The Midwest boys as a whole showed and proved they were above hype and being overlooked (Bryan Deibel photo)
For weeks leading up to the NXN Regional talk was how great the Midwest Regional was in terms of depth and talent. Of course Downers Grove North IL and Carmel IN were shoe ins to advance to Portland for the national finals if they just ran their normal race pattern. The individual field was also stocked full of talent as it was later revealed with all five qualifiers nationally ranked. Even the 6th runner who did not make it Zach Kreft from Buckeye Valley, OH was also among the nation's elite harriers. But when the team at-large selections were announced: nada, nothing, empty. No teams were selected. Lyons Township, who finished third at the Midwest Regional, were incredibly gracious in getting snubbed. The fans took to social media to voice their displeasure, but somehow it seemed to bring the individuals and teams from the Midwest even more closer together.
Downers Grove North knew they had a prime opportunity at winning one of the three trophies the Nike Committee presents on stage at the conclusion of the race. The Trojans were sitting in 4th place- just 6 points in back of Great Oak, CA after the first mile. The senior dominant team once again was led by Jacob Ridderhoff in 4:55. His scoring teammates were close by sitting only 7 seconds in between.
The goal still in reach through two miles with Loudoun Valley, VA, Fayetteville-Manlius, NY, and DGN. However, they were not able to hold on to their position over the final mile. Great pack running is essential to cross country success, but it does help to have a strong low stick down the stretch. Ridderhoff could only produce a 24th spot in the tally. The team that snaked the Trojans was Mountain Vista, CO who put two scorers in the top 10 at #7 and #8. Shayan Zarrin and Carter Dillon maintained their strong starts throughout the race. Still, Downers North should be commended for their outstanding season which led them to a 4th place finish.
Carmel showed that their regional runner up spot was not a fluke. The Greyhounds added a 4th national finalist finish to their long list of state championships. They Hounds 10th among extremely tough competition, scoring 295 points. They finished right where they were predicted to, beating out 12 other top teams from around the nation. Next season the boys team loses more than half their varsity squad, so they will be looking to many of their juniors and sophomores to step up and replace them. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going and earn a qualifying spot again next year.