Class 2A Boys Preseason Preview: Morton Tagged #1

It was a nasty affair on Detweiller's historic layout for the 2A Boys state title as depicted in the highlight reel. Marion's Dylon Nalley put on a clinic to win. There were other goodies too!


The pinnacle of the 2A boys is here, front and center. It's time to ride out and see which paper favorites perform on the grass.


Head Coach/Coaches: Andrew Lifka / Key Bennett, Christian Surtz, Ryan Lifka
Last Year's Finish: Kaneland Sectional- 9th place
Key Returners: Connor Carlson (Sr.), John Daffenberg (Jr.), Matthew Sullivan (Jr.), Robert Gramley (Sr.), Michael Whitacre (So.), Nathan Brandon (Sr.), Joseph Dorando (So.), Jonah Sartain (So.), Jesse Carlos (Sr.), Rory Bennett (Sr.), Samuel Rowe (So.), Max Rowe (Sr.)
Unexpected Losses: Jack Swiatek (So.)
Outlook: The Cadets have been in a drought recently when it comes to qualifying for the state meet. They haven't qualified since 2019 and after a great track season that should change this season.

Connor Carlson and John Daffenberg will be this squad's top two runners. Carlson was an all-stater last season with a 15th-place finish. Daffenberg missed all-state last year but after a great track season, he looks to be in contention this season. Matthew Sullivan and Robert Gramley are next up with both having great track seasons.

Sullivan ran 10:02 in the 3200m and really showed that he will be a reliable member of this squad. Gramley ran 4:35 in the 1600m and ran 10:06 in the 3200m. Both athletes should be right outside of all-state status. Michael Whitacre had a great freshman year that saw him run 16:24 as a freshman. He did not run during the track season so we will have to see how he progresses throughout the season. 

Coach Lifka stated, "For the Marmion Academy Cadets, the decisions of several years are building momentum and the crop is ready for harvesting going into the 2023 fall cross country season. After several years of being a young team with promising talent, commitment, and leadership, those young guys are now upperclassmen veterans. Losing only one senior from our postseason roster last year, Marmion is coming back at full strength. Being a top 10 ranked team but narrowly missing state qualification by 1-2 spots in the most competitive 2A sectional in the state two years in a row fuels the Cadets into the 2023 season. Going with our theme, they've "Decided" what they want their team to be: men of faith, community, courage, toughness, and resilience. They're hungry to get back on the state stage and show Illinois what they're capable of as a team while giving the glory of their efforts and achievements up to God all the way."

Head Coach/Coaches: Jake Peal
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 17th place
Key Returners: Justice Eldridge (Sr.), DJ Dutton (Sr.), Lucas Naugle (Sr.), Jacob Cranford (So.), Landon Kearbey (So.), Joshua Cranford (So.), Tulio Zampieri (So.), Mason Walker (Sr)
Key Newcomers: Logan Kearbey (Fr.), Max Weber (So.)
Outlook: The Eagles qualified for the state meet for the first time in school history. They look to be led by the duo of Justice Eldridge and DJ Dutton.

Eldridge projects to be the top returner based on his best marks. He ran 4:26 in the 1600m in the spring. He did not have the 2022 xc season he wanted. Expect him to be back and better in 2023.

Dutton has had a great summer according to Coach Peal. He ran 4:31 over the track season in the 1600m. He is this squad's top returner from last season where he finished 70th place in the state.

Max Weber is a transfer from Metro East Lutheran. As a freshman, he ran 9:58 in the 3200m and looks to be a great third runner for this squad. Lucas Naugle also had a great year to build experience last year. He was this squad's fourth runner and looks to keep his spot in the pecking order this season.

Jacob Cranford ran phenomenally over the track season and really broke out. He ran 10:23 for the 3200m which was really surprising from the freshman after you look at his cross country season.

Coach Peal stated, "Last fall this team accomplished big things in winning their first conference title in school history and qualifying to State for the first time. We are bringing back 7 of 8 boys who ran varsity at some point last year. Last year our 5-8 runners were freshmen so you could argue we were the youngest team at the state meet. We hope to be a year older, a year wiser, and having another year of miles and experience on our legs we have every intention of making it back to the state meet and placing higher than last fall. For the first time in three years, we will not rely on Jackson Collman being our team's frontrunner as he is starting his career at Southern Indiana. Seniors DJ Dutton, Lucas Naugle, and Justice Eldridge have been varsity guys since their freshman year and are well up to the challenge of leading this team back to Detweiller Park. We hope to be a better pack running team this fall with a tighter 1-5 split."

Head Coach/Coaches: Scott Gill
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 8th place
Key Returners: Dylon Nalley (Sr.), Mekye Lomax (Sr.), Hayden Lees (Sr.), Evan Dailey (Jr.), Tai Doan (So.), Jack Tate (Jr.), Joseph Mings (So.)
Key Newcomers: Raphael Greer (Fr.), Cade Parks (Sr.)
Outlook: The Wildcats have been fortunate enough to qualify for the state meet for the last two years. They will be led by the defending state champion in the classification, Dylon Nalley. He didn't have the track season he wanted due to injury and illness. With taking 2nd at Detweiller at Dark, he should be ready for cross country.

