Prospect's Quentin Shaffer was a relative unknown at the beginning of the last year's cross country season.
But the Knights senior had a solid fall, then exploded during spring's track season and capped it by winning the 3,200 meters (9:17) at the Loyola sectional.
Shaffer has picked up where he left off, cruising to a first-place finish to lead Prospect to a 19-41 Mid-Suburban League-opening dual meet victory on Tuesday over host Hoffman Estates at Barrington Pond.
Shaffer hung with the pack for the first mile before exploding over the final 2 miles and finishing the 3.08 mile course in 15:39.
"Winning the sectional (track) was a big bump for me, it made me want more," said Shaffer, who also put in a solid summer of work. "I've come pretty far since last season; it just seems a lot easier this season. I feel different."
"He just took off," said Prospect coach Mike Stokes of Shaffer's run. "After the first mile he just shot out of a cannon."
Shaffer was followed by Hoffman Estates junior Billy Thomas (16:05). The Knights senior got a little help from his teammates.
Junior Max Daleiden (16:17) and senior Michael Leet (16:29) took third and fourth, with junior Blake Hallman (16:38) and junior Max Gonzalez (16:47) taking fifth and sixth place to complete Prospect's scoring. Daleiden and Leet worked off each other, and Gonzalez made a nice move down the stretch to secure sixth place.
Prospect finished sixth in Class 3A last season, and the Knights definitely have the pieces this season to put together something special.
"I think we have some good runners," said Stokes of his team. "I was pleased with their effort today."
"It's a great start," he said, "and once it cools down I think everyone is going to improve on times. I think we're going to look really strong."
Thomas also had a nice start. The Hoffman Estates junior led the first mile before settling into second place with a personal best on his home course.
"That is what I was planning to run," said Thomas, who offered a glimpse of his potential. "I am ahead of where I was last year at this time."
Hoffman Estates coach Brenden Mariano has high expectations for his junior standout.
"He put in a great summer," said Mariano of Thomas's training. "We knew he could come out today and run hard, and he showed tremendous improvement."
Senior Brenna Albuck (16:48) was nipped at the finish, taking seventh place for the Hawks.
"We can really build on this," said Mariano whose team finished 10th in the MSL last season. "They came out ready to race, and I think we can improve."