3A Preseason Preview: Downers Grove North Boys Billed #1

2022 was an interesting year and the IHSA season ended with our exclusive 3A Boys state championship highlight reel


Last year was supposedly a down year in the cross country world around these parts. It was anything but interesting fun for all involved. Plainfield South and Hinsdale Central battled all the way to the finish line in one of the most nail-biting finals. The Cougars would defeat the Red Devils 88-89 and the rest is history as they say. 

Regionally, our state proved to be the best in the midwest as three teams: Hinsdale Central, Plainfield South, and Downers Grove North all advanced to Portland, Oregon for the Nike Cross Nationals. What will this year show? We are not quite sure except to see intense fun times each and every weekend!


Head Coach/Coaches: Jim Westphal / Jim Kupres, John Snee, Noah Lawrence
Last Year's Finish: IHSA State Championship Runner UP, Nike Cross Nationals- 8th place
Key Runners: Aden Bandukwala (Sr.), Maxwell Lowe (Sr.), Nikita Kamenev (Jr.), Evan Kurimay (Sr.), Cooper Revord (Jr.), Michael Gamboa (So.), Quinn Doorhy (Jr.)
Outlook: Over the last two years, the Red Devils have had some of the best teams in the history of their program. They have been led by the now-graduated Dan Watcke, now this team will be led by the leadership of the 2022 3A Cross Country State Champion Aden Bandukwala. "Bunny" as his teammates call him had a magical moment where he emerged and shockingly won the state meet. Taking 26th at Nike Cross Nationals, he looks to return as one of the top runners in the country.

Max Lowe has an opportunity to be cast out of the team's fifth scorer at the majority of the meets the squad fully loaded up at. He will need to step up big for a rebuilding Red Devils program. If all is well, Lowe could be around the sub 15:00 range this season.

After those two will be a group that we will have to see how they develop as the season progresses. Nikita Kamenev is the final returner from last year's squad as he was the seventh man. He took 179th at the state meet and will seek to provide some experience in the scoring five.

Michael Gamboa will be expected to be a major part of this squad's success. He developed well during the track season, producing a personal best 10:04 in the 3200m.

Evan Kurimay ran at regionals for this squad last year as they rested a few guys. He ran a great mile during track with a time of 4:37. Cooper Revord has the family name of some of the greatest runners in school history. After a great track season, it could be his time as a junior to be one of the top guys on the team.

Coach Westphal stated, "Graduating some major players, this group is working on establishing their own identity and not trying to be the group we've had over the last 2 years. We return 3 of our top 7 who have experience but we will need a number of guys new to the varsity to step up and compete hard."

Head Coach: Michael Danner
Last Year's Finish: State Championship- 7th place
Outlook: The Lions have been a mainstay at the top of the Illinois food chain for multiple decades. They enter this season with another great team. Led by returning top ten finishers at state last year Nicholas Strayer and Cillian Henning, these two are the foundation of them being a top team in the state. With both returning with top-10 finishes, there is not a whole lot of ground they can gain in terms of lowering their team score. Both have the capability to run sub-14:30 during the course of the season.

There will be a large contingent vying to form the final four spots of the lineup. Benjamin Wuggazer broke 10:00 during the track season and had the fourth-fastest time on the team last year. He just lost out on his top-seven spot.

Isaac Constas was one of the team's top frosh/soph runners last season, showing he has experience of being a highly depended-on member of their scoring team. After a track season that saw him go 4:34, watch for him to be a big factor in the team scoring five.

Brendan Whelton is the only other member of their 2022 team that returns. He was the sixth man on this squad last year. Maksym Washchuk had a great season last year with a sub-16:00 performance of 15:56. He followed it up with a 4:35 performance in the 1600m on the track.

Patrick Collins was only a freshman last year, but still made a massive impact and was one of the best in his class. He could see some major improvements after a track season that saw him run 10:04 in the 3200m. John O'Halloran was a highly regarded athlete coming out of middle school, entering his junior year it may finally be his time to be a true difference maker on the varsity level. He ran 16:04 last year in cross country.

Head Coach/Coaches: Jon Burnett / Craig Munie, Anna Munie
Last Year's Finish: State Championship- 14th place
Outlook: The Panthers have been one of the top programs in the state of Illinois in the past. Could this be another trophy squad for this group? They focused more on the 800m over the 1600m and 3200m this season which they had a great season running 7:47 in the relay. It's hard to tell how that will translate to their progression in the three-mile.

Dylan Ybarra has been the Panther's leader for the last two years. He was part of that fast qualifying 4x800 relay but opted to run the 3200m and 1600m in the state series. He was a very accomplished performer in the latter race, hitting the afterburners in going 9:18. You can bet the returning all-stater will be dead red in seeking a top 10 placement in November at the state meet. 