Mekye Lomax had a great track season where he ran a great 1:56 800m. He took 35th at the state meet in 2022 and just missed all-state status. He will be in the hunt this year. Cade Parks returns to Marion as he transfers in from Plainview, Oklahoma. He took 3rd place at the Oklahoma State Meet in the 1600m with a 4:36. He should be this squad's third runner and will be under the 16:00 barrier. Evan Dailey and Hayden Lees look to round out the scoring lineup. Both should be in the low 16s this season.

Head Coach: Judd Shutt
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 14th place
Key Newcomers: Steven Randles (Fr.), Thomas Henry (Fr.)
Outlook: The Wolves enter the year after a great campaign in 2022 that saw them take 14th place at the state meet. They will be led by returning all-stater Will Gelon who had an exceptional 2022-23 school year. He started the school year with a 19th-place performance at the 2A State Meet. Gelon followed it up with a great 4:18 mark in the 1600m during the spring.

Evan Gilleland and Gerrit Dam both had exceptional track seasons and will be looking to carry that to the grass. They ran 9:59 and 10:01 in the 3200m over the spring. Both should be in the mid-15:00s this season. Wrapping up the scoring five will be Eddy Klimkowski and Kevin DeGroot. Both should be sub-16:00 this year and if they can work their way to Gilleland and Dam, this squad could be a trophy squad.

Coach Shutt stated, " We bring back a lot of experience this season. Depth should be one of our strengths. I think we will be competitive at the F/S, JV, and Varsity levels at Saturday invites. That depth will drive high expectations for practice every day, and hopefully lead us to place high within the Fox Valley Conference. Will Gelon, who has 2 all-state medals, will continue to lead us, but our order of finish by no means will be set in stone from week to week. We have the potential to have a front runner in every meet this season and will continue to work to close our 1-5 split. Our competitive ceiling may be dictated by the ability of our top 3 to compete at an all-state level."

Head Coach/Coaches: Heraldo Morrison / Nate McPherson, David Cooke, Chris Korbik
Last Year's Finish: 3A State Meet- 19th place
Key Returners: Matthew Conroy (Sr.), Henry Fink (Sr.), Brandon Mendoza (Sr.), Hugh Lynch (Jr.), Nicholas Lopez (Jr.), Zach Tan (So.), Ethan Petrillo (So.), Matthew Mangan (Sr.), Alexander Wright (Jr.), Alexander Kepler (So.), Charlie Archambault (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Manuel Alvarez (Jr.)
Outlook: The Wolfpack went through a coaching change with longtime head coach Ed Ernst now gone. They enter this year as a potential podium squad. They will be led by the duo of Matthew Conroy and Henry Fink.

Conroy was the best runner on this team last year and was a top 50 finisher at the 3A State Meet. Fink had a massive track season that really showed that he is ready to prove himself. He ran 4:25 in the 1600m which surprised many. Both will be in all-state contention this fall.

Brandon Mendoza is the man who is next up in this group. He was mainly an 800m runner during the track season but did end up running 10:00 in the 3200m. He should be in the mid-15s this season.

Rounding out the scorers will be the pack of Hugh Lynch, Nicholas Lopez, and Manuel Alvarez. They will be a scrappy pack that will look to be under 16:00. If they can close the gap on Mendoza, this squad could get on the podium.

Coach Morrison stated, "We should be a competitive team. We have some great guys who have dedicated themselves to being stronger and successful this season. Few of them had a successful spring track season breaking a few barriers that prevented them from being confident in their abilities. This team has the experience and the talent to reach the podium this year"

Head Coach/Coaches: Dan Dziubski / Adam Palumbo
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 6th place
Key Returners: Gavin Lee (Sr.), Declan Slavin (So.), Tristan Zhu (Jr.), Aiden Hu-Lowenthal (Sr.), Ryan Murray (Jr.), Preston Ellis (Jr.), Miguel Mendez (So.), Tra'Monti Wiliams (So.), Ivan Outkine (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Gus Berlinghof (Fr.), Gabe Cooper (Jr.), Obree Fischer (Fr.)
Outlook: The Grizzlies enter the season with probably their best squad in school history. There are so many different members that can be in this squad's top seven and so much talent that it won't be surprising to see their top five completely change as the season continues. They will be led by soccer transplant and first-year full-time cross country runner Gabe Cooper. He had a terrific track season where he ran 4:35 in the 1600m and 9:43 in the 3200m. Cooper should be a guy that challenges for an all-state position.

