The Trevians’ boys cross country team again has a deep pool of talented runners, but their full lineup likely won’t be on display until late September.
“We have some guys that ran in the state meet last year but have had some injuries carry over from track season — or a few minor things crop up over the summer,” New Trier coach David Wisner said. “There’s just no point in racing them in the first few meets until I know they’re ready to compete.”
The list of runners who will be held out of New Trier’s early-season meets includes seniors Om Kanwar, Luke Duros and Tarek Afifi. Kanwar tore the plantar fascia in his left foot during the 2014 indoor track season, and the injury cost him his outdoor track season.
Kanwar has begun training, and so too have Duros and Afifi. Duros, who could return by mid-September, has dealt with lingering Achilles tendinitis in his right leg. Afifi suffered a high left ankle sprain on the first day of summer practice, and Wisner said the injury persisted all summer. Afifi was held out of the first two weeks of cross country practice this fall to let it heal.
Although those three members of New Trier’s 2013 state lineup are sidelined, the Trevians still have talented runners to start the year. Senior Josh Rosenkranz has all-state potential, Wisner said, and he’s joined by senior Austin Santacruz and junior Jack Litowitz.
Litowitz finished 15th at the Edmonton ITU Age Group Sprint Triathlon World Championships last week.
The Niles West boys cross country team has seen its numbers spike in recent years, with participation in the program up to about 75 runners this season.
Varsity coach Mike Grossman said the increase is largely because of the creation of the Little 9 feeder program, which is geared toward students at the nine middle schools in District 219 that feed into Niles North and Niles West.
The Little 9 was created four years ago and has helped raise awareness of cross country at those schools, Grossman said. That is especially important because District 219 doesn’t offer middle school cross country. For Niles West, developing runners at an earlier age is vital in trying to compete with very strong programs like New Trier.
“What we’ve had in the past are kids that have done another sport in the fall [as freshmen at Niles West], and then ran for our program in the spring for track,” Grossman said. “Then they said they didn’t even know about the sport of cross country. Then, as a sophomore, they’d be one of our best athletes. We’re giving kids an extra year — maybe even a couple of extra seasons — to compete in the sport.”
Little 9 also helped cultivate a strong core of sophomores — including Emanual Rivera, Marco Alanas, Frankie Santa and Nico Dominguez — on this year’s team that could contribute to the varsity team — which is led by senior captains Theo Beck and Adrian Vargas — by the end of this season.
Loyola is led by seniors Jack Carroll and Christian Swenson. Coach Dan Seeberg said they’re both all-state candidates who have improved in their areas of weakness — for Carroll, it was his endurance during the middle of races; for Swenson, it was his speed at the end races.
Junior Patrick Reilly-Hayward, and sophomores Paolo Tiongson and Andrew Niewiarowski have all progressed well, according to Seeberg, and senior Spencer Kelly (knee tendinitis) could also be a factor if he can stay healthy.
This year’s team, which includes several other runners vying for varsity spots, is the most talented squad Seeberg said he has had since the Ramblers took second in Class 3A in 2009. Trying to match the success of the 2009 team is something Loyola emphasized before its regular season began, partly by drawing comparisons.
“I think they saw the times those guys ran as sophomores and juniors, and the workouts they did, and they realized they’re doing the same exact thing,” Seeberg said. “They’re realizing they’re hitting the same times as underclassmen. And as they keep developing, [the thought is] ‘Someone’s got to win these championships. Someone’s got to compete for state titles. Why wouldn’t it be us?’”
The last year has been difficult for Glenbrook South senior Colin Burrowes due to a pair of stress fractures.
Burrowes missed part of his junior cross country season due to a stress fracture in his shin before returning for the regional and sectional meets. Then, after running well during his indoor track season, Burrowes suffered a stress fracture in his other shin.
Glenbrook South coach Kurt Hasenstein has been cautious with Burrowes during the opening weeks of the season. One of his legs started bothering him during the preseason, Hasenstein said, so they shut him down and had him train on a bike and an elliptical.
The plan going forward may involve cross-training.
“Sometimes, if they’re not hurting, [it’s smart to] just take a precautionary day,” Hasenstein said. “If you have an easy workout, just [put] them on the bike or in the pool or something else so they’re not just putting in miles — junk miles, we call them.”
Burrowes likely will be a big contributor this fall if he can stay healthy. He’ll be joined on the squad by seniors Henry Dickson and Nash Kennedy, as well as junior Michael Aki.
Glenbrook North returns a talented core of juniors who figure to make progress this season.
That group includes Jason Golden and Scott Thomas, who are currently the two fastest runners on the squad, as well as Nate Whitfield and Alex Hanskat.
The Spartans’ juniors have experienced a natural growth over the last year, Glenbrook North coach Bill Race said. They’ve gained race experience and matured physically. The upperclassman also have developed an understanding of the importance of staying disciplined during the summer and using that time to build a strong base.
