It was a great day for a cross country invitational on Labor Day weekend!
It was an almost surreal morning as the cross country fans approached the Katherine Legge Memorial (KLM) Park. It had been two years since the last cross country race was conducted there.
Because of the threat of high humidity and warmer climes, the varsity races precede the undercard. In this case, the boys kicked off the action. It was overcast but less humid and hot (71F) than it has been in recent days. The opening pace was modest as a cluster of runners nestled among the favorite Daniel Watcke of Hinsdale Central. Parker Nold and Alex Das of Oswego East followed by Mason Krieg of Palatine, and TJ Garland of Prospect hit the first mile around 5:02.
During the second mile, Krieg, Watcke, Nold, and Das were in tow at approximately 10:09. Michael Atkins of Wheaton-Warrenville South trailed a few seconds back on his small island. The team battled appeared to show a sea of red representing the host Red Devils.
The final half-mile of the race was a bit more fan-friendly and it was easy to see what was about to unfold. Without a premier runner like Nick Falk of New Trier in the field to push the pace, Watcke perched in the catbird seat and was ready to pounce. He pulled into the lead but did not sprint away. Das, Nold, and Krieg tried to surge but Watcke's superior leg speed would not allow them to overtake him. He would trot home for the easy money win in 15:00. Nold was second in 15:01, Das 15:03, Krieg 15:04, and Atkins closed out the top five with a 15:12 clocking.
The team title would go #6 Hinsdale Central who routed the field with 62 points. Despite the aforementioned #3 Trevians, without their ace, Falk, took second with 109 points. #13 Neuqua Valley was missing a top runner in Nick Rohlwing but still captured third place ahead of #24 Palatine 137 to 150. #11 Wheaton South closed out the top five with 157 points.
The varsity girls race featured some of the top teams in the state such as #3 Prospect, #6 Minooka, and #11 Hinsdale Central. They were the teams to watch according to the rankings pundits.
Chicago Latin senior Ava Parekh was spotted at the starting line which startled many in attendance (and competitors) because she was supposed to be on a college visit. "I was excited to race here one time," she said with a bright smile. Once the gun started the field off and running, Parekh bolted to the lead and created a huge separation within the first half-mile.
Parekh emerged from the south end of the course in 5:36 for the first mile. The ensuing pack of runners was more than ten seconds in the rear. Audrey Allman of Glenbard West led the group which featured several runners from Minooka.
It was a tale of two races as Parekh was more than 30 seconds ahead of the fray at two miles in 11:23. The pack of Allman, Hailey Erickson of Prospect, Catie McCabe of Hinsdale Central, and Liv Phillips of Naperville Central passed in 11:55. Minooka had three girls in the top 10 at this point as did Naperville Central. It would be interesting to see whose closers would emerge in the latter stages of this fierce team battle.
Parekh appeared to be on cruise control and strolled home in 17:08. Not bad for a last-minute season opener that produced the seventh-fastest time in meet history. Allman pulled away to take second in 17:40, 15 seconds better than McCabe's 17:55. Erickson copped fourth in 17:56. Beatrix Gilson of New Trier surged home to round out the top five with a time of 17:57.
Despite Minooka's top girl Jocelyn Host not finishing the race (DNF in final 400m), the Indians were deep enough to hold off Prospect 102-106. Unranked Naperville Central finished third and ahead of New Trier with 116 points. Another unranked team, Glenbard West, closed out the top five by tallying 126 points.
The undercard races produced several exciting individual performances. The highly anticipated freshman Mia Kotler of Chicago Latin reportedly has been keeping up her mentor Parekh on most runs. The coaching staff decided it was a goof Chicago Latin reportedly has been keeping up her mentor Parekh on most runs. The coaching staff decided it was a good idea to keep her down in this one. Kotler ran a style similar to Parekh's, out front and aggressive, and won the frosh-soph contest easily in 17:40. Keeping up with the dominating Latin dominance, freshman Benjamin Gibson took his turn down in the lower level frosh race and crushed the field. Gibson ran the first mile in 5:10 as he canvassed the 1.93 course in 9:59.