Class A Boys Preseason Preview: #25 To #11 Rolls In

A new leaf will be turned on the 2023 cross country season as many of last year's teams emerge wiser and stronger. There is a belief that experience will do that. Don't be surprised 


25. Auburn
Head Coach: Kip Smith
Last Year's Finish: Elmwood Sectional- 14th place
Key Returners: Jacob Barth (So.), James Baisden (So.), Beckem Hudson (So.), Dallas Alavazarez (So.), Clayton Kessler (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Maddux McQuality (Jr.)
Outlook: This is an extremely young team with six of their top seven last year being fr/so athletes. Last year their top runner for the beginning part of the season was Jacob Barth. A stress fracture derailed his season in early September. He was a very talented runner taking 4th at the IESA State XC Meet. In the spring he was part of Auburn's third-place 4x400m relay team. He may have an outside chance at being an all-stater. With him expect to see James Baisden who had a great cross country season in 2022 that saw him take 90th at the state meet. After running 4:38 on the track in the 1600m, he as well will have a chance at being an all-stater.

Clayton Kessler was so close to breaking the 5:00 this spring. Expect his focus to be breaking the 17:00 barrier this fall. After that watch for Maddux McQuality and Beckem Hudson to be battling it out for the 5th and 6th spots. The development of those two will be a crucial deciding factor in this squad's success. 

24. Erie
Head Coach/Coaches: Elizabeth Green
Last Year's Finish: Oregon Sectional- 10th place
Key Returners: Charlie Link (Sr.), Lucas Dreisbach (Sr.), Jacob Gibson (Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Gus Schultz (So.)
Outlook: The Panthers had a good 2022 campaign but, unfortunate issues caused them to be short-handed in the state series. Charlie Link was the runner that the team was without. His last race of the season was at the Patriot Invite where he ran 16:19. After an impressive track season running 4:38 in the 1600m, expect Link to potentially break the 16:00 barrier. Lucas Dreisbach was the team's #2 runner last season, he expects to be in the same position this year. Expect him to be a mid-16s guy.

Gus Schultz joined this squad over the track season and made a big impact. He did play football last fall, if he chooses to run XC he will look to be a huge addition and be a potential sub-17:00 guy. Right with him should be teammate Jacob Gibson. After that, the next few spots will be a solid battle between Victor Bonnell and Zane Romero who both have the potential to run 17 low.

Head Coach: Benton Singleton
Last Year's Finish: St. Joseph-Ogden Sectional- 7th place
Key Returners: Caleb Wood (Jr.), River Derby (Jr.), Ayden LeGrande (Jr.), Xander Anawaty (So.), Caleb Ratts (Jr.), Isaac Gardner (Sr.)
Outlook: The Sages enter a new era for their team as Coach David Remmert has retired. This squad enters the season with their top guy being River Derby. The junior will be a good front runner for this group and will be looking to break the 16:30 mark.

Following Derby will be Caleb Wood who was this team's third runner last season. He brings valuable experience to this group. Ayden LeGrande and Xander Anawaty both are returning from last season's top seven. Both will be chasing sub 17:00. After that will be a toss-up between Caleb Ratts and Isaac Gardner on who will take the final spot.

Head Coach: Jason Lanthier
Last Year's Finish: IHSA State Meet- 27th place
Key Returners: Marco Cruz (So.), John Brauner (Jr.), Andrew Gross (So.), Daniel Sullivan (Jr.), Joseph Macklin (Jr.), John Reen (Sr.), Marcel LeFevre (Jr.), Shawn Hollman (Sr.)
Outlook: The Lions had a very impressive season during the 2022-23 school year in cross country and will look to build on their success heading into the fall. This group will be led by returning #1 runner Marco Cruz who was solid at the state meet. As he is now a year older, expect a jump into the 15:00s for him.

John Brauner was the team's second runner last year, expect him to be the same this year and be a solid and dependable guy for this squad. Andrew Gross, Daniel Sullivan, and Joseph Macklin will all be looking to break 17:30 this year for the squad. Expect another state trip for this group this year.

