SKOKIE — The members of the Niles West boys cross country team have high aspirations.
This year’s team is aiming to be the second in school history, and first since 2011, to qualify for the state meet. The hope is that if all the Wolves keep pace with senior Theo Beck, it will lead to a state berth.
Beck is the team’s fastest runner. He was 19th out of 278 runners (16 minutes, 12 seconds) in the Class 3A White division at Niles West’s Pat Savage Invitational on Saturday.
“He’s motivating everybody,” junior Atul Krishna said. “As a leader beating all of us, [it’s] kind of our fantasy to get up there.”
Niles West finished fifth out of 23 teams in the 3A White division on Saturday, yet Krishna said that many of the Wolves’ top runners didn’t run close to their personal bests.
Krishna (86th, 17:18), for example, is usually the team’s No. 2 runner, but six Wolves — Beck, junior Sam Iverson (50th, 16:44), junior Eric Scott (59th, 16:51), senior Adrian Vargas (63rd, 16:55), sophomore Marco Alanis (65th, 16:59) and sophomore Frankie Santa (72nd, 17:05) — ran faster than him.
Iverson was a notable exception on a cold, wet morning, running a personal-best time. He said he was inspired by previous Niles West standouts.
“My goal is to beat Marc Julien or Neal Omar or George Webb or George Davros,” Iverson said. “Those are the guys who are like legends in cross country, and I want to be up with them one day.”
This is likely Evanston senior Carl Klamm’s last season running cross country.
Klamm has been a top middle-distance runner for the Wildkits’ track and field team over the past two years, but he admits that he doesn’t have elite endurance like many of the state’s best cross country runners.
“Survive,” Klamm said with a laugh, when asked about his strategy in a three-mile race.
More specifically, Klamm tries to do his best to run a strong first two miles before he uses his speed to pass runners on the final mile. Senior Esteban Escobar has helped him in the middle of his races this season. Escobar typically passes Klamm on the second mile, which motivates Klamm to stick with him and pass him late in the race.
“I hate when he beats me,” Klamm said.
Klamm’s race unfolded according to schedule Saturday in the Class 3A White division at the Pat Savage Invitational. He finished 28th (16:22) and Escobar (33rd, 16:29) was the Wildkits’ No. 2 finisher. Senior Conrad Gordon (62nd, 16:54) was the team’s third runner as Evanston finished sixth
Klamm said he intends to run track in college.
Even though he seems to have the ability to run at a Division I school — he was 11th in the 800-meter run in Class 3A as a sophomore, and sixth in the 400 as a junior — Klamm said he’d prefer to go to a small college like Bethel, which is a Division III school in Minnesota. His older brother Pat Klamm runs at Bethel.
“I just like to have fun with running,” Carl Klamm said. “In a big school, I’m sure I’d do good and run in awesome meets, but there’s so many other good people. … That’s why I want to go smaller. I’d do better in a smaller school.”
The Glenbrook South boys cross country team competed in the Peoria Invitational on Saturday, and each of its top-six runners ran personal-best times.
The Titans were led by Henry Dickson (90th, 16 minutes, 3 seconds). Glenbrook South’s next five runners were within 45 seconds of the senior.
That’s a promising sign moving into the postseason. So too are the performances of freshman Jordan Theriault and sophomore Jack Whetstone in their first varsity invitational.
Theriault’s time of 16:08 broke Greg Elter’s freshman program record of 16:20 that had stood since 1986. Whetstone, who played soccer instead of running cross country last fall, wasn’t far behind with a time of 16:12. The pair finished 104th and 110th, respectively.
“I’m excited for our chances at the end of the year,” Glenbrook South coach Kurt Hasenstein said. “Being a young, inexperienced team, nobody is really looking at us as a favorite. We’re just progressing each week and getting a little better each day, so we’re happy about that.”
Dickson, Theriault and Whetstone were followed by three juniors — Michael Aki (154th, 16:29), Charith Wickrema (164th, 16:36) and Nick Stanek (182nd, 16:46). They have been more than a minute faster than they were a year ago on the same courses.
“They’ve done the work,” Hasenstein said of the juniors. “They’ve improved a ton.”
Nate Whitfield just keeps getting better.
The junior has emerged as Glenbrook North’s No. 1 runner in his second season of cross country. He ran a personal-best time of 15:29 on Saturday and finished 24th overall at the 52-team Peoria Invitational.
“Pretty much [every] race, he’s been dropping a minute or so off of those times from last year, which is a pretty huge drop for somebody who was already running pretty fast to begin with,” Glenbrook North coach Bill Race said. “Nate’s pretty fearless out there. He runs with a lot of courage, and just goes after it. He’s not afraid to push himself out of his comfort zone.”