The Elgin boys' cross country team has plenty to be excited about these days.
The Maroons were fifth at the Elgin City Classic, seventh at Crystal Lake South and 10th out of 20 teams at Lake Park. Junior Emilio Mancha is Elgin's top runner. He averages under 16:30 and has finished in the medal places in the team's first 2 races.
Team captain Chris Porras has provided strong leadership, while seniors Cristian Martinez, Tanner Bednar, Nathan Hasken and Fabian Salazar have shown great competitive spirit. Junior Richard Childs also is running well and sophomore Logan Jostes could crack the varsity lineup soon. Nathan Hasken is back after sitting out last season and has enjoyed solid workouts and the embracement of competitive strategy on race days, according to coach John Devine.
"It's been a special season so far, really since summer camp in July," said Devine. "Our seniors are great leaders and have strong work ethics. We expect to surprise some of our competitors this season."
Larkin: The Royals started the season by placing 4 runners in the Top 70 at Crystal Lake South. Cameron Powers, Mitch Pepa, Alex O'Claire and Ernesto Garcia topped the score card at South. Powers took 28th.
"Cameron has been running real strong for us," said Larkin coach Eric Hill. "He leads the team and was voted co-captain as a junior. He is a real competitor. Racing is what Cameron seems to enjoy most."
Powers and O'Claire also ran well at Lake Park. "Alex is fresh and excited, works hard and has a maturity in the sport in regard to pace and competing despite this being his first year out for cross country," said Hill. "He's been a great diamond-in-the-rough for our team. The guys seem on pace and are practicing well and doing the workouts. I'm proud of the way we are coming together and supporting each other. As long as that continues Larkin cross country is in good shape."
Bartlett: The Hawks had two strong showings in invites thus far, finishing second at the Elgin City Classic and sixth at Lake Park. Connor Rachford, Anthony Peters and Dan Cotton all are running below 16:00. Senior Mitch Sullivan and sophomore Myles Zilinsky have provided key sparks for the team, while junior Anthony Peters had shown major improvements in the early going.
"We've had some strong individual races from almost everyone on varsity," said Bartlett coach Ryan Korn. "Each week someone new has been stepping up and running well to compensate for someone who may have had an off day. The weekly improvement they have shown so far gives us reason to expect our best races are still to come."
Dundee-Crown: The Dundee-Crown boys' team has been lead by seniors David Breyette, Thomas Halverson and Trevor Vogler. "Those three seniors are off to a good start and are leading us in meets and in practice," said D-C coach Tom Smith. "They are running with consistency and getting better each week."
Freshman Josh Wizgird has been a fine addition to the team. "Josh has really come on and is going to help our varsity team as the season progresses," said Smith. "He has a great stride, is competitive and is a racer."
D-C heads to the tough Palatine Meet of Champions next Saturday.
"We are showing improvement each week," said Smith. "This team has a great attitude and a desire to really move up as the season goes forward."
South Elgin: Jose Gonzalez and Matt Stover were Top 20 finishers at the Elgin City Classic, while Stover, Jack Zaley and Jimmy Hartnett earned medals at the Plainfield Central invitational. South Elgin coach Kari Turcan noted Stover "has become a running machine."
"Almost all the athletes are really working hard to be the best they can be," said Turcan. "They are dedicated to the team, the sport and their health. I'm very pleased with our numbers and the number of athletes dedicated to the sport. Everyone is working hard to be their best and doing it not just for themselves, but for the team."
Huntley: The Red Raiders were fourth at McHenry County and second at Rockford Auburn, while their frosh-soph team was 3-0 in duals and won the Rockford Auburn crown and took fifth at Wauconda.
Sam Marcuccelli, Trevor Obecny and Kyle Ward were named all-county at the varsity level, while Keagan Smith, Sean Conroy, Elijah Green and Ricky Raclawski were all-county at the frosh-soph level. Smith won the frosh-soph county title.
Huntley coach Matt Kaplan has been pleased with Obecny's preparation. "Trevor has the experience to know what he needs to do to prepare for each race," said Kaplan. "He runs very smart and finishes strong."
Senior Bryton Thompson also has made key contributions. "Bryton is new to the team, but has put in the work to make an impact," said Kaplan. "So far in the season, it is Bryton who has closed out our scoring and that has led to team success."
Hampshire: The Whip-Purs are being led by seniors Ross Seaton and Alex Pagan, along with sophomores Jacob Serio and Max Oury. Seaton has 2 Top 6 finishes and Serio and Oury each have a pair of Top 10 showings (varsity and frosh-soph level). Freshman Merrick Ramza has seen his times lower on a consistent basis.
