About the only people not caught off guard by Jones ending the Public League’s cross county state-title drought last year were coach Andrew Adelmann and his runners.
Now four of the seven runners who ran last fall at Detweiller Park in Peoria are gone, including the top three. So not many expect the Eagles to repeat — again, other than themselves.
“We all agree with what Adelmann believes,” senior Peter Schaible said. “There’s not a single guy who doesn’t believe we can win a state title again.”
Schaible and junior Kyle Maloney will lead the way for Jones this year after finishing 31st and 39th at state a year ago with three-mile times of 15 minutes, 13 seconds and 15:19. They were the fourth and fifth scoring runners for the Class 2A champion Eagles behind graduated all-staters Jamison Dale, Luke O’Connor and Kirby Lawson.
After chasing those teammates for his first three years, Schaible is ready to be a front-runner, as he showed by winning the Sycamore Invitational this year.
“I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity my whole career in running,” Schaible said. “I remember talking countless times to Jamison and Luke and Kirby, [asking], ‘What can I improve on?’ ’’
Schaible and Maloney have contrasting styles, but could wind up being a potent 1-2 punch, Adelmann believes.
“Peter is definitely a guy who needs to go out quick from the beginning,” the coach said. “Kyle, because he’s such a speedy guy, any race where we can put him into contention [with] a half mile or mile to race, he’ll be in a good spot.”
After Schaible and Maloney, there are several solid contenders for spots in the Eagles’ top seven.
Seniors Tony Gonzalez and Kevin Johnson have state-meet experience, running in the top seven for the Eagles when they finished seventh in 2A in 2011.
Three talented juniors who have run 4:39 miles or better also are in the mix: Will Sarchet, Mark Protsiv and Tony Solis.
And, Adelmann said, “our strongest asset is our depth from the 8-to-20 spot.”
Another plus is the memory of what happened last November, when Jones became the first Public League team to take first in the IHSA since Lane in 1963.
“Everybody on the team saw what winning a state title meant,” Schaible said, while Adelmann noted, “it was a very visceral example of what can happen. They were able to see guys who made the transformation by committing to what they had to do.”
But now Dale, O’Connor and Lawson are gone, leaving Schaible and his current teammates to carry on the tradition.
“I’ll be honest,” Schaible said. “I’ll miss those guys. They are great friends of mine. But we can’t dwell on the past.”
Not when there are more races to run and more expectations to exceed.