and to master the art of pack running. As always, our goals are to win the CSL Conference meet, qualify for state, and be better than last year’s team.” New Trier is the top ranked CSL team entering this season and this consistent program will surely show up to race well at sectionals as they attempt to qualify for their seventh straight state championship race.