Head Coach/Coaches: Eric Brechtel / Alex Zasso
Last Year's Finish: Harvest Christian Sectional- 8th place
Key Returners: Nolan Ferris (Jr.), Hugh Flannery (Sr.), Gabriel Bianco (Sr.), Conor Kaefer (Jr.), Maxwell Neal (Jr.), Danny Sherman (Jr.), Tanner Sebben (Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Nino Pesola (Fr.), Gavin Conway (Fr.), Owen Ferris (Fr.)
Outlook: The Broncos head into this season with a squad that has a lot of upside. Last year Nolan Ferris was the squad's top guy with a 34th-place finish in Peoria. He will have company this year as Hugh Flannery had a huge track season eclipsing the 10:00 mark in the 3200m. Expect both runners to be in all-state contention this season.

Nino Pesola was a middle school all-stater last year at St. Pius and will be a great addition to this squad. Expect him and Gabriel Bianco to be right with one another. After that, it will be a toss-up for the squad's number-five runner. According to coach Brechtel, "The formula for us is quite simple. We are going to rely on our strong veteran leadership with a focus on consistency and the process." 

Head Coach/Coaches: Rob Grosso / Peggy Heck
Last Year's Finish: Elgin Harvest Christian Academy Sectional- 9th place
Key Returners: Brayden Shepard (Jr.), Thomas Morgan (Sr.), Matthew Benoit (Jr.), Jeremy Szepelak (So.), Joshua Thorson (Jr.), Ezekiel Houberg (Jr.), Ethan Johnson (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Jackson Kruse (Fr.), Michael Ringhoger (Fr.), Owen Damptz (Fr.)
Outlook: The Tigers had a retooling year after the graduation of Drew Rogers two years ago. They are heading into this season looking to be back into the conversation of making the state meet. They will be led by the duo of Brayden Shepard and Jackson Kruse. Shepard was a state qualifier last year taking 111th place. Kruse was a middle school standout that has a PR of 4:50 in the 1600m.

The duo of Thomas Morgan and Matthew Benoit will be next up, their goal will be to be under the 17:00 barrier. Jeremy Szepalak will look to round out this squad's top five runners with the potential to be in the 17:30s. Coach Grosso stated, "Despite some unknown with how the 6-10 spots will shake out, our 1-5 spots look to be locked in and the expectation is to be pretty competitive come the postseason."

Head Coach: Patrick Warkins
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 22nd place
Key Returners: Lucas Schaab (Sr.), Lucas Simpson (Sr.), Wyatt Widolf (Jr.), Carver Grummert (Sr.), Ryan Welty (So.), Espen Hammes (Sr.), Zachery DeForest (Jr.), Zion Fiorini (Jr.), Samuel Francque (Sr.)
Outlook: The Comets might have gotten better than their 22nd-place team from last year, unfortunately, this is a better year for the classification. They saw significant improvement from their number two return from last year during the track season. Lucas Schaab showed that he is ready to be one of the best runners in the classification this year after his 4:32 1600m during the track season.

Lucas Simpson was the top runner on this squad last season with a 86th place finish at the state meet. He will most likely be the number two runner this time. Wyatt Widolf projects to be the third runner on this squad. He was the fourth runner on the team last year and will be looking to break the 17:00 barrier. Carver Grummert projects to be the new runner to this squad and after running 5:07 on the track, expect him to run in the 17:30s. Coach Warkins stated, "With the bulk of my top 7 returning, I look to improve on our place at the state meet. We are a year older and have some great leadership from the upperclassmen. A lot will be on how badly they want it. I feel they are capable of some real good things."

Head Coach/Coaches: Rachel Lyons and Leann Sosamon / Ethan O'Daniell
Last Year's Finish: Shelbyville Regional- 8th place
Key Returners: Drew Moser (Sr.), Talan Thrasher (Jr.), Colin Jameson (Jr.), Abel Koritz (So.), Oliver Goar (So.), Lincoln Adams (So.), Nolan Rhodes (So.), Jarrett Turney (So.), Dyllon Wright (So.)
Key Newcomers: Justin Droke (Fr.)
Outlook: The Maroons have one of their most consistent summers in school history with multiple guys making massive improvements. This will be an interesting team to keep an eye on this season. They will be led by senior Drew Moser. He was their only state qualifier last year. Making massive strides on the track running 4:35 for the 1600m and 9:54 for the 3200m. Expect him to be in all-state contention.