"Those guys are running well because their hard work over the summer enables them to get after it every day," said Hampshire coach Dennis Wozniak.
Streamwood: Senior Daniel Robles, junior Will Troman and sophomore Zel Salazar have been leading the way for the Sabres. Freshman Robert Douglas and sophomore Steven Benitez also are showing promise. "Like a lot of the guys on the team, they've been dedicated to making practices every day and working hard," said Streamwood coach Weert Goldenstein. "They show up for morning runs and have been very motivated and excited to improve. We see guys improving every week as they continue to set new personal records."
Robles has taken over the team's No. 1 position. "Daniel has made huge improvements already this season compared to last season," said Goldenstein. "His is now our No. 1 runner. His strong work ethic over the summer has continued into the season and is really paying off for him."
Cary-Grove: The Trojans have been short-handed in the early part of the season. "We have not yet put our fully healthy varsity team on the course," said Cary-Grove coach Layne Holter. "We have a few guys coming back from injuries and illness and some guys we know will be part of our Top 7 that have been running down on the F/S level. Nonetheless, I like our progress so far."
Cary-Grove finished 13th out of 22 at the Wauconda invitational with only half of its runners competing. Senior Dustin Throw finished seventh at Wauconda and eighth at Crystal Lake South.
The Trojans also have benefitted from the contributions of sophomores Michael Saxon, John Cody, Tyler Stordahl, Sean Sullivan and freshmen Brandon Arwine, Cooper Langanis, Sang Seo and Ryan Pinter. "These guys have had good summers and have stayed healthy. I expect those guys to be fighting for a few spots on our varsity Top 7."
Saxon, in particular, has thrived in the early going. "Michael has really been running well for us and has done everything he has been asked to do," said Holter. "He has more confidence this year and is running more aggressively."
Holter is looking forward to the upcoming month of action.
"Clearly we have work to do and need to get our guys back to full strength," he said. "We are an improved team over last year and should be much improved by October."
Jacobs: The Golden Eagles placed seventh out of 42 teams at an invitational in Peoria and also sport a 2-0 conference record after dual wins over McHenry and Cary-Grove.
Tyler Estell was fifth at the county meet, while Ryan Ross was seventh. Matt Johnson, Pat Nerja and Sebastian Baran (sophomore) are already running under 16 minutes.
Estell, a JV runner who ran 17:00 last year in his fastest race, was 67th in the county last year and finished fifth this year. "He has shocked the entire area and is now one of the top runners in the entire FVC after we weren't even sure he'd make varsity this year," said Jacobs coach Kevin Christian.
Christian has been pleased with the team's pack-running ability. "The team has some great depth," he said. "They still have some work to do, but are setting themselves up to hopefully win the Valley Division and hopefully qualify for the state meet as a team."
Crystal Lake South: The Gators finished fourth at its own Crystal Lake South invitational and had a 3-0 mark out of the gates in FVC Valley action. The Gators also were 11th at Wauconda.
Senior Duncan Henderson took 10th at the CL South invitational and won the Huntley quad. Dave Lenzini, Drew Kopfman and Will Davis have also aided the Gators. Davis has impressed with his consistency in the No. 4 position.
The team is without Ian Meador, who suffered a stress fracture.
"The loss of Ian hurt our team," said South coach Rich Eschman. "Ian is as good a runner as Duncan. He would have given us two front-runners in meets. The team has adjusted to his absence. David Lenzini and Drew Kopfman need to improve in order to close the gap left by Ian."
Harvest Christian: Harvest Christian's girls' team placed sixth at the Elgin City Classic, while the boys' squad recently was third at the Chuck Wallin Classic despite missing its top runner.
Hannah Nelson and Valerie Richter lead the way for the girls' team. Kylee Knox, Anneleise Herman, Aliyah Ellis, Anna Oelerich and Whitney Donaldson also are hard workers with great attitudes, according to coach Steve Bland.
Robert Doby has been the front-runner on the boys' side. He ran 17:04 at the Elgin City Classic. John Vislisel and Jacob Schott have been battling for the No. 2 and No. 3 positions in the lineup. Kurt Pazdra set a personal record in his first meet of the year.
"I'm pleased with the progress we are making," said Bland. "Our athletes are embracing the workload and have a hunger to win. Most importantly, they are excited about the season. Several runners are finishing on the podium in most of our meets and the rest are eager to join them."