Tim Tierney’s cross country notes

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From year to year, Luis Garcia has been a good example of what a high school runner can accomplish in cross country.

Garcia, a senior at Oak Lawn, persevered in the sport after a slow start as a freshman when he ran three miles in 20 minutes.

“I’ve improved so much over the years,’’ he said. “It’s my first year in every invitational being under 16:00. It’s a pretty good feeling. I could hardly break 17:00 last year, freshman year being in the 20:00s.’’

Garcia finished first Saturday at the Jimmy Daniels/Olympian Run at Rich Central, his first individual title (15:45.4).

“I was actually thinking about winning it,’’ Garcia said. “I wasn’t too worried about a time, just get the points for the team.’’

Oak Lawn (71) was a close second to Lincoln-Way West (68) in the 16-team field. The Spartans’ Nick Minnella (fourth) and Diego Arana (seventh) also made the top 10.

Garcia claimed running more miles in the summer and getting older both played a part in his gradual improvement.

“I think it’s a little bit of both, maturity and doing a lot of miles,’’ he said.

Next for Oak Lawn is the South Suburban Red Meet, won by Shepard the past two years after the Spartans were champs in 2011.

“It’s everything for us,’’ Garcia said of Saturday’s race at Conkey Woods. “I couldn’t care less if we come in second in the regional, as long as we win the conference. That’s a huge team goal for this year.’’

Steve Raybould was 20th at Rich Central and has been a solid No. 4 for Oak Lawn. Romello Williams, the Spartans’ fifth runner in Saturday’s meet, Dan Reyes, Eric Sciaky and Enrique Miranda also have contributed.

Lemont youth movement

The addition this season of freshmen Beata Drozda and Celine Ratulowski turned an already strong Lemont girls program into an even tougher team to run against.

With Drozda, sophomore Bridget Kunkel and Ratulowski leading the way, Lemont beat defending champion Marist in the Olympian Run at Rich Central.

While Marist All-Stater Maryclare Leonard breezed to first by 47 seconds (17:54), Lemont placed six individuals among the top nine–Drozda (2nd, 18:41), Kunkel (3rd, 18:43.7), Ratulowski (4th, 18:45.6), Taylor Campos (6th, 18:57.1), Gabby Voltarel (8th, 19:16) and Jorie Dybcio (9th, 19:20.8).

Two weeks ago, Lemont won the small school race at the Tinley Park Invitational with Voltarel leading the pack. Turns out Indians coach Tim Plotke has a clear crystal ball:

“We have a fantastic mix this year of veterans and rookies,’’ Plotke said before the season.

L-Way West builds to top

Lincoln-Way West has raced plenty of state meet level competition this season in big invitationals at Lyons, Peoria Notre Dame and Lockport.

Running against some of the best teams and individuals reaped a reward Saturday for West with a first-place finish in the Olympian Run meet.

The Warriors’ top five runners went 3-5-9-23-28 to edge Oak Lawn, the 2013 winner, by three points.

West was led by Mitch Feehan, who was third (15:54.2) behind Garcia and Rich East’s Diamonte Ugebesia. Also scoring for the Warriors were Evan Mitchell (fifth), Peter Motto (ninth), Jacob Vanderwell (23rd) and Ryan Taylor (28th).

West is expected to be the closest challenger Saturday to defending champ Lincoln-Way Central in the SouthWest Suburban Red Meet at Turtlehead Lake.

Speaking of conference …

Sandburg’s boys team and Lockport’s girls squad will be clearcut favorites Saturday in the SouthWest Suburban Blue races at Channahon Community Park.

Bremen hopes to repeat as South Suburban Blue boys champ while Lemont should retain its girls title at North Creek Meadow in Lansing. Taylor Campos won last year as a sophomore as Lemont took the first six places.

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