First, second or third, no matter what the finish, the Ramblers boys cross country team will complete the best season in school history after the Class 3A state meet is completed sometime around 2:20 p.m. at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
Loyola has won all six major meets that it has competed in this season. The Fab Four seniors of Nico Composto, Mark Donohue, Jack Seeberg and Patrick Smith have finished near the top in every meet. The No. 5 scoring spot has been a revolving door between Mac Ford, Will Hague and Tom Beddome this season. But the Ramblers will be tough to stop as the state’s top-ranked team most of the season by dyestatil.com. Loyola is ranked sixth nationally by dystat.com and Neuqua Valley is ranked 13th. Loyola has never finished better than 11th in a state meet — it was 12th last year. The Ramblers won their first sectional title since 1982 Saturday at Niles West.
Single season dream teams like this come along so infrequently in a state dominated by York’s Long Green Line. Legendary coach Joe Newton has won 26 state title since 1962, but the Dukes could match their longest streak without a title on Saturday. York’s last title was in 2006, which capped a streak of five consecutive championships.
Newton and the Dukes were at Niles West Saturday. Newton, 80, no longer walks the course during a meet. He sat in a metal folding chair bundled up in a pink sleeping bag type blanket surrounded by an entourage of friends and team parents. Of course, Newton was wearing his trademark Green and White York knit cap.
York, which is led by Andrew Smith, is ranked third heading into the state meet. The only other four-year stints York failed to win a championship were from 1974-77 and 1995-98. In a past interview with Dyestat.com, Newton said, “At York, when you get second it’s like a funeral.”
As usual, York will probably bring its band and busloads of supporters to the state meet, but there will likely be only one team celebrating afterward.