2022 Class 2A Boys Preseason Preview: #25 to 11


Teams at the bottom of rankings can at times be major wildcards with their "nothing to lose" attitude towards training. We have seen in the past, that teams ranked as low as 25th finish in the top 10 at the state championship.

Head Coach/Coaches: Travis Shepherd / Christine Zucker, Dan Jazo
Last Year Finish: 21st place- State Championship
Key Returners: Payton Whitehead (Jr.), Micah Lind (Sr.), Quin Maloney (Sr.), Jackson Summy (So.), Brady Mock (So.), Blake Salbilla (So.)
New Additions: Connor Vinson (Fr.)
Summary: "Last year was a really fun year. We had low expectations with a high level of motivation. The team did such a great job of balancing fun and working hard. The atmosphere was light but focused. During races, each guy gave his best and we continued to improve all year. The guys felt like underdogs (Dark Eagles) all season and were never satisfied. They ran their hearts out at Sectionals and we made it to the state meet by one point. I think they're motivated to prove it's not a fluke," says coach Shepard.

Coach Shepard's Eagles return a fair amount from last season's postseason team, "We lose two key members of our top seven (Gavin Murrie and Jordan Hornbuckle), as well as a host of senior leaders. Micah and Quin will set the tone with their leadership. We'll need them to show our extremely young group (6 fr/so) the ropes."

A batch of hungry Eagles will be on the hunt for sure this season. They are fun to watch according to Shepard, "Micah, Payton, Quin, Brady, and Liam all have state meet experience. Up front, Micah and Payton Whitehead will lead us. Payton had a breakout during the track season (1:54.95, 5th in 2A) and will take another step forward this fall. Payton and Micah should give us two strong low sticks in any race. After that, we have a lot of potential. Quin had a solid track season and is in the best shape he has ever been in. Brady and Liam ran well at state and will look to build on that success."

Brady, Jackson, Blake, Matthew, and Bobby are part of the future corps ready to contribute this season. "They'll be counted on to help form our pack behind Payton, Micah, and Quin," said Shepard. "Connor is someone we're excited to add to the mix. He had a successful middle school career and can give our lineup a spark. Overall, we're set up with another fun group who are excited to compete."

Head Coach: Steve Szabo / Bryson Taylor
Last Year's Finish: 11th place- Woodstock North Sectional
Key Returners: Brady Clegg (Sr.), Erick Herrera (Sr.), David Rzepa (Sr.), Brady Koetz (So.), Charles Blackmer (Jr.), Jeremy Gitzinger (So.), Stephen Posner (So.)
Summary: The Cougars return a fair amount from last year's team that missed out on competing at Detweiller last year. Coach Szabo seems to be high on his crew saying, "with returning runners Brady Clegg, Erick Herrera, David Dzepa, and Charlie Blackmer we have a solid core leading us. There are a number of other guys who are hungry and ready to step up into the top seven. The boys have big goals and have been putting in the work so far that will give them an opportunity to reach those goals."

This team is led by their top two runners from last season, Brady Clegg and Erick Herrera. Clegg more notably looked good this track season, running 10:03 in the 3200m. They return four athletes with PRs under 16:45. The real question mark will be who will be their 5th runner. Coach Szabo says Stephen Posnerhas put in the most mileage this summer. Can that translate into a good fall campaign?

23. Marion
Head Coach: Scott Gill
Last Year's Finish: 18th place- State Championship
State Key Returners: Dylon Nalley (Jr.), Benja Stone (Sr.), Mekye Lomax (Jr.), Sean Hudspath (Sr.), Hayden Lees (Jr.), Evan Dailey (So.), Jack Tate (So.)
Summary: This squad will be an interesting one to look out for. With their returning top four all under the 16:50 PRs. After a great track season in the 800m, the Wildcats will have to see if that will translate to three miles. Led by frontrunner Dylon Nalley, this squad will have the low stick that they need with him going after an individual state title. The key will be finding a 5th runner for this squad.

Head Coach/Coaches: Todd Ehlert / Don Fredericks, Tessie Fredericks
Last year's finish: 26th place- State Championship
Key returners: Gavin Allison (Sr.), Tyler Gehl (Sr.), Dylan Gehl (So.), Cooper Schaad (Jr.), Sam Mosbarger (Jr.), Christian Haney (So.), Rylan Lambert (So.)
New additions: Grady Hull (Fr.), Jaxson Sottos (Fr.), Aiden Bries (Fr.), Kaden Elmer (Fr.)
Summary: After finishing the season off at the state meet last season, the Maple Leafs will be looking to finish higher this season. Led by the duo of Gavin Allison and Dylan Gehl. Both should break the 16:00 barrier this season. Rounding out the scoring will be Tyler Gehl, Cooper Schaad, and Sam Mosberger. The key for this unit will be getting that 1-5 split as close as possible.

