As the season gets underway, ILRunners.com will bring you a special feature each week on the top meet of the weekend. The Meet of the Week will highlight the top competition, providing a pre-race preview, as well as results and analysis. This week the Hinsdale Hornet-Red Devil Invitational is featured. We'll be on-site, bringing you photos, videos, results and analysis. Keep checking back Saturday as we highlight this week's Meet of the Week.
Hinsdale Hornet-Red Devil Invitational
Most of the top teams in Illinois start their invitational season this weekend, with the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational being the top meet in the state. The talent and depth on each side of competition should create quite the atmosphere Saturday. Leading the charge is U.S. #9 Neuqua Valley (IL), the defending NTN boys champions.
Neuqua Valley returns a great nucleus of talent, led by senior Danny Pawola and junior Aaron Beattie. Both Pawola and Beattie made huge strides last year, both showing they could be top three finishers in 2008. Both athletes will be in contention for the individual win on Saturday, as will Palatine junior Chano Bernardo. This trio should create quite the battle up top.
Meanwhile, Neuqua Valley's depth gives them the pre-race favorite label. With four athletes running 9:45 or faster in the 3200m, along with another handful capable of breaking 10 minutes, Neuqua Valley continues to show why they are one of the top teams in the land. Their chief competition should come from Palatine (IL). Palatine is currently ranked fifth in the Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll, and follows the lead of Bernardo, junior Alec Bollman and senior Adam Bethke. While this squad lost five of their seven athletes from last year's third place team, Palatine reloaded with some very strong junior/senior talent.
While Neuqua Valley will steal much of the spotlight, the girls varsity race should be even strong. Five of the top twelve ranked teams in the state are entered, with IL#2 Hinsdale Central leading the way. Last fall Hinsdale Central ran away with the team title at this meet, and while they return more talent than everyone else, they should be challenged a bit more than in 2007.
Providing the strongest challenge should be IL#4 Palatine and IL#5 Neuqua Valley. Each team has much returning experience, as well as some younger runners that didn't leave their mark in this race last year. The two other IL top twelve squads are IL#11 Stagg and IL#12 Wheaton Warrenville South.
Individually, Elaine Kuckertz (Sr., Hinsdale Central, IL) leads her squad and should vie for the individual title. With defending champion Annette Glaz (Stagg) graduating, this leaves the race wide open for a new champion. Kuckertz finished second in '07, leading back two other Hinsdale Central runners that finished in the top six. One other athlete to watch is Sarah McIntosh (So., Palatine, IL). Last year McIntosh finished 14th in the open race. Since then she's transformed herself into an all-state runner in track and one of the top cross country runners in the state.