NSC Conference Shows Promise For The Postseason

The runners were off and running in the far up north portion of the state

Lake Forest HS-

The 2019 North Suburban Conference meet was unique in that the first race, varsity boys, did not start until 2:00 pm because the host, Lake Forest, was administering standardized tests in the morning at the site of the meet. This gave the athletes the morning hours to relax before the meet and hone in on what they want to accomplish at one of their final races.

The runners enjoyed the Scouts notably flat, fast course and used it to their advantage. Both boys' and girls teams had to face a competitive field, but the conditions could not have been better. Aside from the 50 meters of quicksand-like mud in which the competitors had to run through twice at the 1.8 and 2.6-mile marks, the mild afternoon weather and amicable terrain aided the athletes to a fast finish.

3A power Lake Zurich stood out on the boys' side but will have to face Warren, Mundelein, and Stevenson who are ready to battle for the top spots. Being the only ranked team -- let alone #14 in the state -- the meet is Lake Zurich's to win. The battle for second will be more interesting as Warren, Mundelein, and Stevenson are all of a similar caliber. Individuals in this race include the talented senior corps Dillon Blake (Mundelein), Nate Schmitt (Lake Forest), and Anthony Rodriguez (Stevenson).

A lead pack of Blake, Schmitt, Corey Pacernick (Sr., Stevenson), Jack Gilboy (Jr., Lake Zurich), Will Gordon (Sr., Libertyville), Carter Schorr (Sr., Mundelein), and Rodriguez, among others, has emerged early in the race. The boys keep it competitive in the back fields of the course, and rounding onto the final 150m straightaway, Pacernick leads the charge, eyeballing the clock to ensure his first ever sub-15:00 finish, and crosses the line in 14:45, a 28 second PR over his previous 15:13. NSC's two other sub-15:00 finishers are Schmitt in 14:49 and Blake in 14:54. Gilboy's 15:04 sixth-place finish leads Lake Zurich to the NSC title in 53 points over Warren's 68 points. Lake Zurich's 15:27 average and 40 second 1-5 split bolstered their standing within the conference. 

1Lake Zurich High School536+7+11+14+15 (18+21)0:40 1-5 Split | 15:27 Avg
2Warren High School689+10+13+17+19 (22+23)0:49 1-5 Split | 15:42 Avg
3Stevenson High School851+4+20+28+32 (34+36)2:11 1-5 Split | 15:56 Avg
4Mundelein High School963+8+26+29+30 (31+41)1:54 1-5 Split | 16:05 Avg
5Lake Forest High School1182+16+27+35+38 (39+42)2:30 1-5 Split | 16:20 Avg
6Libertyville High School1385+12+37+40+44 (45+47)2:44 1-5 Split | 16:36 Avg
7Zion Benton High School17124+25+33+43+46 (48+49)1:32 1-5 Split | 17:10 Avg


On the girls' side, the team race will be neck and neck between Libertyville, Lake Zurich, and Warren. There is definitely a bit of a local rivalry between the three schools. All eyes were on the battle between Lake Zurich and Libertyville, but it seemed most people forgot about the Gurnee Warren girls winning Conference and Regionals last year. The Blue Devils have been keeping it lowkey this season, so it'll be interesting to see what the team can do when they have their mindset on the title. Libertyville, however, emerged undefeated in the dual series. The standout runners are Lake Zurich's Brooke Johnston and Libertyville's frontrunners Sheila Tucker and Bree Ponchak.

Through the first mile, Ponchak, Johnston, and Tucker hit 5:39. The trio gained a five-second lead over the rest of the girls. They cruise through the 1.5-mile mark in around 9:00, so they'll be pushing it for the next few minutes in an attempt to sneak in under 18:00. Through the finish, Johnston wins in 17:34 -- a two-second PR for the already lightning-fast freshman. Tucker follows in her first sub-18:00 finish of 17:50, a 22-second improvement from her PR which was also on Lake Forest's course. Ponchak follows behind in 18:07, a three-second PR from her Sectionals race last year. Of the top ten, only three girls didn't hit a lifetime PR. Warren led a surprise attack, successfully keeping their team's depth hidden from the public eye until this point. Placing their top five within the top 12 spots, averaging 18:54 with a 50 second 1-5 split, Warren puts on a performance like no other, winning 42-54 over Libertyville. However, when Libertyville's undefeated dual status is accounted for, Libertyville loses to Warren by an agonizing half a point. 

1Warren High School425+7+8+10+12 (29+32)0:50 1-5 Split | 18:54 Avg
2Libertyville High School542+3+11+18+20 (28+41)1:51 1-5 Split | 18:53 Avg
3Lake Zurich High School871+9+16+21+40 (44+45)3:08 1-5 Split | 19:20 Avg
4Zion Benton High School1056+15+17+33+34 (48+49)2:10 1-5 Split | 19:42 Avg
5Lake Forest High School1124+19+22+30+37 (38+43)2:28 1-5 Split | 19:45 Avg
6Stevenson High School11314+23+24+25+27 (31+42)0:56 1-5 Split | 19:55 Avg
7Mundelein High School14913+26+35+36+39 (46+47)1:25 1-5 Split | 20:16 Avg

Next Saturday at Regionals, a majority of teams will be returning to Lake Forest and will have the opportunity to recompete against a similar field. Libertyville and Warren girls will surely use it to have yet another nail-biting competition, and with Lake Zurich out of the picture next week, they will be the stars of the show. With Libertyville's half-point chip on their shoulder and Warren's fierce determination to be back-to-back champs, the competition may get ugly.

Overall, amazing job to all runners who competed at the NSC Conference Meet on all levels. The JV and Frosh/Soph battled out their final race of the season, and the varsity teams have given the running community a taste of what to expect in the coming weeks of the postseason.