Cross country: Several DuPage and Fox storylines to follow heading into sectionals
The first Saturday in November and Detweiller Park in Peoria can mean only one thing: the six cross country state meets.
The athletes of DuPage and Kane County are invariably an integral part of the conversation.
Two years ago, at the last officially conducted state meet, the Naperville North and Benet girls were awarded the highest team honor in the state at the Class 3A and 2A levels, respectively.
Not to be outdone, Kane County boys programs St. Charles East and Kaneland did likewise in support of their DuPage brethren.
On an individual level, Katelynne Hart (Michigan), universally regarded as the most accomplished distance runner in state history, captured the last of her four Class 3A titles for Glenbard West.
But Batavia senior Katrina Schlenker, vanquished by Hart as a freshman three years ago, has one final shot at state glory after leading the Bulldogs to the Oswego East regional title last week.
Fellow Batavia resident Lianna Surtz seeks a third combined state championship in cross country and track for Rosary in Class 1A.
Dan Iverson rested Naperville North star Lucy Westlake at the Oswego East regional as the Huskies, who will seek an astonishing 31st consecutive state appearance, failed to win a regional for the first time in a decade.
For the first time in recent memory, the Naperville North girls are not in its customary top spot in the internet rankings as the regular season concluded.
York and Minooka, the last team to beat Naperville North at a state meet (2015), are rated higher by noted authority Mike Newman.
"That is probably fair," Iverson said. "I have no problem with it."
Hinsdale Central and Lake Park will be the epicenter for the majority of large-class area programs for both genders this weekend.
"I feel very strong and healthy right now in my races," said Schlenker, who not only won the Oswego East individual title but also served as the linchpin for the Bulldogs' termination of the Huskies' four-year unblemished postseason run of victories. "No matter what the rankings say, this team has found a new level. It's contagious."
In the boys division at the newly christened Northwestern Medicine course in Geneva over the weekend at the St. Charles East regional, Micah Wilson began his all-out assault on the three-week state series.
The last remaining starter from the Saints' 2019 state-championship unit, Wilson was the anchor of a dazzling victory for St. Charles East over DuKane Conference rivals Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South.
The league has produced the last two team state champions at the highest- population level as the Saints edged WW South, the then defending champion, two years ago.
Wilson had no peers at Northwestern Medicine with his championship time of 14 minutes, 39 seconds.
The York boys had a perfect score in winning Proviso West on Saturday behind the championship triumvirate of Garrett Schwan, Ethan Summer and Eric Rutherford.
The York girls, who unofficially ended the Naperville North run at a timing-company- sponsored substitute state meet last fall, were only four points from a flawless performance as well.
Bria Bennis' 17:44.3 clocking for the Dukes engineered another one-sided showing for the famed running programs at the Elmhurst high school.
Glenbard West senior Audrey Allman, a multiple all-stater in both cross country and track, continues the legacy of the Hilltoppers' unrivaled pedigree -- in terms of individual champions -- over the last decade. Allman was runner-up to Bennis at Proviso West.
Freshman Evan Nosek was the leader for the Kaneland boys on Saturday on their home course in Maple Park as part of the Fenton sectional complex in Class 2A.
The Knights had no issues in defending their home turf as the team has shown significant progress over the regular season.
Among Class 2A aspirants on the local girls scene, Crystal Lake South has been anointed the No. 1 team in the land by Newman.
The Gators typified the centrality of their community by defeating both city rivals, Central High School and Prairie Ridge, at Woodstock.
Isabella Gonzalez and Abby Machesky are the leaders for CL South.
"Hopefully the (top) ranking isn't the kiss of death," CL South coach Ken Greenfield said.