Light showers are expected to greet cross country fans in the wee hours of Saturday morning on what is believed to be the first significant weekend of cross country action around the state.
Hinsdale Hornet-Red Devil, Lyons Twp, and Fenton Early Bird Invites are key highlight meets-
The 41st Annual Hornet-Red Devil Invitational is back after missing last year because of Covid-19. Head coaches from Hinsdale Central and South are delighted to be co-hosts and acknowledged a change in the course. The famed creek that crosses through Katherine Legge Memorial (KLM) has been taken out of the equation.
Start time: varsity boys- 9a, varsity girls- 9:30, soph boys- 10a, frosh girls- 10:30a, frosh boys (1.93 miles) 11a, open girls 11:25, open boys 11:50a
Key boys teams: #3 New Trier, #6 Hinsdale Central, #11 Wheaton-Warrenville South, #13 Minooka, #16 Neuqua Valley, #24 Palatine; 2A- #4 Deerfield, #8 Fenwick; 1A- #1 Chicago Latin
Key girls teams: #3 Prospect, #6 Minooka, #8 Oswego East, #11 Hinsdale Central, #14 Lockport, #21 Neuqua Valley, #23 Wheaton-Warrenville South, #24 New Trier; 2A- #3 Lake Forest, #20 Chicago Latin, #25 Hinsdale South
Outlook: the varsity boys will lead off and the defending champion Wheaton South is back and could defend their title. If so, the Tigers are going to have to do it with a new cast of characters. New Trier, a traditionally strong pack team, will possibly have front runners senior Nick Falk and junior George Cahill leading the charge upfront. But as always it depends on how teams scoring packs will do. The host Hinsdale Central has a strong runner in junior Danny Watcke as a true lowstick. A deep field that has a past winner in Neuqua Valley as well as depth from 2A and 1A ranks.
The girls side of the ledger should just as entertaining. 2019 defending champ Hinsdale Central is back and will feature emerging star Catie McCabe. But do the Devilettes have enough to challenge the deep and pack-conscious Prospect and Minooka squads? This will be the third-ranked Knights first invitational of the season so it will be interesting to see how they attack the race. Minooka is a lathered-up team that is entering their third invite of the season. Normally, Latin would be figured in the top five discussions but the Romans will be without its superstar senior Ava Parekh. Parekh is on a college visit. One other runner, the highly anticipated freshman Mia Kotler, will be competing in the undercard.
Lyons "Mike Kuharic" Invitational-
Just several miles southeast of KLM will be another well-rounded meet. The competition named in honor of the deceased and legendary Lyons Township boys coach Mike Kuharic is expected to pack some punch. 3A #1 Sandburg will look to defend its 2019 title (last year's event was canceled due to covid). Coach John O'Malley cautioned that his squad is a work in progress and may not be as deep in past years. If the Eagles slip up, look for the host #5 Lions to swoop in for the kill. Other teams to watch for are #23 Downers Grove South, 2A #3 Riverside-Brookfield, 2A #15 Benet Academy, and 2A #18 Chicago Marist. Individually, it could be premium runners Tim Neumann of DGS, Declan Tunney of Sandburg, and Charlie Mclawhorn of Lyons dueling for individual honors.
The girls will feature the debut of host #13 Lyons. This will be new coach Eric Simon's first time at the helm and it could be a successful one. The Lions will need to slide past #14 Lockport if they expect to be victorious.
Fenton "John Kurtz" Invitational-
Former great coach John Kurtz's meet will see the varsity girls going off at 9am near the campus of the school. #7 Downers Grove South and #19 Downers Grove North are expected to fight for the title. The Mustangs have two powerful runners in senior Sophia McNerney and freshman Holly Johnson. They could finish 1-2 in the contest if they are entered. #10 Oak Park-River Forest will be without their top two runners seniors Josephine Welin and Samantha Duwe. Anna Harden of Hersey is a top individual candidate.