The 3A team race is jammed packed this year. There are upwards of eight teams that could make a push for a state trophy, but the observation is on four teams that come to mind.
The favorite entering into Saturday's conference has to be St. Charles East. The Saints have been atop the Milesplit IL polls since the early season and haven't looked back. They have a total of five runners who have dropped sub 15:00 marks leading with senior Bob Liking. After him comes the mob squad mates sophomore Micah Wilson, senior Aidan King; juniors Luke Schildmeyer and Zack Loomis end the hit parade.
It won't be entirely easy for the Saints for the simple fact that they have never won a state title. One team looking to pounce on its historical laurels is York. The Dukes had arguably their best performance of the season last weekend at the Lake Park Sectional. In that affair, they easily dismantled the Tigers 40-62. Along the way was a 19-second split which makes this team dangerous this weekend if they can duplicate the feat. The key is getting senior Daniel Klysh, junior Colin Hill, and senior Ethan Kern into all-state positions. The remaining corps include seniors Michael Moriarty and Will Yasdick will need to be way in front of the Saints #4 and #5.
Wheaton-Warrenville South will be ready on Saturday. They are defending state champions and will be so until they are knocked off. Lead runner senior William Hauenstein will provide a much-needed low stick position. After Hauenstein, it will all about the pack. Senior Ethan Seng and David Zeller have run well when it counted and there is a strong feeling they will show their true colors on Saturday- which is strong candidates for all-state honors. The 2-5 pack for the Tigers has seemed to stay very close together in recent weeks so if they get at least one of those kids in all-state positions then they set themselves up for great things.
Perhaps the most underrated team in the field is Sandburg. Most pundits did not give the Eagles much of a chance to challenge for a top-five spot during the pre-season, but after passing several big tests throughout the season, they have the necessary tools to fight for a trophy. Seniors Ben Giblin and Will Giblin are the best set of twins in the state and they mesh well like peanut butter and jelly- every time. The pack of junior Ismail Tineh, senior Sam Rodriguez, and junior Griffin Lehnhardt had been lights out for most of their season looking for all to be in the top 50 at the state meet, but that thought has changed in recent weeks as the Eagles 1-5 split has been increasing. At sectionals, the team split was a 1:06 which is just too much if the Eagles wish to come home with a state trophy. They will need a split of at most 35 seconds if they wish to bring home their first state trophy since the great 2015 Eagles team.
Watch for teams like Oswego East, New Trier, Maine South, Hinsdale Central, and Hersey to make a push for a top-five finish.
Josh Methner will be unstoppable unless someone out of nowhere appears-
The defense to repeating for senior Josh Methner had gotten easy. The Hersey star's chief competitor senior Brett Gardner of Lincoln-Way East went down with a stress reaction in his fibula. Not to worry though the state has a few competitors that will still make this meet one for the ages.
It is not hard to determine what style of racing Methner will unleash. He is whatever the pace is set. If the pack goes out in 5:00 or 4:40, he will be in the midst. The key is who is capable of going with him when breaks away in the "Bermuda Triangle." Senior Jared Kreis of Lincoln-Way Central might have something to say about that. He appeared to have his best outing of the season last weekend at the Normal Community Sectional. In that race, he pulled away from Gardner inside the final mile to run a sectional best 14:38.
There is a deep field as mentioned earlier with Liking, Hauenstein, senior Joey Kasch of Maine South, senior Ian Geisler of Huntley, and senior Charlie Wetzel of Normal Community West as they will look to challenge for a top-five finish.