The girls race drew over 500 entrants under the cover of night
Late July tends to spawn lazy days and nights... except when it comes to the Detweiller at Dark cross country experience. For over a dozen years (mixed in a stoppage of the event in 2020 due to Covid-19) it's been sort of a "mid-summer classic" in terms of cross country for youth, high schoolers, and everyone else. Meet directors Brad Henz and Adam White of Shazam Racing have gotten it right over and over.
Temperatures were kind to the opening events of the evening- the junior high girls and boys 2.1 mile races. It was a battle of graduated seventh-grade girls Brea Counihan of New Lenox and Juliana Gamboa of Riverside for the crown. Counihan raced out to a big lead by setting a fast pace, hitting the first mile in 5:44 and ten seconds ahead of the field. It appeared as though she was on her way to a smooth win after negotiating a strong back loop run. However, Gamboa put on a strong surge just past the halfway point and overtook Counihan just before the second mile. With just 200 meters remaining, it was all Gamboa with the finishing touches in 12:37. Counihan held on for second in 12:46.
The junior high boys followed a similar slate as the girls with a fast opening getaway mile by two runners Jack Jennings of Palatine and Alex Gordon who clocked 5:08 and 5:09 respectively. Jennings' patience would wear thin in the back loop and he separated from Gordon and at the second-mile checkpoint, he had a 10:38-10:57 advantage. The final verdict would be 11:12 for the soon-to-be eighth-grader.
The main event high school races were encapsulated by full darkness as the 9pm time struck. It was announced that over 500 runners were on the line and when the gun sounded, there was a sea of neon lights, cosmetic show smoke, and of course blaring dance music to entertain all who were present. The graduated eighth grader Natalie Bierbaum of Normal, Audra Soderlind (Oswego HS), and Anna Harden (Hersey HS) were more than 20 seconds ahead of the field at the first mile in 5:35-5:36.
The novice Bierbaum took a chance by trying to separate from the trio in the "Bermuda Triangle" which for a while was a successful move. At the second mile, she had opened up a six or seven-second lead on the field and appeared to be in cruise control rolling 11:33.
Harden broke away from Soderlind and with less than a half-mile remaining, it was even between her and Bierbaum. Harden's experience and keen knowledge of the famed Detweiller layout propelled her to roll home for a big victory in 17:18- just two seconds off of her best here. Keep in mind that it is only July. Bierbaum was able to hold on to second in 17:24. Soderlind was third in 17:46.
The final race of the night was the boys high school race. There were a few notables not on the starting line when the race took off. Perhaps it was the energy of the night that propelled the start to be of rocket proportions. Dylon Nalley of Marion led the field through the first mile in 4:40. Isaac Teel of Pinckneyville trailed in 4:43- 15 runners were under 5:00 heading into the back loop.
Nalley continued to press the pace in the "Bermuda Triangle" crossing the 1.5 mile mark in 7:16. Although Teel was slightly behind his body posture looked calm. He made a surge at 1.75 miles to close down the gap on Nalley and they were virtually even at the second mile in 9:46.
Teel took control of the race with just over 1200m remaining and continued to press the pace against Nalley and with a quarter-mile to go, it was over. Teel would bring himself home for the win in 14:45 and Nalley took second in 14:48. Trey Sato of Grayslake Central was third in 15:00.