Head Coach: Joe Shannon / Megan McKee
Last Year's Finish: 23rd place- State Championship
Key Returners: Dallas Mancinas (Jr.), Avery Brock (So.), Ethan Smith (Sr.), Cole Basden (Sr.), Mason Steinbeck (Sr.), Isaac Irving (Sr.), Christian Knobloch (So.)
Key additions: Adin Roach (Fr.)
Summary: The Bulldogs come into this season after getting some experience at the state meet last season. They return their top six runners from last season and have some high goals. The squad will be led by Dallas Mancinas, who Coach Shannon is high on, "Dallas Mancinas noticeably since being at Highland High School has shown flashes of spectacular talent. This past year, Dallas took hold as the team's #1 runner and had a breakout season ( 2nd at Conference, 4th at Regionals, 10th at Sectionals)."

Shannon adds: "going into winter training for [the track & field season], Dallas had several minor injuries that took away from a winter with a solid base training and shifted the focus towards developing his middle distance speed to reduce the risk of injury." Mancinas has an opportunity to drop his PB from 15:53 into the 15:20s and position himself as an all-state candidate. 

The remainderhas had a lot of experience on the varsity level as well, "The core group that has built this team up the past three years will be going into their senior year. That senior group includes: Ethan Smith, Mason Steinbeck, Cole Basden, Braden Wakeley, and Isaac Irving. Avery Brock will be coming into his sophomore year after a very impressive Freshman year in both XC and Track. Assuming Dallas holds as the team's #1 , 2-5 of any order will consist of Ethan, Mason, Cole and Avery. I believe the success of our team will be determined on how much that 2-5 pack improves throughout the season. Ethan Smith's PR last year was 16:30 and the goal should be for as many in that pack to be sub 16 by the end of the season."

Head Coach: Scott Friedlander / Bill Anderson, Tracey Friedlander
Last Year's Finish: State Runner-Up
Key Returners: Dylan Cohen (Jr.), Jon Wool (Jr.), Dane Brown (Jr.), Eric Hogenkamp (Jr.), Edwin Shi (Jr.), Jeremy Lamm (Sr.)
Key additions: Jamison Chandler (Fr.)
Summary: Last season was a magical year for this group winning a state trophy, Coach Friedlander tells us what he thinks about his returners, "This will be such an interesting season coming off the incredible high of having our best season in 44 years last year. We graduated our entire top seven from our runner-up team. The feeling now is that external expectations will be low and that we're the only ones who know that we're still going to be good. We may not have any returning top seven runners, but that's because our top seven was just too hard to break into last year, not because we don't have good returning runners."

The top seven will be junior heavy due to a small senior class. Dylan Cohen and Dane Brown will most likely be the squad's front runners. Add in Jon Wool if he is back on the prowl after being slowed by injuries during the track season.

Head Coach: Chad Aubin
Last Year's Finish: 25th @ IHSA 2A State
Key Returners: Sky Riddle (Sr.), Harrison Taylor (Sr.), Aiden Swanlund (So.), Nathan Burrell (Sr.), Jason McConkey (Sr.), Ezekiel Rice (So.), Isaiah Herbst (Jr.), Ethan Snyder (Jr.) Summary: The Wildcats return after a solid year in 2021, but will look for a higher finish at the state meet this year. This group will be led by Sky Riddle and Harrison Taylor, their top two runners from last season. Riddle had a big summer it seems, as he already ran a new PR of 15:50 at Detweiller at Dark. The duo of Ethan Snyder and Aiden Swanlund should provide some good help for the squad's top two. They may be even able to pack up with Taylor by the end of the season.

18. Dunlap
Head Coach/Coaches: Chris Friedman / Steve Carter, Scott McGuire, Muriel Unseth
Last Year's Finish: 20th place- State Championship
Key Returners: Jacob Gladstone (So.), Aiden Mohr (Sr.), Braden Cox (Sr.), Luke Williams (Jr.), Suneet Shivraj (Sr.), Jacob VandeWiele (Jr.)
Key Additions: Reece Dusek (Sr.)
Unexpected Losses: Henry Welsh (Sr.), Josh Mu (So.)
Summary: The Eagles have had some bad luck over the past few years in terms of transfers and kids leaving the team. That seems to be the same case this year with their number one runner from last year, Henry Welsh, not coming out for the team.