Eli Greenstreet returns as the squad's second returner from last year's state meet. He took 37th place there and was just outside of an all-state position. Look for him to vying for an all-state position this year. If he achieves that or is close, expect him to go sub 15:00.

The duo of Zach Thoman and Harrison Schroeder who were the team's third and fourth runners last year. Thoman was top 100 at the state meet last year and will look to be in the top 75 this year for sure. He had a great track season for the 800m running 1:56.28.

Schroeder is now a sophomore and will be looking to make some massive improvements heading into this season. He will be a massive deciding factor in the success of this group. Robert Wocking is the fifth returner from last year's squad. He had a good track season running 4:35 in the 1600m.

Coach Burnett stated, "We are hoping to be a very strong team this fall. We will have many people that have very strong springs. We will have two strong seniors Dylan Ybarra (1:55/9:18) and Eli Greenstreet (50.3/1:57), two strong juniors in Zach Thoman (1:55/4:30/9:46) and Robert Wocking (1:59/4:35), and three strong sophomores Harrison Schroeder (4:44/9:55), Brayden Kloeppel (4:43/9:52), and Jackson Gherardini (53/1:57/4:44)."

Head Coach: Kevin Young
Last Year's Finish: State Championship- 17th place
Key Runners: Liam Naughton (Sr.), Zach Frayder (Sr.), Cameron Donner (Sr.), Rob Geissenberger (Sr.), AJ Svienty (Sr.), Mateus Salomao (So.), Aidan Korb (So.), Brandon Rugg (So.)
Outlook: The Huskies have been in retooling mode since the graduation of Josh Methner with things looking bright for this group this season. This squad will be led by Liam Naughton, who is the second returner from last year's team. After a 90th-place finish at the state meet, he was not satisfied and went out and had a great track season running 4:15 in the 1600m and 9:25 in the 3200m. He looks to be a potential all-stater and will look to break the 14:40 barrier this year.

Zach Frayder and Cameron Donner could be a formable duo. Frayder is actually the top returner from last year's squad with an 80th-place finish at the state meet. He had a good track season that saw him go 9:38 in the 3200m. Donner is a very gritty runner for the Huskies and was the 6th man on this team last year. He broke out and ran 15:13 on the track for 3200m. Both athletes will look to be sub 15:00 this season potentially.

Rob Geissenberger was the squad's third man last season with a 109th-place finish at the state meet. After a lackluster track season, there will be some question marks surrounding him. The Huskies will need him to be one of the top 75 runners in the classification this season.

AJ Svienty had a great season last year, really stepping up as the season progressed. As the squad's fifth man last year at the state meet and followed it up with a good track season running 9:53 for the 3200m. Svienty should be a solid option this season if he continues to progress the way he has.

Mateus Salomao was the squad's fourth runner last year. He could make a massive leap and propel this team forward.

Coach Young stated, "I've seen the biggest improvements and commitment from both Zach Frayder and AJ Svienty this summer. They seem to be gaining this momentum and confidence in themselves that is absolutely necessary for a breakout season. Our contingency of seniors and multiple state experiences from both Liam Naughton and Cameron Donner is really setting up this group to be something special. There are quite a few other runners that could really step up and play a huge role for this team. There's a lot of exciting unknowns right now!"

Head Coach/Coaches: Matt Sloan / Mike Richardson, Jeff Glatz, Greg Harper, Jamie Klotz, Brian Loring, Shawn Lucas, Erik Saszik
Last Year's Finish: 10th at IHSA 3A State
Outlook: The Trevians once again have a plethora of returns and could be in the trophy picture come November. Returning number one runner from last year, Ben Crane comes back with a lot of experience as a sophomore who really broke out last year. He was just outside of an all-state position in cross country as he finished 30th overall. Crane dropped 4:19 and 9:18 during the track season and that is an indication that he is someone to closely watch this fall.

Felix Hekster broke out with a fantastic track season that saw him clock 9:29 in the 3200m. The trajectory could find him in a position to be the #2 man. Atticus Miller will be around Hekster as he enters the season with a PR of 14:59 from last year. He had an ok track season that saw him run at the state meet as a part of his squad's 4x800m. He was the team's fifth runner last year and will be depended on this season.

Joey Papanicholas was a transfer from Hersey last summer and made a major impact in his first full year with the squad. He was the team's fourth runner at the state meet last year placing 88th. 

