Neuqua goes the distance at conference meet

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Neuqua Valley’s Connor Horn took 44th in the state in cross country as a mere freshman, and on the track he’s showing at least as much promise.

Referred to as Neuqua Valley’s “freshman sensation” by the P.A. announcer at Saturday’s Upstate Eight Conference indoor championship, Horn delivered, leading a 1-2 Neuqua finish in the 1,600 meters and overall dominance by the Wildcats in distance events as they compiled 115 points to finish second to defending state champion Lake Park (137.5).

“He’s the most talented freshman we’ve ever had and he’s a hell of a racer and a hell of a competitor, and he did an awesome job today,” said Neuqua senior Robbie Hohlman, who finished second to Horn but ran neck and neck with him until the back straightaway on the final lap on Batavia’s 200-meter indoor facility.

Horn finished in 4:31.47 and Hohlman in 4:31.98. Horn competed in the 800 and mile at Scullen Middle School and also ran summer club meets for the Naperville Track Club, likes the help he’s getting from upperclassmen like Hohlman, who actually led much of the race.

“They push me and help me with pace because I’m not the best at really pacing races yet,” he said. “So when (Hohlman) took over, I just knew to follow him and that was nice.”

The 1,600 is one of the events normally owned by upperclassmen, so it’s obvious Horn is expected to be a threat for a long time.

“Obviously to compete at the varsity level is one thing, but to win at the varsity level is another,” said Neuqua Valley coach Mike Kennedy.

Kennedy had no less praise for Neuqua’s effort in the 3,200 meters or the 1,600 relay as they earned conference titles.

Neuqua junior Nick Bushelle and senior Mike Whaley ran together in the 3,200 like Hohlman and Horn did, before Bushelle went out hard after it and won easily in 9:33.61 with Whaley second in 9:44.32.

Neuqua’s Roland Dewgard, Dennis Thurow, Nick Rafacz and Ty Moss captured the 1,600 relay by upsetting St. Charles East, which had recorded the state’s fourth-best time indoors heading into the meet.

Waubonsie Valley placed fifth with 46 points. The Warriors’ only title came from senior shot putter Riley Kittridge at 55-3, well below his 57-10 seeding distance. Metea Valley took 10th with 15 points, led by its third-place 3,200 relay team (8:19.4).

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