Naperville N girls, Hinsdale Central boys answer at Twilight



The action definitely proceeded the hype Wednesday evening on the campus of Naperville North High School. It went from the open races to the frosh, later on down the line to the junior varsity, and finally rested with the varsity championships. The annual Naperville Twilight Invitational has become a staple within the landscape of Illinois prep cross country.

It started with open races and undercard-

This meet has always given runners an opportunity to showcase their abilities in a well-run meet. Brooke Horning (So., Aurora Metea Valley) took advantage of an early lead in the girls race and pulled away to win a personal best 21:00.

In his first race of the season, Bryce Chamberlain (Jr., Neuqua Valley) led from the jump which included the first mile in 5:35 and won and dropped a personal best of 17:30. He lowered his previous best by over 90 seconds. 

Cassie Fuhrman (So., Minooka) did not run personal best time but she did get the victory in the frosh race with a time of 18:50. But Furhman clocked a season-best effort on the strength of 6:00 and 12:38 leading mile check-ins. The Indians were also victorious by scoring 38 points.

The frosh boys race was a bit more competitive and closer than their counterparts. The opening mile featured a nice pack of yearlings in 5:15. By the second mile, the group of nine whittled down to three: Caleb Kies (So., Minooka), Josh Poeschel (So., Downers Grove South), and Alex Leonard (So., Chicago Jones)- all clocking 10:57. Kies and Poeschel would battle to the very end but Kies prevailed 16:10-16:12. Plainfield North took the team title with 63 points.

The junior varsity races were next up and the girls kicked things off just after the skies changed over to twilight status. Norah Hess (Sr., Naperville North) ran 20:00 last year and her season-best had been 19:19 prior to race. She hit the first mile in 6:00 with a teammate. The second mile would be all Hess who ran 12:30 and all alone. The final result was a big PB of 18:56 and which perhaps puts her on the team's postseason roster. The Huskies won the team title with 45 points.

The boy's portion got out at a solid pace as it was completely dark except for the portable lights illuminating the campus. The opening half-mile was in 2:20 and then slowed down to 5:11. It was Alex Papadopo (Sr., Chicago Jones) and Matt Gutierrez (Jr., Neuqua Valley) locking horns at the second mile in 10:44. Papadopo pulled away over the next half mile and won in 16:03 PB. Neuqua's Valley's 62 points were 30 longer than Hinsdale Central for the team title.

The varsity race affairs is what we all came here for-

In complete darkness, we saw a streak of nearly 150 girls dashed through the North HS athletic complex. The first half mile was a huge pile of tremendous runners. Ava Parekh (Sr., Chicago Latin), Mary Grace Hegberg (Sr., St. Viator), Evelyn Hett (Jr., Chicago Jones), Katrina Schlenker (Sr., Batavia), Caroline Schoen (Jr., Homewood-Flossmoor), and Elia Ton-That (Sr., Chicago Northside Prep) were some of the key names upfront in about 2:35. Of course, there were many more ladies streaming past the throngs of cheering fans.

The first mile saw Parekh, Hegberg, and Schoen pass in approximately 5:25-5:26. Ton-That, Hett, Schlenker, and Sophia McNerney (Sr., Downers Grove South) were about 3.5 seconds in back. Holly Johnson (Fr., Downers Grove South) was on an island another two seconds off the pace.

Parekh opened up a slight lead over the next half-mile and was 8:16 at 1.5 miles. Hegberg was starting to slow up but not enough to get caught by the pursuers. A two-second lead turned into nearly 15 at two miles as Parekh was off into the night at 11:00. 

Parekh acknowledged that she heard cheers from the raucous crowd as she entered the stadium one final time. She floated home in the third-fastest time in meet history (16:31) and was almost 30 seconds ahead of Hegberg in 16:59. Hett distanced herself from Schoen and nearly caught Hegberg as she settled for a huge PB 17:01.3. Schoen's 17:01.7 was also a lifetime best and adds more depth to an already deep 3A field as we enter the post-season. Schlenker ran faster this time than in last year's winning effort but had to settle for fifth in 17:08.

The host Huskies remained undefeated in this invite as they thwarted Minooka for the second time this season 99-116.

1Naperville North High School986+17+21+23+31 (35+42)1:09 1-5 Split | 18:22 Avg
2Minooka High School1169+12+15+22+58 (79+86)1:23 1-5 Split | 18:25 Avg
3Naperville Central High School1188+10+11+39+50 (54+60)1:27 1-5 Split | 18:21 Avg
4Lyons Township High School1543+32+34+36+49 (57+59)1:51 1-5 Split | 18:34 Avg
5Downers Grove North High School15918+26+30+41+44 (53+55)0:40 1-5 Split | 18:43 Avg


And finally... the boys varsity race got underway and the state's premier runner Drew Rogers (Sr., Herscher) did not waste his at-large status on hanging out in a crowd. He moved to the front right away as the first half mile was under 2:20. At the first mile in 4:51, Rogers followed by Tim Neumann (Sr., Downers Grove South) and Dan Watcke (Jr., Hinsdale Central). Lane Tech junior Hunter Whitney was about another second off the pace. Another group of nearly a dozen boys was on the case.

The next quarter mile Rogers, Neumann, and Watcke separated themselves from the rest of the group- 6:00 was the time at 2k. It was 7:19 at the halfway point for the trio and it appeared as though this would be the final order.

Rogers was 9:56 at two miles with Neumann several steps behind and Watcke another few seconds tardy. Following him was a group just under 10:05. 

The final order of events changed a bit over the final mile except for Rogers who won in a season best 14:48 and 10 secs better than Watcke's 14:58. Charlie Mclawhorn (Sr., Lyons Twp) was the third runner under 15:00 PB at 14:59. Zach Balzer (Sr., Minooka) was five seconds better than Oliver Burns (Jr. Plainfield North) running a time of 15:00.

The top three teams are from the Mighty West Suburban Conference (Silver) and it may be a preview for what is to come for the post season. Hinsdale Central has a great lowstick but so does Lyons. Downers North strength is their pack and they could be very important in a few weeks.

1Hinsdale Central High School991+9+20+31+38 (41+57)1:00 1-5 Split | 15:33 Avg
2Lyons Township High School1152+21+26+32+34 (45+68)0:56 1-5 Split | 15:39 Avg
3Downers Grove North High School1368+22+24+40+42 (58+99)0:46 1-5 Split | 15:44 Avg
4Waubonsie Valley High School14212+17+23+27+63 (80+84)0:51 1-5 Split | 15:46 Avg
5Neuqua Valley High School15111+25+33+36+46 (72+94)0:37 1-5 Split | 15:50 Avg