York is aiming for its 28th state title this season in Class 3A, and Chicago Jones Prep is hoping to secure its first state title in Class 2A.
But Louisville's St. Xavier, the defending Class 3A Kentucky champion, proved to rise above that class struggle at the Palatine Invitational on Saturday at a windy Deer Grove East.
St. Xavier placed five runners in the top 27 to take first place with 84 points in a close three way battle, with York nipping Chicago Jones Prep for second 96-97.
Barrington (165 points) made quite an impression by taking fourth, followed by Ohio's Hilliard Davidson (229 points) and host Palatine and St. Ignatius (230 points apiece).
Beecher senior Grant Nykaza (14:36), the two time defending Class 1A runner-up, edged St. Ignatius senior Jack Keelan (14:37) for the individual title. Crystal Lake Central senior Alex Baker (14:53) took third followed by Niles North senior Micah Beller (14:55) and Chicago Jones senior Luke O'Connor (14:55).
Fremd junior Harry Winter (15:03) was the top area runner, taking 12th place for the Vikings.
York is celebrating its 50th anniversary of its first state title in 1962, and the Dukes are hoping to add their 28th state title this season. Senior Chris May (14:59), senior Alex Mimlitz (15:02), junior Kyle Mattes (15:04), and senior Scott Milling (15:18) led the Dukes charge on Saturday, finishing in 8th, 11th, 13th, and 21st place.
Last week York stormed to the Richard Spring Invitational title in Peoria, but Saturday's performance left legendary Duke coach Joe Newton a bit confused.
"I don't know, I thought we had a good team, but today we got beat," said Newton. "We ran so well last Saturday, today's results were an eye opener … nothing is easy."
Despite the setback, York is still in good position to add to its history.
"We have all the pieces, we just have to line them up," said Mimlitz.
Jones Prep also seems to have all the pieces. The Eagles are looking to become the first Chicago school to win a state championship since Lane Tech won in 1963. Senior Jamison Dale (14:57) took seventh, combining with O'Connor in helping the Class 2A power give York a scare.
Jones Prep defeated three-time defending Class 2A champion Belvidere North earlier this season, and its performance on Saturday has definitely given the Eagles a boost.
"It's been awhile," said Jones Prep coach Andrew Adelman of the last Chicago city state champion. "We're hoping to bring some of that magic back to the city."
Nykaza and Keelan dueled it out for the individual title, but the Beecher senior had bit more down the home stretch.
"I wanted the win," said Nykaza, who is on a short list of Class 1A hopefuls. "I knew it was going to be a rough race time-wise with the weather, so it was all about the place today."
Keelan missed qualifying for the Class 3A state meet last season at the tough Niles West sectional, but the senior gave Nykaza everything he could handle Saturday.
"It's definitely motivating me," said Keelan of his near-miss last year. "I'm much more focused this year."
Barrington made quite a statement on Saturday with its fourth place finish. The Broncos lost all-state runner Erik Peterson to graduation, but the overall talent quotient on this year's squad may be even higher.
It showed on Saturday as senior Ryan Burgoon (15:10) set the pace with a 16th-place finish.
"We're much deeper this season," said Burgoon who finished 23rd in Class 3A last season but missed the early part of this season with a knee injury. "It gives me a lot of confidence, 'cause I know I'm nowhere near my peak."
Senior Mike Rappleye (15:23) and senior Kerry Frank (15:29) took 25th and 31st place for the Broncos.
"We're really happy; we knew we had a good race in us," said Barrington coach Ty Gorman. "It shows our runners our potential. The hardest part is getting them to believe they can run with some the top teams, and I think now they do."
Senior Christian Zambrano (15:15) took 19th place in leading defending Class 3A champion Palatine to a sixth-place finish.
Senior Zach Stella (15:33) finished 36th for the Pirates.
"We were definitely a bit disappointed in the finish," said Zambrano, whose team won the Palatine Invite last season. "We came out a little flat and never were really in the thick of it. We just need to be more aggressive."
Senior Alex Milner (15:20) took 23rd place in leading Lake Zurich (271 points) to a 10th-place finish.
Milner was dealing with tight hip that limited his surge in the final mile.
"It affected me in the second half of the race," said Milner, "I didn't have it the last mile, and I didn't have the competitive spirit that I normally do."
Winter was able to give Fremd quite a lift. The senior didn't hesitate in the final mile while leading the Vikings (358 points) to 14th place.
"Going out fast in the first 2 miles definitely gave me the confidence to finish strong," he said. "It was a really fast opening pace, and I felt a bit nervous but I think it helped me in the end."
Junior Andy Philipose (15:25) led 15th-place Hersey with a 27th-place finish. Hersey did not have sophomore David Rodriguez in its varsity lineup.
"The race went out so fast, it was unbelievable," said Philipose. "Learning how to compete with all these different runners was a great experience."