Neuqua Valley boys, Naperville North girls prevail in Twilight Invite

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There’s nothing quite like the Naperville Twilight Invitational, billed as the only on-campus, night-time prep cross country invite in the country.

Coming now, with the postseason just around the corner, it’s just the thing to get runners like Connor Horn energized.

“It definitely helps lighten up the atmosphere, especially with such a fun meet at our own school,” the Neuqua Valley junior said. “On a course like this, it’s typically pretty grueling, especially with all the turns. But with all the fans that were around, it helped encourage you.”

Horn and teammate Michael Widmann finished 1-2 Wednesday evening, leading the host Wildcats to the boys title, 28-46 over Naperville North with Naperville Central (63) third in the six-team field.

“The goal was to get out hard, get into a good position, but then settle in and race at the end,” said Horn, who covered the 2.85-mile course in 14:31.3. “I was super glad to see Mike with me because he was pretty nervous before the race.”

Widmann ran 14:33.1, Daniel Weiss was fourth (14:43.1) and Neuqua’s pack of Dominic Dina (15:01.0), Matthew Horsley (15:01.4), Austin Kinne (15:01.4), Aidan Livingston (15:01.5) and Caleb Ferguson (15:02.0) finished 10th through 14th.

“We’re still building a base and getting stronger aerobically,” Horn said of the Wildcats, who are No. 3 in’s Class 3A rankings. “We’re going to be ready for state.”

Jonathan Klaiber (third, 14:37.6), Kerry Gschwendtner (fifth, 14:43.5) and Andrew Ladeur (seventh, 14:53.7) paced 3A No. 15 Naperville North.

Naperville Central, eighth in 3A, was led by Geoffrey McCullough (sixth, 14:50.2) and Scott Hicks (14:54.1).

In the girls race, 3A No. 8 Minooka went 1-2-3 individually, but finished second to No. 3 Naperville North by a 33-53 margin. No. 24 Neuqua Valley edged No. 6 Naperville Central 77-80 for third.

“I just went out hoping to win it,” said Minooka sophomore Ashley Tutt, who did just that in 16:40.5. “I didn’t expect that fast of a time.”

“We were definitely expecting to run [well], but not as well as we did,” said runner-up Mackenzie Callahan (16:55.3), another sophomore.

“It was a big surprise.”

Freshman Emily Shelton (16:55.7) also broke 17 minutes for the Indians, but then came Naperville North’s pack: Elly DeTurris (fourth, 17:11.2), Claire Hamilton (fifth, 17:14.9), Judy Pendergast (seventh, 17:22.5), Sarah Schmidt (eighth, 17:22.9) and Jennifer Gibson (ninth, 17:31.8).

“I was very impressed,” North coach Dan Iverson said. “We split up a couple weeks ago; this was a chance for us to come back together and see what we could do.”

Caitlin Horn (10th, 17:33.4) led Neuqua and Alana Austin (sixth, 17:17.9) was Naperville Central’s top finisher.

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