While they do lose runners, they get a massive transfer from Limestone, Reece Dusek. Dusek provides experience to their lineup and should help this squad achieve their goals according to Coach Friedman, "we always begin each season with three goals in mind: improve throughout the season, win the conference meet, compete at the state meet." This team looks like they could achieve all three goals and even more. Reece gives us a legitimate front runner."

Gladstone, Mohr, and Cox should be a very tight pack with them all having PRs within four seconds of each other. The biggest thing that the Eagles will need to focus on is a fifth runner, "Ultimately our success will come down to finding a consistent number five who can come close to that pack (I know, every coach says the same thing)."

"Competition within the team will both determine that spot and keep them honest. Within our conference, Morton will be tough and is likely the favorite going in. Metamora, Pekin, and Washington will also be competitive, so we will need to be ready come October to win the conference meet. Once the state series begins, we could be a sneaky tough team." says Friedman.

Head Coach/Coaches: William Eschman / Brian Seaver
Last Year's Finish: 17th place- State Championship
Key Returners: Karson Hollander (Sr.), Aiden Shulfer (Jr.), Jackson Hopkins (So.), Nathaniel Peyer (Jr.), Brady Sterzik (Jr.), Mason Alvarez (So.)
New Additions: Noah Hollander (Fr.)
Summary: Summer running has been great according to Coach Eschman: "I am excited to see how everyone improves compared to last year. Last year we didn't have a great summer of running with the track season going until the middle of June and we were a young team." This year our top guys have been dedicated to getting the necessary miles to be good."

This group will be led by returning all-stater Karson Hollander, who had a great track season, running 9:47 for 3200m. Expect for him to break 15:20 this season and battle for a top 10 position in the classification. Aiden Shulfer also returns after a good track season and will be looking to go sub 16:00. After that the Tigers will heavily rely on Jackson Hopkins and Nate Peyer to close the gap on Shulfer. If they can find a strong pack with those top four runners, they may be able to make a push into a top 10 spot.

Head Coach: Dan Gray / Tyler Franciscovich, Michael Kouri, Geoff Girsch, Elyse Dell, Jill Plunkett
Last Year's Finish: 16th place- State Championship
Key Returners: Joey Cave (Sr.), Andrew Elward (Jr.), Joe Ehrhart (Jr.), Jeffrey Sary (Sr.), Michael Carson (Sr.), Owen Magner (Jr.) Key Additions: Danny Miller (Jr.), Jake Heberer (So.), Dax Duffy (Fr.)
Unexpected Losses: Eliot Lynch (Jr.)
Summary: There is a lot of change over this year with most of the program from last year graduating according to Coach Gray. "We literally graduated half of our boys from last year- 15 of them. Several of those grads were excellent runners and leaders, and really dictated the work ethic and personality of the recent teams."

The 2022 edition of the Irish will need to find its own identity. "This year's group has to find their identity and bring along the younger runners Like everyone, we need to train smart, and race aggressively," states Gray. While this squad may have lost a lot of their numbers from last year, they retain a good amount of talent. They will look to be led by the duo of Joey Cave and Andrew Elward who will both look to be sub 16:00 runners. Joe Ehrhart provides an excellent third runner for the Irish who will be in the hunt for solidified fourth and fifth runners throughout the season

Head Coach/Coaches: Andrew Lifka / Paul Weberg, Kelly Bennett, Christian Surtz
Last Year's Finish: 8th place- Fenton Sectional
Key Returners: Connor Carlson (Jr.), John Daffenberg (So.), Nathan Brandon (Jr.), Mitchell Gratz (Sr.), Robert Gramley (Jr.), Matthew Sullivan (So.)
Key Additions: Michael Whitacre (Fr.), Joseph Dorando (Fr.)
Summary: This squad has gotten a shot of joy injected into them this summer, with the return of Mitchell Gratz to their training group. Coach Lifka is delighted to have him back as well, "Mitchell is coming off a junior year that brought many health challenges and an injury that sidelined him for his junior cross country season. After a successful track season, he came back into cross country as the lone senior leader on a younger team that followed his leadership without hesitation. He has stayed healthy and consistent this summer and is going into the season at a fitness level compared to where he was in his sophomore year when he ran a 15:53 PR.

The cadets also have two other runners that are capable of sub 16:00 this season. They will need to find a solid four and five but have some breakout track athletes that will be looking to improve this season. This squad's goals are simple, "Marmion Academy's team mission is to glorify God by doing the best we can each day to become the best version of ourselves. We do this through the running we do as a team and the relationships that are formed in the process."

