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updated: 9/9/2011 3:10 PM

Scouting DuPage County boys cross country

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By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent

Top area teams: York, Neuqua Valley, Hinsdale Central, Naperville North, Downers Grove North, Wheaton North, Glenbard West, Glenbard South, Downers Grove South, Willowbrook.

Top athletes: Addison Trail: Joe Atria, (jr.), Victor Gomez, (sr.), David Kielbania, (sr.), Jose Martinez, (sr.), Kevin Otte, (jr.), Conor Rowley, (sr.), Jose Vasquez, (sr.); Downers Grove North: Ben Eaton, (jr.), Kevin Proffitt, (sr.), Zach Smith, (soph.); Downers Grove South: Nick Kirk, (sr.), Ryan Kelch, (sr.), Harry Miles, (sr.), Brian Rotunno, (jr.); Fenton: Michael Cronn, (sr.), Miguel Rosas, (sr.), Wade Smith, (jr.), Michael Uhl, (sr.), Fabiel Urzua, (jr.);

Glenbard East: Bill Booth, (sr.), Brad Busching, (jr.), Tom Faron, (jr.), Jack Peters, (soph.), Jake Schaefer, (jr.), Evan Schiewe, (sr.), Tim Swanson, (jr.); Glenbard South: Fred Jaeger, (sr.), Peter Jaeger, (sr.), Andrew Kladiva, (soph.), Joe Singleton, (soph.), John Wold, (soph.), Scott Wurtz, (sr.); Glenbard West: Brandon Bonifer, (jr.), Kenny Leaf, (sr.), Mike Lederhouse, (sr.), Will Lindstrom, (jr.); Hinsdale Central: Jack Feldman, (sr.), Tom Lyons, (sr.), Ted Owens, (sr.), Neil Pederson, sr.), Arjun Reddy, (sr.); Hinsdale South: Matthew Longoria, (jr.), Martin Schmitt, (sr.); Immaculate Conception:

Brian Anzures, (jr.), Brendan Douherty, (fr.), Andy Valdivia, (soph.); Lake Park: Eric Dave, (soph.), Kevin Jorgensen, (sr.), Jeremy Lozano, (soph.); Metea Valley: Mike Hennessy, (sr.), Joe Stewart, (sr.), Matt Stewart, (sr.), Colin Yorke, (jr.); Montini: Alex Corbo, (jr.), Matt Leakakos, (sr.), Mike Lugowski, (sr.), Tyler Pacana, (fr.), Jaxom Victor, (jr.);

Naperville North: Sam Ceruti, (jr.), Nick Drendel, (sr.), Dan Emrie, (sr.), Griffin Haugen, (jr.), Jake Pecorin, (soph.), Jimmy Qiao, (jr.); Neuqua Valley: Nick Bushelle, (soph.), Mark Derrick, (sr.), Alekh Meka, (jr.), Brendan O'Connor, (jr.), Drew Smith, (sr.), Taylor Soltys, (sr.); St. Francis: Matt Denny, (sr.), Andrew Hallett, (soph.), Mike Kwiatowski, (sr.), John Lyons, (jr.), Josh Penas, (sr.); Timothy Christian: Ryan DeGroot, (sr.), Clarke Doig, (jr.), Aaron Soyinka (sr.), Phillip Stanton, (jr.), Alex Sweatman, (sr.)

Waubonsie Valley: Austin Carlson, (jr.), Alex Foote, (sr.), Julian Morrison, (jr.), Christian Noblett, (sr.); West Chicago: Roberto Campos, (sr.), Marcus DeLatorre, (sr.), Jose Garcia, (sr.), Jon Hernandez, (sr.), James Scheck, (sr.); Wheaton North: Aidan Askin, (sr.), Wyatt Didier, (jr.), Sam Hoffman, (sr.), Alex Ryan, (jr.), Paul Steeno, (jr.); Wheaton Warrenville South: Derek Andersen, (sr.), Quinn Farley, (sr.), Nick Ives, (sr.), Dan Krob, (sr.), Andrew Smith, (sr.), Russell Valentin, (sr.), Daryle Worley, (jr.); Willowbrook: Dan Heneghan, (sr.), Tim Hyde, (jr.), Pat Niyork, (sr.), Jack Rosenwinkel, (sr.); York: Billy Cling, (sr.), Evan Fabry, (jr.), Eric Glaubke, (sr.), Scott Milling, (jr.), Alex Mimlitz, (jr.).

Scouting report: It seems virtually impossible to match, let alone trump, the developments of the last boys cross country season in Illinois. Legendary York coach Joe Newton quipped about breaking the New York Yankees' record of 26 championships after his latest edition edged Lake Zurich by 2 points to win yet another large-school team title last fall, the 27th of his unrivaled career.

Sandburg senior Lukas Verzbicas (Oregon) was dubbed by one national writer as "perhaps the most remarkable high school runner ever" after he followed his scintillating performance at Peoria with five national championships, including eclipsing the magical four-minute mark in the mile last spring.