Coach Sloan's statement: "The Trevians return four athletes (Crane, Miller, Papanicholas, and Hekster) who competed for us last fall during the IHSA state series. The athletes had a tremendous summer of training and we are very pleased with the current state of our collective and individual fitness! There is a positive vibe and focus within our program. Our seniors are providing great leadership and they are shadowed by a deep junior class who gained valuable experience last track season. The Trevians are ready to take advantage of the opportunity presented before us this season to see how we stack up against the great competition in Illinois. Onward Trevians!!!"

Head Coach/Coaches: Chris Baldwin / Abel Reyess, Tim Hasso, Stephen Traphagen
Last Year's Finish: State Championship- 5th place
Key Newcomers: Connor Harmon (Fr.), Ryan Solberg (Fr.)
Outlook: The Huskies enter this year after a great 2022-23 school year that saw them return to being one of the top programs in the state. This group will be led by the trio of Daniel Johnson, Michael Michelotti, and Lewis O'Connor who will all look to be very interchangeable this season.

Michelotti is the top returner from last year's squad as he took 36th at the state meet last year. He will be a guy that will look to improve and potentially be an all-stater this year.

Johnson will be looking for some redemption from last year's cross country season where he ended up having to DNF quite a few times. He ran 14:59 at Richard Spring Invite last year and unfortunately was never able to replicate that performance again. He looks to be in the right direction after a good track season.

The older O'Connor was the fifth man on this team last year and had an exceptional track season. He ran 9:35 in the 3200m and looks to be a potential breakout candidate.

Finn Kelly made a huge jump during the track season going 9:42 in the 3200m. If he continues his meteoric progression, it is plausible to see him challenge the 15:00 barrier. After that will be an interesting battle for the fifth-man position between Liam O'Connor and Andrew Harmon. The younger O'Connor much like Kelly had a great track season showing out and running 9:48 in the 3200m. Harmon was a part of last year's unit and brings experience to this team as a potential scorer this season.

Coach Baldwin stated, "‚Äč‚ÄčLast year we had a historic season for our program. We are motivated to continue to improve and work hard for each other. We will take it one practice and meet at a time and enjoy our time together with our teammates"

Head Coach/Coaches: Andy Derks / Sam Barranco, Roxanne Hall, Emilie Hatzl
Last Year's Finish: State Championship- 4th place
Key Runners: Quinn Davis (Jr.), Owen Stahl (Sr.), Aidan Connors (So.), Thomas Czerwinski (So.), Easton Miller (Sr.), Noah Gilbert (Sr.), Cullen Williams (Sr.), James Maso (So.), Gavin Hall (So.)
Key Newcomers: Logan Dodson (Fr.), Dominic Frigo (Fr.)
Outlook: The Tigers enter the season with a young nucleus that is surrounded by some veterans that will make for a very interesting team entering this year. This squad will be led by the 1-2 punch of Owen Stahl and Quinn Davis. Stahl was the second man on this squad last year and the top returner heading into this season. He had a great track season in the mid-distance categories with state qualification in both the 4x400m and 4x800m relays. The question that stands will be how does that translate to the three miles? He went 1:56 in the open 800m, which causes some intrigue for the man who took 34th at the state meet in the fall.

Davis had an exceptional track season that saw him run 9:31 in the 3200m. Which got him to the state track meet. He is the second-best returner coming into this season as he placed 64th at Detweiller back in 2022. Both should be under the 15:00 barrier at some point this season. Following them will be the pack of Aidan Connors, Thomas Czerwinski, and Easton Miller.

Connors was the seventh man on the team last season with a very good showing nearing the end of the season. That experience of running at state as a freshman must have fired him up when he ended his season running 9:44 in the 3200m which is exceptionally better than any race during his cross country season.

Czerwinski was a scorer last year as a freshman as the squad's fourth man. He followed it up with a strong track season running 9:48 in the 3200m and was part of the state qualifying 4x800m relay. He placed 81st last year at the XC state meet and will look to improve on that performance this season.

Miller much like Stahl excelled in the mid-distance events this track season, also being a part of squads 4x400m and 4x800m state qualifying teams. He will be a massive question mark entering the XC season with not that much of a fast 1600m time from this last season. He was a scorer for last year's team taking 87th as the team's fifth man. 

Noah Gilbert will be a name to watch that could slip into that top five. He had a great track season that saw him run 9:54 in the 3200m. He will be a very valuable depth piece to this team.

