Hinsdale Central junior Blake Evertsen pumps his fists as he nears the finish line as Hornet-Devil Invite champion (Colin Boyle photo)
9/5/2015 will go down as the first true weekend of competition in Illinois as the vast majority of Illinois teams and individuals shed some of their summer training in return for quality performances. Cross Country season is indeed in full effect.
Here is what went down:
The Varsity Boys set off the intense 35th Annual Hinsdale Hornet Devil Invite that was co-hosted by South and Central High Schools held at the famed Katherine Legge Memorial Park.
The supposed showdown was between #2 Naperville (Neuqua Valley) and #3 Hinsdale Central. But of course in cross country rude guests sometimes show up unannounced. The start was a fair one with the favorite teams quickly getting into position as the large throng of fans lined both sides of the course. At the first mile there was a huge pack of runners that came through in 5:10. The stagnant pace prompted New Trier Head Coach Dave Wisner to ask aloud: "Is the mile marker in right area?" Indeed it was because a year ago the pace was 10 seconds faster.
Hinsdale Central runners junior Blake Evertsen and senior Chris Brenk were upfront with Neuqua Valley's senior Connor Horn and senior Scott Anderson. Also in the mix were Soren Knudsen (So., Minooka), Martin Barr (Skokie Niles North) and a fleet of about 15 others.
Neuqua Valley appeared to have their entire top seven upfront plus a few more and Hinsdale Central wasn't slacking either, the Red Devils unveiled a nice sea of red jerseys into the fray.
It wasn't until the second mile that the team picture presented itself. Evertsen was leading with Brenk, Josh Derrick (Sr., New Trier), Roman Drabchuk (Sr., Hinsdale South) and a large pack streaming behind. The time on the clock was 10:20 and Neuqua Valley was looking incredibly strong with nine runners among the first 17 (unlimited entries allowed). If the Wildcats could maintain this pace, it would be curtains for the rest of the field.
The final 600m was where the racing began. Horn and Evertsen traded blows but it was Evertsen who would become victorious in this title bout as he used a final surge to finally pull away for his first major invite win in 15:00. Brenk surged up the incline past Horn and Anderson to make it a 1-2 knockout for the Red Devils. Drabchuk did not let his hard efforts go to waste in holding on to the fifth place spot ahead of Highland Park's Brett Davidson (Sr.).
The team title was academic with Neuqua Valley easily winning with 33 points to Hinsdale Central's 61. It was the front pack and tremendous depth that got the job done. The Wildcats put five runners in the top 10 and two more were in the top 15 to seal the deal. Head Coach Paul Vandersteen was very pleased with his team's efforts. "We ran our own race," as the key element in controlling what they do as opposed to anyone else. Next up for the Wildcats will be a looming battle vs. US#2/IL#1 Orland Park (Sandburg) in two weeks at the Richard Spring Invitational at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Coincidently, Sandburg escaped by a point over Lyons at the Lyons Invitational.
#8 New Trier finished third with 99 points and beat out a real good unranked Minooka team who tallied 157 points. Coach Wisner was satisfied with his team's performance but said "we were ok but we can do better." Wisner also mentioned that top runner junior Warren Blood did not run as well as he capable of with a 24th place finish. Senior Jack Litowitz and Derrick lead the way placing 11th and 12th individually. #19 Naperville Central got the fifth place spot ahead of 2A #5 Hinsdale South.