Next up will be Talan Thrasher who ran well in the spring with a PR of 10:40 in the 3200m. Expect him to be in the 16:30s this fall. Colin Jameson made a massive jump in the spring with a PR in the 1600m of 4:55. He will look to be sub 17:00 along with Abel Koritz. Rounding out this squad projects to be Oliver Goar. A name to watch out for will be new runner Justin Droke. He has never run cross country before but holds a PR of 2:16 in the 800m. The Clinton Coaches say, "We think the boys are going to surprise! They have truly bought into consistency is key and have been so dedicated." 

Head Coach: Troy Kerber
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 13th place
Key Returners: Patrick Hilby (Sr.), Kevin Lillwitz (Sr.), David Valencia (Jr.), Tom Keller (Sr.), James Digate (Sr.), Russell Abner (Sr.), Jacob Gray (Sr.), Chris Ginocchio (Jr.), Joseph Escobedo (Jr.)
Outlook: The Chargers lost a good amount to graduation last year, but they seem to have enough to have another great season. They will be led by 800m state champion, Patrick Hilby. He had one of the best 800m times from a junior in the country's history last year. He has fully committed himself to this sport and we will see him have a major season on the grass.

Kevin Lillwitz was the number five runner on last year's team, he brings experience to this squad as a second man. David Valencia and Tom Keller will both be potential sub-17:00 runners this year after great track seasons. James Digate rounds out this squad with some experience as well as he was the squad's number six runner last year.

Head Coach: Nicole Bagwell
Last Year's Finish: St. Joseph-Ogden Sectional- 10th place
Key Returners: Eli Crowe (So.), Collin Graven (So.), Bryson Denney (Sr.), Camden Fairbanks (So.), Carter Tiemann (So.), Alex Mowrer (Jr.), Isaac Ruggieri (Sr.), Alex Wells (So.)
Key Newcomers: Adam Reedy (Fr.)
Outlook: The Rockets have been a team that has had a storied history, but ever since their state title back in 2015 they have been in limbo. This group will look to return to that level here potentially in the next few years as they have a very young nucleus.

Eli Crowe leads the charge after a great freshman year. He ran an impressive 10:10 during the spring in the 3200m and will look to be in all-state contention this fall. Next up are Collin Graven and Bryson Denney. Both ran sub 5:00 for the 1600m during track and will look to be in the 16:40s this fall. Camden Fairbanks looks to be with that group as well. Adam Reedy is the new kid to the program after an impressive middle school career. Watch for him to be challenging 17:00 this season.

Head Coach/Coaches: Steven Bland / Scott Williamson
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 7th place
Key Returners: JJ Gonnam (Sr.), Luca Bryja (So.), Jimmy Bernaeyge (Sr.), Caleb Gonzalez (So.), Tyler Linta (So.), Jack Welsh (So.)
Key Newcomers: Lucas Pagan (Fr.)
Unexpected Losses: Matthew McLoughlin (So.)
Outlook: The Lions have the prestige of being one of the premier teams in the 1A classification. They have had many all-staters over the years and this year they have two athletes that may be able to have the same honor. JJ Gonnam had a breakout track season that saw him running 9:56 in the 3200m. He looks like he will be a sub-15:30 runner this year.

Luca Bryja also had a great season on the track, as he ran 10:02 in the 3200m. Both of these guys have had a great summer according to Coach Bland. Jimmy Bernaeyge had a great postseason as he placed 95th at the state meet. He was the fifth man on the team last year and will be highly depended on as their third man this season.

Caleb Gonzalez is working his way back from injury but is getting better every week. Jack Welsh has had a big summer according to Coach Bland, we will have to see how much he progresses throughout the season. Coach Bland simply stated, "We would love to get to state."

Head Coach/Coaches: Todd Vohland / Leslie Hein
Last Year's Finish: State- 6th place
Key Returners: Evan Cook (Jr.), Gus Striglos (Sr.), Matt Auburn (Jr.), Nathaniel Babcock (Jr.), Carter Boyer (Jr.), Adonis Williams (Sr.)
Key Newcomers: Andrew Larry (Fr.)
Outlook: The Bulldogs unfortunately were unable to snag a team trophy at this past year's state meet. Their state trophy window may have closed, but this still is a squad that has the potential to be a top-ten team in the state.
Evan Cook was this squad's top runner last year and returns with all-state accolades. He took 18th place at the state meet, expect him to be a top 10 finisher potentially.