Coach Derks stated, "We've had a strong frontrunner in Oliver Burns the last couple of years and he would often be way ahead in most workouts and races. This year I believe our team will rely on a much tighter pack and interchangeable top 5-7 runners. On any given day, we have 4-5 guys who could be our top guys, and that is exciting. I also think we will be a team that improves a lot as the season goes, with some of our top guys like Owen Stahl and Easton Miller who were much more 400/800m focused in track. They've taken a bit longer to get back into "XC training mode", but are definitely starting to get rolling, and I think will benefit from the speed they developed in the spring."

Head Coach/Coaches: Jason Crowe / Ryan Thompsen, Carson Vittorio
Last Year's Finish: 1st at IHSA 3A State, 13th at NXN
Key Runners: Camyn Viger (Sr.), Dylan Maloney (Jr.), Gavin Borger (Sr.), Riley Fink (Jr.), Joaquin DeAlba (Sr.), Cole Maranowicz (Jr.), Tyler Miller (So.), Aron McCormick (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Austin Cory (So.), Alex Batsala (Fr.), Dylan Buturusis (Fr.)
Outlook: The Cougars were the State Champions last year and made the trip out to Portland. With a few key members returning and a group of rising runners, it will be interesting to see if this version of the Cougars can reach that level again.

The Cougars are led by the scrappy Camyn Viger who has led this squad for the last two years. He had a phenomenal regular season as he ran 14:22 at Detweiller and 15:05 at LaVern Gibson. Sickness hampered him at State and NXR. He bounced back with a great track season looking strong in all three distance disciplines. Viger's goal is to win the individual state title.

Dylan Maloney who was the team's second finisher last year. He had a great track season as he ran 9:14 in the 3200m. He will be looking to potentially be a top 10 finisher in November and be a part of a very formidable 1-2 punch for the Cougars.

Gavin Borger was the team's third runner back in 2021 when they took 7th place at state. After a disappointing 2022 xc season, Borger ran terrific on the track as part of the Cougars 7:40 4x800m relay and ran 4:24 in the 1600m. If he progresses like he should, he could be a potential all-stater.

Riley Fink and Keeno DeAlba look to close out the scoring five for this squad. They are the new kids on the block. Both have had massive breakout track seasons with them going 9:50 and 9:55 in the 3200m. Both will look to develop as the season progresses.

The Cougars seem to have a young group developing and growing over time as Austin Cory, Alex Batsala, and Dylan Bututrusis are all first year runners for this squad that could make the varsity group. They develop throughout the season and they may fill into the top five scorers along with Tyler Miller.

Coach Crowe stated, "Joaquin "Keeno" DeAlba has really stepped up as a senior leader and has put in his prescribed mileage with some excellent workouts and paces. Viger, Maloney, and Borger spent five weeks at a camp in Crested Butte, Colorado. They had a great time and ran every day at 9,000 feet. Our numbers have gone up and we have the largest team in school history this year. Our focus will be on daily improvements, P.M.A., and racing

Head Coach/Coaches: Tom Root / Matt Medansky, Matt Froehlich
Last Year's Finish: 3A State- 11th place
Key Runners: Joe Bregenzer (Jr.), Ethan Scott (Jr.), Justin Hurtado (Jr.), Avery Erickson (Jr.), Max Lewis (Sr.), Manasyu Chaudhari (Sr.), Haru Nagaoka (Jr.), Brian Breen (Sr.), Mark McGinn (Jr.), Wyatt Nichols (Sr.), Connor Baird (Sr.), Jonathan Curbelo (Jr.)
Outlook: A very young group in 2022 was the Broncos in what clearly entering the season looked to be a rebuilding year. They shocked a lot of people and were just outside a top-10 finish at the state meet.

Returning their entire top six from last year, it looks like 2023 may be their year. They will be led by returning all-stater Joe Bregenzer who had a great track season taking home some hardware in the 3200m. He brings the experience of being the top guy at a young age. He will look to be a potential top-10 finisher at the state meet.

The duo of Justin Hurtado and Ethan Scott, both will look to break the 15:00 barrier. Scott took 48th and Hurtado took 61st at the state meet last year. Throughout the season expect these two to be interchangeable. There is a big question mark for those final four spots on the varsity level with a great amount of depth that will look to fill in the holes.

The group of Manasyu Chaudhari, Mark McGinn, Max Lewis, Haru Nagaoka, Avery Erickson, and Wyatt Nichols all ran in the 3200m from 9:46 to 10:00, all could fill out those final spots. Erickson is the 4th fastest returning 3 Mile time on the team, if all goes well we may see him up with Hurtado and Scott.

Coach Root stated, "This is an extremely special group in that they were SO driven and "professional" in their running as they were underclassmen. Now that this same group are juniors and seniors, they have an abnormal amount of varsity experience and I would say an abnormal amount of "drive" for today's (or any era's) typical high schoolers."