The main event promises to put on another great show with so many great teams in the field. Oswego East enters as the favorite. The Wolves took second place weekend at the Hornet-Red Devil Invite. It was rumored that a few of the top 7 were fighting illnesses at the time. With that behind them look for leader Luke Wentz and his mates to be at their best in re-establishing themselves as a future state title contender. It's quite possible that several runners could push the low 15:00 barrier: Nick Henz, Maverick Lange, Nick Bozarth
Expect New Trier will be on the Wolves heels as they came very close to besting them this past weekend in HRD. Coach Dave Wisner has always prided his program with depth. Last year they had a total of 15 runners break the 16:00 barrier. Among the sea of depth is a possible top frontrunner in Charlie Siebert. should be a candidate to break the 15:00 barrier for the first time in his career if he can finish in the top 10 and the rest of his squad can get in front of the Wolves 4th runner then watch for the Trevians to come home with a HUGE win.
One of the state's top pre-seasons squads Lyons Township was without a key runner, Finn Gallagher, last weekend in a loss to Sandburg at home. The gap between the first and fifth runner appeared to be the issue then, and that may be solved come early Saturday afternoon.
The quality of depth that mentioned in the key team's ledger is evident. Maine South was three points in back of Lyons last weekend; Downers South there as well but a considerable distance away. Downers Grove North took second at the solid St. Charles East Leavy Invite.
The race to the finish is going to be exciting. Jared Kreis of Lincoln-Way Central is perhaps the big favorite here. After winning both of his races easily thus far, it's time to see a monster performance. We possibly could see a time in the 14:20 range. Tyler Cushing of Bolingbrook is a man who is on a mission after walking pneumonia hampered most of his track season. After a rocky start at the SWSC Pre-Season Meet, his third-place performance at the Hornet Red Devil showed he is back on the right track. Charlie Wetzel of Normal West and Guillermo Ibarra from Morton (Cicero) both had eyebrow-raising starts to their seasons. Ben Rosa of Lake Forest is another title contender in this meet.
Key Teams: #1 Kaneland, #3 Triad, #5 St. Ignatius, #6 Metamora, #7 Dixon, #10 Marmion Academy, #11 Sterling, #14 Sycamore, #17 Wheaton St. Francis, #18 Grayslake Central, #19 Morton, #20 Washington, #21 Lakes, #22 Geneseo, #23 Burlington Central, #24 Richland County Olney; Iowa: Burlington
This will be the first good look at our current #1 team... The Knights of Kaneland. They started their season with a hard fought battle at the Crystal Lake South Invite beating 3A#14 Glenbrook South in the process, but on a slower 5K course. Looking back from the previous year, it showed that senior Austin Adams has improved loads beating the Knights #1 runner last year and improving his time by almost 2 minutes. Him and teammate Daniel Occhipinti should be looking to lead the Knights with both possibly placing in the top 5 and breaking the 15:00 barrier. Following that duo should be a pack of Isaiah Dallal, Ethan Walker, Ethan Neal, and Ben Durbala who will be pushing to break the 16:00 barrier. The Knights seem to be the strongest they have been in a while, but will definitely be tested this weekend if the stars align correctly.
Could we finally see the meet that the Knights of Triad finally run to the potential that everyone knows that they have. Last year was injury riddled season last year for their star transfer junior Jefferson Bushur. He ran 15:38 as a freshman at Glen Carbon Father McGivney, but only was able to eclipse the 16:00 barrier one time during the 2018 season. A question that remains is will he even be running this week? Last week he did compete with his team at the Granite City Invite, but if he competes this weekend he may just be the one person that can stop the dominance of Kaneland this season. Him as the #1 runner and Drake Bleier and Ben Walter trying to break the 15:40 barrier it makes the Knights look very strong and a major threat.
If Triad is unable to bring the heat to Kaneland then expect other top ranked teams like St. Igantius, Metamora, and Dixon to do so.
The individual battle looks to be very interesting with all the top 2A talent in the state seemingly being here including the top returner from the state meet last year, Anthony Farmer of Burlington Central. Farmer has already had a great start to his campaign running a 15:35 at the EIU Showdown for the win. That time was 17 seconds faster than the time he ran the previous year. He also had an easy dub at the Harlem Invite only three days later in 15:48. He has yet to be challenged this year, but this will be his first look at what he will have to do if he wants to win the 2A State Title this November.