Gus Striglos may be able to join his teammate on the podium come November after a great track season. He ran 10:00 in the 3200m, so expect him to be right in the mix. Matt Auburn projects to be the team's third runner. He brings experience to his slot in the team as he was the seventh runner on last season's squad. Expect him to be a sub 16:30 performer.

Nathaniel Babcock enters the season as a sub-17:00 runner from last year. Expect him to be a potential breakout runner for this group. Coach Vohland stated, "We have two potential All-State runners, hopefully, the guys behind them can take a step up and we can be a competitive team as well." 

Head Coach: Kyle Hummel
Last Year's Finish: St. Joseph-Ogden Sectional-11th place
Key Returners: Ross Kimme (Jr.), Peter Duursma (Jr.), Bruce Tang (Jr.), Kelby Svendsen (Sr.), Felix Lee (Jr.), Luke Fahnestock (Jr.), Matthew Ulozas (Sr.), Walter Kraatz (Sr.)
Outlook: The Illineks have had a few down years recently after a great end to the 2010s. It seems like they have returned to form with a squad that is geared up to have an even better season in 2024. Ross Kimme looks like he will be the top guy for this group. He had a breakout track season where he ran 4:48 in the 1600m and 10:21 in the 3200m. The same kind of progression was done by last year's top runner Pieter Duursma. He excelled in the 800m and 1600m running 2:02 and 4:48.

Bruce Tang and Kelby Svendsen both ran sub 5:00 during the track season with both running 4:56. Both should be sub 17:00 this season. Felix Lee rounds out the projected scoring five. Another great track season, we can see him running up with Tang and Svendsen. 

Head Coach/Coaches: Joe Erb and Janet Erb / Shawn Maher, Jeremy Stevens
Last Year's Finish: Oregon Sectional- 7th place
Key Returners: Nicolai Martino (Jr.), Joseph Erb (So.), Blake Linder (So.), Daniel Hodgdon (So.), Cole Thomas (Sr.), Hudson Pope (So.), Micah Lyons (So.)
Key Newcomers: Blake Inglima (Jr.), Aidan Valquez (Fr.)
Outlook: The Indians have seen a lot of success on the woman's side over the last few years. As that dynasty starts to dwindle, enters the return to power of the boys program. This group is incredibly young and the best will be an early look at the year 2024. Nicolai Martino returns as the only runner on this squad with experience at the cross country state meet after placing 38th a year ago. He has a chance at being on the podium this go around.

Joseph Erb and Daniel Hodgdon project to be the next two runners up after him with both looking poised to be potential sub 16:30 runners. Cole Thomas made massive strides over the track season as he broke 5:00 for the 1600m. He comes into this season with the potential to break the 17:00 barrier.

Blake Linder will look to provide depth in the fifth position for this squad. Linder was the fourth runner on this squad last year, he didn't have that great of a track season, but he could come into the season and get right back on track. Coach Erb stated, "We are a team made up of one senior, two juniors (one new to the sport), and the rest sophomores. Continuing to gain experience will be key for us"

Head Coach: Scott Stoll
Last Year's Finish: Oregon Sectional- 8th place
Key Returners: Danny Darrow (Sr.), Noah Britton (Sr.), Ben Milner (Sr.), Michael Noack (So.), Nate Hein (Sr.), Noah Verscha (So.), Caden Jenulius (So.), Romeo Rosas (Jr.)
Outlook: The Pioneers had a great track season that saw them position themselves for 2023-24 school year being a massive time to be a part of their squad. Noah Britton was the one that took the biggest strides on this squad as he emerged as a top guy in the classification. With PRs of 1:54 and 4:31 in the 800m and 1600m, he looks poised to be an all-stater come November. He is the state runner-up in the 800m for the 1A classification.

Danny Darrow was this group's top runner last year and will look to be the squad's second man for this fall. He looks to be one of the best second runners in the classification. Expect him to be a sub 16:00 runner. Ben Milner excelled as an 800m runner last year with a PR of 2:01 but did not do much on the track above that distance. He is a major wildcard that could surprise a lot of people. Wrapping up the scoring five will be Michael Noack and Nate Hein. They will need to see major improvements if this squad wishes to be a top-10 team in the state.