Naperville North: Beware Of The Twilight Invitational

The scene from last year's boys' varsity race was as good as it gets


Meet the teams: #2 Downers Grove North, #3 Oak Park-River Forest #4 Hinsdale Central (partial squad), #7 Naperville Neuqua Valley, #10 Plainfield North, #15 LaGrange (Lyons), #17 Naperville Central, #20 Downers Grove South, #23 Chicago Lane, #25, #25 Chicago Jones; Batavia, Geneva, Glenbard West, Metea Valley, Minooka, Naperville North, Waubonsie Valley, Yorkville

-One of the final major in-season invitationals will go down at Naperville North High School from late afternoon through true twilight and finally, the combination will end with a thrilling varsity race.

There will be ten ranked teams among the 18 that are entered. Four of the squads hail from the mighty West Suburban Conference (Silver) and it may feel like a mini civil war duel between them. Hinsdale Central is the defending champion but the Red Devils will be extremely pressed to be in the mix without their top three runners. Dan Watcke (Sr), Aden Bandukwala (Jr), and Michael Skora (Sr). 

Look Downers Grove North to stand out on the strength of a strong pack led by Topher Ferris (Sr) that routinely runs under 40 seconds. This will be the Trojans loaded up for the first time in several weeks and they will be hungry for another Twilight title.

Oak Park-River Forest is in the same conference as DGN and HC and they are similar to both teams in that they have a very strong upfront pack. The Huskies can compete with any team in the field, after all, they won the prestigious Richard Spring Peoria Notre Dame Invitational last month. Front running as a pack is one thing but when you have a front running low stick like Liam Newhart (Sr) it's an advantage not many teams can claim.

Neuqua Valley will be led by Zac Close (Jr) who is also an individual race favorite to watch. The Wildcats were leading the Roy Griak Invitational with less than two kilometers to go but fell apart down the stretch. Perhaps it was the underestimation of a very rugged course that did them in. The Twilight layout is the opposite of ruggedness, it's completely flat and finishes on the track. And they have won this meet more than a handful of times. Don't ever sleep on the Wildcats!

A deep field such as this will prove how strong some of the rest of the lot. Plainfield North, Lyons, Naperville Central, and more will have something to prove.

Expect the race pace to go out in a constructive manner and honest. Zachary Balzer (Sr., Minooka), Close, and Newhart appear to be the front runners in that they are battle tested. All three have run under 14:50 and Close was the winner in Peoria last weekend with a time of 14:33. Ferris is also someone to watch to place among the top five finishers.