With five consecutive North Suburban Conference championships to its credit, the Lake Zurich boys cross country team was being called a mini-dynasty Saturday afternoon at Fox River State Park.
The 13-team meet held in Silver Lake, Wis., was not even close as the Bears rolled to the title with 55 points to easily capture that fifth straight crown.
The battle for second place was an entirely different story as surprising Stevenson took home runner-up honors with 119 points to barely edge third-place finisher Warren with 120 points, and fourth-place squad Grant with 123 points.
The Bears worked their magic on the damp 3-mile course with all seven members of the team earning all-conference (top 30) status.
Alex Milner was Lake Zurich's top runner in fourth place followed by teammates Trevor Kuehr (seventh), Ruben Riano (12th), Jon Ramirez (14th), Will Llanos (18th), Bobby Klett (19th), and Jared Ripoli (21st).
"We had some good performances with Ruben Riano and Bobby Klett really stepping up today," said Lake Zurich coach J.B. Hanson, whose veteran team has six seniors. "We've still got a lot of work to do and I still don't think we've seen our best race where everybody is clicking at the same time."
Stevenson sophomore Sam Oh really shined Saturday with a team-leading fifth-place finish while senior teammate Brendan Wood was right on his heels with a sixth-place run. The trio of Jared Borowsky (35th), Jon Rice (36th), and Grayson Stout (37th) helped carry the Patriots to their narrow second-place finish over Warren and Prairie Division champion Grant.
Fifth-place Vernon Hills (140 points), and sixth-place Libertyville (146 points) were also very impressive in the big meet.
"We have a bunch of guys fighting for those top seven spots so it has made the whole team more competitive," said Stevenson coach Scott Somers. "In the last couple of meets he (Oh) has been by Wood and both of them have a shot at state if the team doesn't make it."
Warren senior Martin Martinez had a great second-place run behind individual champ Billy Bund (15:30) of Lake Forest while Libertyville's Nick Korhumel made a late push to place third in the large field.
"Martin and (Bund) both ran really well and hopefully (Martinez) will do even better the next couple of weeks," said Warren coach Bill Dawson. "I thought the whole field ran pretty well and Stevenson really came on strong in the last mile or so."
After just missing the state meet last year, Korhumel is starting to peak at the right time heading into regional competition next weekend.
"I stayed with (Bund and Martinez) the first mile and in the second mile I definitely preserved my energy," Korhumel said. "With a half a mile to go I used up a burst and I passed three people. Then I continued with that pace hoping that they would not come back."
Sophomore Jakob Martinez was Warren's No. 2-runner in 20th while teammate Reese Brady also earned all-conference honors in 27th. Libertyville teammates Atticus Rush (22nd), and David Rule (29th) were also keys for Libertyville.
"Nick (Korhumel) should hopefully gain a lot of confidence from this week and he is running right up there with that all-state pack," said Libertyville coach Mark Buesing. "Our top three were spread out more than we would like, but our fifth runner (Nick Seneczko) was a sophomore and he had a heck of a race today."
Grant had four all-conference runners including Peter Audrain (11th), Trent Peters-Clarke (16th), Dalyn Romig (26th), and Jorge Costilla (30th).
Vernon Hillls was led by Ben Mohrdieck (eighth), Kyle Whitney (ninth), and Nick Webber (25th).
"I think they did very well and our main focus is the IHSA series," said Vernon Hills coach Mark Whitney. "We wanted both (Mohrdieck and Whitney) in the top 10 so they did exactly what we wanted them to do."
Mundelein was led by Bryce Richards in 10th followed by Lakes' Ryan Prais in 13th, and Round Lake's Angel Carrera in 15th. Mundelein's Liam Mellon placed 28th.