Gavin Lee also should be in contention to potentially bring home an all-state position as well. He also had a great season as he ran 4:34 in the 1600m and 9:47 in the 3200m. He is the top returner from last season's squad. Wrapping up the scoring five will be a combo of Declan Slavin, Tristan Zhu, and Aiden Hu-Lowenthal. All look to be sub 16:00 and the key for the Grizzlies' hopes for a trophy will be for this group to get into the 15:40s. Also expect some frosh/soph athletes to step up and be a big part of this group.

Head Coach/Coaches: Lester Hampton
Last Year's Finish: 1A State Meet- 4th place
Key Returners: Mason Hart (Sr.), Mitchell Hayes (Sr.), Sean Kaeb (So.), Landen Alcorn (Sr.), Sachit Muduli (Sr.), Connor Hartman (Jr.), Jonah Kaeb (Sr.), Gabe Zacharias (Jr.), Brady Kim (Jr.), JT Piper (So.), Shawn Immanuel (Jr.), Jackson Albers (So.) Outlook: The Pioneers seem to constantly change their classification every few years which included being the #1 ranked team for 1A most of last season. They return 6 of those 7 members from that team as well as adding their #1 runner from 2021 back. This group's pack will be extremely close with all five of their scorers looking to be within about 15 seconds of one another.

Mitchell Hayes was the squad's top runner last year at the state meet. He finished with a 21st-place performance at the 1A level. Landen Alcorn is another returning all-stater from this squad where he took 23rd place. He was the squad's number-two runner last year. He focused more on the 800m over the track season where he ran 2:00.

Mason Hart was this squad's #1 runner for a lot of races throughout the year until the state meet where he was his team's fourth man. He ran 15:26 at Detweiller in October. Sean Kaeb looks to be closely inside this pack after a great track season which saw him make massive improvements. He ran 9:53 in the 3200m which qualified for the track state meet where he took 28th. He seems to be the most improved athlete from this group over the track season.

Sachit Muduli was held out of last season by injury/illness. He was this squad's top runner in 2021 and looks to be a part of this team's pack this season once again. He could surprise some if he progresses well in his training.

Head Coach/Coaches: James Centella / Chris Palmer, Colleen Wire, Danielle Hegerty, Greg Lannoye
Last Year's Finish: State Meet- 4th place
Key Returners: Trey Sato (Sr.), Adan Cordova (So.), William Welty (Sr.), John Vagnoni (Sr.), Nolan Kissinger (Sr.), Daniel Varblow (Jr.), Asher Tiojanco (Sr.), Kurt Storckman (Jr.), Donald Fermstrom (So.)
Key Newcomers: Justin Mottola (Fr.), Alex Wolff (Fr.), Reid Donish (Fr.)
Outlook: This is a great team that returns most of their team last year that just missed out on a state trophy. They will be led by superstar athlete Trey Sato who is coming off a breakthrough track season. He took 5th place in 3A for the 1600m in May. He held dropped PRs of 4:12 in the 1600m and 9:22 in the 3200m in the spring.

Adan Cordova was a standout freshman last year as he took 21st place at the state meet. During the track season, he showed more progress with a great mark of 9:37 in the 3200m.

William Welty and John Vagnoni will be the next guys up. Both look to be potential all-staters and their placement will be very key to this unit's success. Rounding out the scoring five will be Nolan Kissinger who looks as if he will have a massive season this year. He ran 16:43 at Detweiller at Dark where he was only six seconds off Welty. If he can close the gap, this team will be in the title picture.

Coach Centella stated, "This group has the potential to be our second strongest top five in school history behind our 2015 state championship team. We need to develop more depth to help our team be consistent throughout the fall and offer insurance if we have any injuries or illnesses to the top five.  We need our 6 and 7 runners to get closer together and then both need to close the gap on 5.  If we do this we can see ourselves being strong in November."

Head Coach/Coaches: Kevin Renicker
Last Year's Finish: 3A Waubonsie Valley Sectional- 10th place
Key Returners: Finn Richards (Jr.), Aiden Hulett (Jr.), Charlie Phelan (Sr.), Jacob Malloy (Sr.), Jeffrey Lange (Jr.), Ryan Amidei (Sr.), Danny Shannon (Sr.), Griffin Schneid (Jr.), Jacob Malloy (Sr.), Matt Spellman (Sr.), Payton Knox (Jr.), Lucas Kohlmeyer (So.), John Pogue (So.)
Outlook: The Redwings move back down to 2A after a long period in the 3A classification. They will be firmly in the title chase. This squad looks to be led by 3A state qualifier Finn Richards who had an excellent sophomore campaign. He achieved a mark of 14:58 at the Peoria Invite in October and will look to be a top 15 runner in the classification this season.

Aiden Hulett and Charlie Phelan will be the next group up. Both ran great during the track season with marks of 9:45 and 9:52 in the 3200m. Both will be in the all-state hunt this year. Rounding out the scoring five will be Jacob Malloy, Ryan Amidei, and Jeffrey Lang. All five will be in the 15:50s this season with the key to this squad being the hope that two of them can close the gap on Hulett and Phelan