The duo of Adams and Occhipinti of Kaneland also throw their names into the pot of names after coming off great track seasons and a great start to their xc campaign. Adams is more of a surprise as ever since the state meet last year for xc. PRing by almost 30 seconds and getting a 3A all-state medal for the 800m in the spring, Adams is just oozing potential on the grass. Occhipinti was a lot like Adams last year as he really came out of nowhere, but at this meet. Taking 3rd in the race, this maybe a sentimental meet to the 1600m all-stater. He is just on the cusp of breaking the 15:00 barrier as he ran a 15:06 last year at the state meet to take 9th place. This will be an excellent weekend for the duo to break and if they work together throughout the race then both can see some big things happen.
The most interesting name in the field though may have to just be Charlie Smith from Antioch. The 4:15 1600m runner had an excellent track season that ended with a 2nd place finish in the 1600m at the 3A State Meet. He is the defending champion from last year when he ran a 15:19, but don't expect that time to win it this year. A sub 15:00 has to be in the cards if anyone wants to win and lucky for Smith, he is one of only two competitors in the field that have done so. If Smith is near anyone in the last 800m meters it could spell the end as he has the best footspeed out of the entire field.
Ranked Teams: #1 Stanford Olympia, #2 Elmwood, #3 Urbana University, #6 El Paso-Gridley, #7 Father McGivney, #9 Deer Creek-Mackinaw, #13 Athens, #16 St. Joseph-Ogden, #17 Clinton, #18 Eureka, #24 Pontiac, #25 Aurora Central CatholicBreakdown:
The team race promises to be a good one with 11 of our 25 ranked teams in the field. The team that really stands out above all in the field has to be the Spartans of Stanford Olympia. After making a statement over 1A powerhouse team, Elmwood, they are the new top dogs in 1A according to our milesplit 50 polls. They have a killer first three that has really paid off the first few weeks of the season with Charlie Kistner, Jon Neville, and Logan Wheeler. With all three men being within 7 seconds of each other, having that group be within the top 20 will be a big key to the Spartans victory and showing the entire 1A classification who the big dogs are now.
The Trojans of Elmwood got embarrassed last week by the Spartans losing 32-86 this past weekend at Normal Community Invite. With all their guys about 50 seconds off their PR's expect a new fire to be lit under one of the most historic teams in the 1A classification. The biggest key will be getting their star runners Luke Hoffmann, Thomas Harmon, and Alex Feller under 15:50 at least. All three men ran sub 16:00 last year and will need to do it again this weekend if they hope to regain their #1 position in 1A.
We can't forget about about Urbana U High who came off a hug performance at the Saber Corn Invite two weeks ago.
Individually should be a great contest against two kids that will be vying for the win in the month of November in Dawson Smith of Rock Falls and Noah McIntyre of Athens. Smith opened up his season with a win at his home course as part of the Rock Falls Rocket Run with a time of 15:35 which is 15 seconds slower than his performance the year previous. On a good note though he did run 15:52 at the Oregon Opener which he ran 16:27 at the same season that he went 15:10. This could spell great things for the Rockets next possible individual state champion. Could we see a 14:40 in the books for Smith this week?
McIntyre is another runner that will be looking to emerge from his former teammates shadows. His brother Wyatt McIntyre was able to take home a state title two years ago over arch rival Logan Hall in one of the best times that 1A has ever produced with a 14:25. Now it's younger brother Noah's turn to try and get his first state title. After his win at the top times meet, it seems as if Noah has grown leaps and bounds from last xc season. Finishing 2nd to Christopher Collet in the 1600m this past May, it's obvious that he is chomping at the bit to finally get the one thing that eluded him up to this point. He already opened his season up at the Canton Invite this past weekend taking 2nd to Wilson Georges with a 16:03, but the bright side is that he ran a 17:02 there last season.
It will be a tough battle between the two studs with a sub 15:00 effort looking almost like a lock to happen.