The new season begins in earnest this weekend with major meets at Fenton and Hinsdale Central, and yet trying to gauge a favorite for the major hardware once the leaves turn brown is as wide open as ever. "I think there are seven or eight teams in the mix for a trophy," said Neuqua Valley coach Paul Vandersteen, who has guided his team to two of the last four team state championships.

Preseason prognosticators have given a slight edge to Palatine from the always-formidable Mid-Suburban League, but York and Neuqua Valley are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, according to other projections. The Wildcats have arguably the most lethal 1-2 punch in the state with state-seasoned veterans Soltys and Derrick. At this point last year Vandersteen did not have a single returnee from his 2009 state-championship team, but Neuqua Valley turned its alleged inexperience into yet another trophy-winning experience with its third-place hardware. Vandersteen is even more impressed with his latest crop. "I didn't think I would ever be able to say this, but they have worked even harder than that group (from last year) this summer," Vandersteen said.

York, meanwhile, has the daunting challenge of replacing state runner-up Jack Driggs. Like Neuqua Valley a year ago, the Dukes have unproven -- at the state level, that is -- athletes who must make up for considerable graduation losses. Cling, a transfer from fellow state-finalist St. Charles North, should make an immediate impact. The Dukes also face considerable roadblocks simply to win their conference championship.

The famed West Suburban Silver had four other members -- Oak Park, Hinsdale Central, Downers North and Lyons Twp. -- make the state cut; Glenbard West returns six members from a sectional-qualifying contingent. "York will certainly be the team to beat this year in the conference," Hinsdale Central coach Jim Westphal said. John Sipple takes over the reins this year at Downers North. "I have a feeling we'll be able to find four other guys (to complement Eaton, Proffitt and Smith)," Sipple said. Lederhouse is a returning at-large state qualifier for Glenbard West.

Downers South is poised for yet another title in the West Suburban Gold, but Willowbrook coach T.J. Artman feels his team can contend behind returning state qualifier Niyork. "With the 11 seniors (in the program) coming back, we have a lot of guys fighting for those top seven spots," Artman said. "We're looking for a competitive season for all the boys."

Brad Donaldson hopes to resurrect the Addison Trail program with an infusion of youth interspersed with senior leaders Martinez, Kielbania and Rowley. "The team has put in a ton of miles over the summer, and we hope to reap the rewards of that effort through the (regular) season and into the state series," Donaldson said.

Wheaton North captured the DuPage Valley Conference title en route to the state meet, only to have league stalwarts West Aurora and Naperville North better its team finish at Peoria. The three schools figure to have yet another donnybrook this fall, with Naperville North holding the slightest of edges, according to an informal poll of league coaches. But the Falcons do not intend to surrender their crown without a fight.

"Certainly it is always an honor to compete for a DVC title, and we feel that we are capable of (defending) as well as a high postseason finish," Wheaton North coach Nate Roe said. "Most people have the top three teams (York, Neuqua Valley, Palatine) in the state pegged already, but we'd like to be in the conversation by season's end. The state of Illinois has a tremendous tradition of excellence in cross country, and we look forward to testing ourselves against the best."

Lake Park looks to extend its season one barrier farther after falling short at the team sectional last year. "We had a good group of sophomores who are now juniors," Lake Park coach Lance Murphy said. "I don't think I've ever had a group of guys this far up there. I guess you could say we have a lot of depth." Joe Stewart became the first male state qualifier in school history last year for Metea Valley, and Waubonsie Valley needs to replace all-state leader Kevin Groeber.

Class 2A has reconfigured its state series: seven team will advance out of the regionals, and a fifth sectional was added to make for a 25-team state tournament. "We're hoping it's going to help us," said Fenton coach Jack Kurtz, who will host the added sectional.

Glenbard South is once again the class of the middle-tier local programs after becoming the lone area school to advance to Peoria last year. Raiders coach Andy Pruess will count heavily on his talented underclassmen. "It sounds crazy to have two sophomores (Wold and Singleton) to lead us," Pruess said. "I think they'll be as good as any sophomores around." The Raiders should have little trouble in defending their Metro Suburban Conference title.

St. Francis also has designs on staying overnight in central Illinois in November. "If we keep our top five together, we'll be fine," St. Francis' Scott Nelson said. "We have a shot at getting to state." Belvidere North will be a prohibitive favorite to defend its Class 2A team title this fall.

Key dates: Sept. 3, Fenton Earlybird; Sept. 3, Hornet-Red Devil Invite; Sept. 10, Lake Park Invite; Sept. 10, Peoria Woodruff Invite; Sept. 16-17, Peoria Notre Dame Invite; Sept. 24, Palatine Invite; Oct. 1, Wheaton North Falcon Classic; Oct. 8, West Aurora Stampede; Oct. 14-15, Conference championships.

Predicted state champions: Class 1A, Beecher; Class 2A, Belvidere North; Class 3A, Palatine.

-- Kevin McGavin