"Our team has grown and developed as men of faith, leaders, and athletes together over the last year. With most of our top 14 last season being underclassmen, they all made huge leaps in their development through consistent winter, spring, and summer training blocks. Led by Mitchell Gratz's senior leadership, our varsity squad is looking to make history for our program at the state level in November."

Head Coach: Steven Kesler
Last Year's Finish: 27th place- State Championship
Key Returners: Peter Smith (Sr.), Fynn Bright (Jr.), Nick Bonn (Sr.), Cooper Sweet (Sr.), Jakob Riley (So.), Jonathan Smith (Jr.) Key Additions: Caleb Mathias (Fr.)
Summary: The Maroons return the top six runners from last year. Coach Kesler has still kept the drive in his athletes to get to the next level of the state, "We return our top six runners from last season and add a freshman who we believe can crack that lineup, so overall our outlook is positive going into the year. With that said, the last time Central had a chance at a repeat appearance at Detweiller they fell short, despite also returning their top five runners from the state-qualifying team the year before."

Kesler is very confident in his program and the success that they have had, but he knows his charges must do more. "I think our guys understand that A) they snuck into the field last year and B) last year's results are no indication of future success. Based on their level of motivation, I do think they can achieve at a very high level this year. Only time will tell if all the pieces fall into place."

Peter Smith returns as their sub 16:00 runner from last year's team. Following him will be the close pack of Fynn Bright, Nick Bonn, and Jakob Riley. Also, you can expect that freshman Caleb Mathias will also be included in that pack. Mathias was the IESA State Champ in the mile last year. He will be the wildcard for this squad.

Head Coach: Kelly Fox
Last Year's Finish: 22nd place- State Championship
Key Returners: Julian Baker (Jr.), Daniel Grauer (So.), Lyncoln Koester (So.), Sam Atkinson (Sr.), Carson Davis (Jr.), Isaac Carpenter (Jr.)
New Additions: Zayne Means (Fr.)
Summary: The Braves had a very good track season, especially in the 3200m and 800m. Their potential top two runners had excellent track seasons in the 3200m with Julian Baker running 9:41 and Daniel Grauer running 10:13. Sam Atkinson ran 1:54 last year in the 8000m and returns, he will be a major wildcard in terms of how he runs during the fall. This squad is loaded with talent, they could find themselves in the trophy hunt this season.

Head Coach: David Rill / Dan Wnek, Brixton Rill
Last Year's Finish:  State Champions
Key Returners: Grayden Rill (Sr.), Nathaniel McKillop (Jr.), Dean O'Bryan (Jr.), Chris Bajda (Sr.), Finn Munley (So.), Benicio Carideo (So.), Michael Domke (Sr.)
Summary: The Friars had a magical run last year as they walked away from Detweiller Park as the state champions. They will have an uphill battle this year if they wish to bring home another state trophy. Coach Rill gave an excellent rundown on his squad, "we have our top three returning from last season- all state performers Grayden Rill and Nate McKillop along Dean O'Bryan we have some different people that will round out our top seven."

Coach Rill adds: "Mike Domke who has been hurt for a long time is having a great summer and should be in our top five. After that, we will see. We also have some underclassmen that could slide up in there. We are sad to have lost our 7th runner Christian Kline. He moved to Florida and will be missed. We are excited about another fun cross season."

The squad returns all-staters Grayden Rill and Nathan McKillop from last year. Both ran sub 10:00 on the track and will look to break the 15:00 barrier this season. Dean O'Bryan should be an all-stater this year and the question will be who will slot into that four and five positions?

Head Coach: Jacob Peal
Last Year's Finish: 11th place- Decatur MacArthur Sectional
Key Returners: Jackson Collman (Sr.), Justice Eldridge (Jr.), Lucas Naugle (Jr.), DJ Dutton (Jr.), Mason Walker (Jr.), Kent Scottberg (Jr.)
Key Additions: Jacob Cranford (Fr.), Joshua Cranford (Fr.), Tulio Zamperi (Fr.), Landon Kearby (Fr.)
Summary: Coming into the year, the Eagles undoubtedly have a great 1-4 set of scorers with Jackson Collman and Justice Eldridge potentially producing the best 1-2 punch in 2A. Coach Peal explains his team well here, "This CM team has a lot of potential. I think it might be hard to find a better 1-2 combination in 2A than Jackson Collman and Justice Eldridge."

Coach Pearl indicated that Lucas Naugle and DJ Dutton will provide a dependable and deep front four unit. He adds: "all four of these young men were medalists and state qualifiers in track this spring. How deep we go into the postseason will depend on how quickly our freshman and juniors Scottberg and Walker develop on the backend. We will need them to step up and close the gap to be standing on the starting line at Detweiller in November."