WW South wins Class 3A Waubonsie Valley Sectional for first time in 12 years

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The WW South boys cross country team is taking no prisoners this postseason.

The Tigers, with seniors Luke Schroer and Nolan McKenna finishing second and third, respectively, defeated conference rival Naperville North, 58-80, to win the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley sectional on Saturday morning.

Fellow DuPage Valley Conference members Wheaton North, which crowned the individual champion in senior Joe Emmanuel, and Naperville Central also earned automatic team bids to the state finals in Peoria next week.

Batavia turned back Marmion by 15 points for the final qualifying berth.

It was the Tigers’ first team championship at a sectional since 2001.

“We’re enjoying the ride,” WW South coach Greta Havey said. “That’s what it’s all about. We take every year one year at a time, every kid one year at a time.”

Schroer and McKenna reversed their results from the West Chicago regional, where the latter defeated his senior classmate for top honors.

“I actually wasn’t at state last year,” said Schroer, who was hamstrung with injuries a season ago. “It’s really great being able to qualify as a team. I started my kick (against Emmanuel) too early. That’s my only regret about today.”

McKenna, the Tigers’ Iowa State-bound leader, was nine seconds behind his teammate in 15 minutes, 29 seconds to place third.

Emmanuel, a four-time state qualifier, crossed the three-mile layout in 15:17 to edge Schroer by three seconds on the rain-saturated course in Aurora.

“It means a lot to win as a team,” McKenna said. “Each individual tried their best to gear up for state.”

Kyle Cepeda was fifth, and David Dillon was two slots behind the junior to give WW South four runners in the top seven.

Gabe Lightbody was the Tigers’ fifth score.

Emmanuel, who nosed out McKenna for the conference championship, has never failed to qualify for state.

“It was really slippery,” Emmanuel said of the Waubonsie Valley course. “I thought I had a good race. (Winning the individual title) is a plus for the team made it to state, too.”

Jake Pecorin and Kerry Gschwendtner finished in consecutive order to pace runner-up Naperville North.

Wes Noyes’ 14th-place result augmented the Emmanuel championship effort for Wheaton North.

Scott Hicks’ top-eight performance was the centerpiece for Naperville Central. Mitch Zabka and Ryan Wieties were the mainstays for Batavia. The Elgin area will be represented by three of the top-four individual advancers.

Huntley sophomore Keegan Smith was fourth, Bartlett senior Dan Cotton was sixth and Jacobs’ Matthew Johnson earned his first trip to state with his sixth-place finish.

“(My place) was definitely better than I expected before the race,” Smith said.

Marmion had twin qualifiers in John Graft and Brady Bobbitt to compensate for its sixth-place team result.

East Aurora junior Felipe Nino qualified as the final of seven individual berths.

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