Naperville North clips York, Thode garners unlikely win

Naperville North by one as Illinois' best put on a great show at a snowy State Championship meet


Snow and sleet fell from the sky as runners took to the line at Peoria’s Detweiller Park on Saturday, but that wasn’t even the most unexpected occurrence of the 2008 IHSA State Cross Country meet.The US #4 favorite Elmhurst (York) was edged out by US #5 Naperville North by just one point in the Class 3A boys’ race.

Naperville North was led by top-10 finishes from Kyle Gibson and David McWilliams on its way to totaling 84 points and winning the state title. Gibson took home fourth place at 14:23, while McWilliams grabbed eighth with his time of 14:35.

“To win in a state meet this deep, where there are so many places to switch spots, our kids really needed to run great,”said Naperville North Coach David Racey. “Beating a team like York was tremendous, and with as good as Geneva ran, it really just shows how great Illinois cross country is.”

York was led by the usual duo of Steven Sulkin and Jordan Hebert, who took second and third on the day. The two Dukes were right on the heels of the eventual winner, Hoffman Estates Conant’s Jeff Thode, but couldn’t catch him in what turned out to be a very close 3A race.

Thode, who just a few weeks ago was hospitalized with a collapsed lung, clocked-in at 14:18, with Sulkin coming in just a second behind and Hebert finishing next at 14:21.

Geneva was the third-place team with 95 points, and Naperville Neuqua Valley took fourth at 146.

The girls’ 3A race didn’t turn out quite as surprising as the boys’, as heavy favorite Lindsay Flanagan cruised to a 13-second victory with a time of 16:54. Flanagan, a senior from Roselle Lake Park, recorded the fastest girls’ time of the day on the way to winning her first state title. “I’ve worked hard all season, and the whole goal was this meet,” Flanagan said. “So to come here and do it just feels amazing.”

Following behind Flanagan was Geneva’s Kelly Whitley and Sarah Heuer, whose second and third place finishes helped lead the US #5 Vikings to a first place team finish. Geneva totaled only 55 points and also received a 10th place finish from Heuer’s twin sister, Meghan, on the way to the victory.

Behind a sixth-place finish from Elaine Kuckertz, Hinsdale Central took second-place team honors with a score of 166. St. Charles East followed behind at 197 to take home third.


Running as an individual, Rock Island Alleman’s Tim Hird was the winner of the Class 2A boys’ race. Hird remained with the pack for most of the race, but created some separation at about the 2.5 mile mark. He finished with a six-second lead over Dixon’s Kasey Ferrigan, clocking a time of 14:56.

Ferrigan’s second place, which turned out to be a first place in the team scoring, with Hird competing as an individual, helped give Dixon the team championship, as they totaled 94 points on the day. Dixon battled for position throughout the entire race, trading places back and forth with Belvidere North, who would ultimately land four points behind, in second place.

Galesburg took home third place on the day, finishing with 138 points.

Like the boys’ race, the 2A girls’ competition was won by an individual competitor. Mt. Vernon’s Margo Richardson was the top-finisher in the race, coming in at 17:41 after holding off a late-surging Jessie Wynn of Peoria Notre Dame.

“I felt pretty good about how I ran,” Richardson said. “I haven’t been running in cold weather lately, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but I think it was all heart today. The course was muddy, it was cold, and I couldn’t breathe, so I think heart was what got me through it.”

Richardson wasn’t the only successful individual in the 2A race, however, as seven of the top-10 finishers in the race came to Peoria without the rest of their teams.

The team title was won by Springfield (Sacred Heart-Griffin), who was not even in the top-three through the first mile but wound up totaling just 87 points on the day.

Crystal Lake Central followed in second with 90 points, despite placing two runners in the top-10. Led by a second-place finish from Emma Preston, East Peoria took third with 99 points.


Number-six runner Doug Vrchota turned out to be the unlikely hero of the 1A boys’ race after his Elmwood Trojans came out on the high end of an emotional rollercoaster to win the state championship.

Elmwood was on top when the unofficial scores were given, and it didn’t look like Vrchota’s score would even be counted. But after Elmwood’s number-five runner was disqualified because of a “flagrant elbow,” it came down to Vrchota to determine whether or not the Trojans would indeed win the title.

Luckily for Elmwood, he finished 64th on the day, which was good enough to give the Trojans a 14-point victory over Westmont. “Talk about a team,” Elmwood coach Gregg Myers said. “Here’s a kid that sat out 4 1/2 weeks with a mid-season injury, and he came back and ran well enough today to get us first.”

Winnebago’s Sean Smith was the overall winner of the 1A race, beating defending champion Parker Thompson of Tremont, who took fourth. Smith was the favorite to many coming into the race and completed the course in 15:03 for the state title.

Blake Delong of Hillsboro took second at 15:14, with Alejandro Montoya of Elmwood following six seconds behind in third place.

Bloomington Central Catholic’s Kelly Curran ran away with the Class 1A girls’ race, finishing with a time of 17:27 and a 16-second lead over Rockford Lutheran’s Sarah Kortze. Kristen Garwood of Springfield Lutheran rounded out the top three with a time 17:51.

Winnebago won the team title after totaling 115 points. The Indians were led by Alex Palm’s fifth place finish as they held off Elmwood by four points. Behind Kortze’s second-place finish, Rockford Lutheran took home the third place trophy with a score of 133 and Curran’s first place led Bloomington Central Catholic to a fourth place finish.



Winners Table: Illinois State Cross Country Championships

Boys Class A: Elmwood (109); Sean Smith (Winnebago) 15:03
Boys Class AA: Dixon (94);  Tim Hird (Rock Island) 14:56
Boys Class AAA: Naperville North (84); Jeff Thode (Hoffman Estates-Conant) 14:18
Girls Class A: Winnebago (115); Kelly Curran (Central Catholic) 17:27
Girls Class AA: Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin (87); Margo Richardson (Mt. Vernon) 17:41
Girls Class AAA: Geneva (51);  Lindsay Flanagan (Lake Park) 16:54