Golden is a prime example of that. Race said Golden ran more than 500 miles this summer.
“I think it’s hard for a high school kid to fully appreciate that the work he’s doing in June is going to pay off in September or October or hopefully November,” Race said. “I think that vision and awareness takes a little while to develop.”
As sophomores in 2012, Carl Klamm and Esteban Escobar were part of Evanston’s varsity lineup. They went in different directions last year, however.
Klamm was Evanston’s top runner as a junior, while Escobar wasn’t in the varsity lineup very often. Evanston coach Don Michelin said he saw Escobar’s motivation diminish a year ago, explaining that the tough academic year some juniors endure likely contributed to that.
Escobar is back for the Wildkits this year, and he worked out very hard during the preseason. Michelin said he expects Escobar to be part of Evanston’s top four, with Klamm, senior Conrad Gordon and junior Spencer Eanes.
“I see a better want from him,” Michelin said of Escobar. “He wants to do this now. I think last year, he knows that he underachieved. I think this year, he wants it to be a good year.”
Like last year, Niles North senior Dhruvil Patel is the team’s pace-setter in practice, and senior Nebil Mohamed and the Vikings’ other runners are in pursuit. What’s new for Niles North is that junior Martin Barr has made a big leap this year, and coach Dave Shafron said Barr is often running stride-for-stride with Patel in practice.
It’s clear Barr has made significant progress from last season, but that didn’t happen overnight.
“I firmly believe that each season builds on the last season,” Shafron said. “Martin ended the last cross country season on a pretty good note. He continued running strong through the winter. That led into a good track season. That led into a good summer. He just keeps building off of his previous seasons.”
Barr was Niles North’s sixth runner (16 minutes, 33.1 seconds) at the Class 3A Lake Park Sectional last season.
Many coaches measure progress from season to season with their stopwatch, but Northridge coach Mike Egle uses a slightly different method early in the season — he runs with his team.
Last year, Egle kept up with then-seniors David Lechuga and Tom Carden during most practices, he said, and the members of the freshman class would be way behind those three. This year, the roles have shifted. It’s the now-sophomores — Peter Conroy, Patrick Moore, and Sebastian Fuentes — who are running ahead of Egle.
“This year, the sophomores are running better than the seniors were last year, so that’s pretty exciting,” Egle said. “Those three sophomores have made a huge improvement, so I’m pretty confident that these guys look ready to go downstate.”
While those sophomores have looked very fast in the preseason and appear to have the potential to lead Northridge to a fourth-straight trip to the Class 1A state meet, Egle plans on having them compete on the sophomore level in the regular season. Senior Will Thornton is likely to be joined by the sophomores near the end of the season for postseason races, Egle said.
Juniors Kevin Moore and Adonis Silva are back as Ridgewood’s top runners, but it’s possible they’ll have company at times this season.
Freshman Kieran Moore has shown that he can compete with his older brother and Silva during the preseason, Ridgewood coach Tony Guagenti said. Kieran Moore’s strength is his endurance.
“He’s just got a good base and is able to endure a lot,” Guagenti said. “Kevin jokes in saying that, ‘My brother doesn’t really understand pain.’ ”
Sophomore Kamil Bonifaciuk also figures to contribute for Ridgewood this year.
Notre Dame’s Matt Contreras was the team’s lone sectional qualifier a year ago. The now-junior placed 119th at the Class 3A Lake Park Sectional, finishing the race in 16:51.7.
Notre Dame coach John Barrett said he has seen Contreras make significant improvements this year in his confidence leading the team — he’s leading workouts more often, along with fellow juniors Travis Martin and Robert Kostecki — and in his times.
“From track to now, just over the summer, he’s put in quite a bit of miles,” Barrett said. “He’s a stronger runner. His times have been cut down quite a bit this year.”
Barrett said one of Contreras’ goals is to break 16:00 by the end of the season, which the fourth-year coach said is a very attainable goal.
Seniors Connor Widelka and Saxon Kotowski also are expected to be part of the Dons’ lineup this season.
The Blue Demons’ lone sectional qualifier last year was Eric Ponzetti, a then-junior who was 107th at the sectional (16:37).
Although Maine South lost all-state runner Jack Carpenter to graduation, it returns seniors Henry Mierzwa and Paul d’Ambrosio — a pair of runners that Hawks coach Greg Nordahl said have all-state aspirations.
Mierzwa and d’Ambrosio are in line to be at the top of Maine South’s lineup all season, and juniors Brian Sodaro and Ralph Patejunas figure to provide excellent depth.
The development and performance of Sodaro and Patejunas will likely be key for the Hawks in their quest to qualify for the Class 3A state meet as a team. They finished sixth at the Class 3A Lake Park sectional a year ago, coming just one place short of making it downstate as a team.