Prospect senior Quentin Shaffer sure looks like he belongs among the state's elite runners.
The Knights senior continued to open eyes on Saturday at the Mid-Suburban League boys cross country meet by cruising to the title in 14:49 at Busse Woods, 12 seconds in front of Buffalo Grove junior Steven Salvano (15:01).
Palatine continued its dominance by securing its 10th consecutive MSL team title with 73 points, followed by Barrington (83 points) and Hersey (92 points).
Shaffer shook the competition early then continued to grind the Conant course on wet day, breaking the course record set by Prospect's Lou Petrica in 1994.
"Coach (Mike Stokes) told me to surge at the mile-and-a-quarter mark," said Shaffer, who finished 25th in the same meet last year. "I was waiting to see if anyone would come with me, and no one did."
Shaffer has blasted to the top this season, creating quite a buzz with his performances, which include tying for the second-fastest mark on the state course. His performance has even surprised Stokes, who has seen his share of talented runners -- including Petrica, the 1994 MSL champion, and Ryan Craven, the 2005 MSL champion.
"It's a little beyond what I thought," said Stokes, "but he believes in himself and he seems really comfortable."
Palatine didn't seem very comfortable trailing Barrington entering the final mile, but the Pirates made a late charge to secure its title.
"I felt the weight of it today," said Palatine coach Chris Quick of the Pirates' conference win streak. "We didn't run our best race, but we ran a winning race. Barrington and Hersey are hungry teams, and you can never take it for granted."
Senior Christian Zambrano (15:16) propelled the Pirates by taking fourth place. Following him for Palatine were sophomore Graham Brown (15:27), senior Zach Stella (15:37) and senior Brian Smith (15:38) in 12th, 16th and 17th, and senior Andrew Clingerman (15:49) and junior Emil Kozakiewicz (15:53) in 24th and 25th.
"We wanted to keep the streak alive," said Zambrano. "We felt the urgency and knew we had to come out with some fire. We got it done and that's what matters."
"We focused on running together," said Brown. "The pack running was important today."
And Palatine needed every point with Barrington breathing down its neck.
Senior Ryan Burgoon (15:09) set the tone for the Broncos finishing third, with senior Mike Rappleye (15:26) and junior Jake Herb (15:39) supplying some punch with 10th- and 18th-place finishes. Sophomore Konrad Eiring (15:49) added 23rd place for the Broncos.
"We're a little upset we didn't win today," said Burgoon whose team was missing No. 4 runner senior Kerry Frank. "We had it at the 2½-mile mark, but Palatine was able to make a move."
"We are happy overall -- the results are bit disappointing, but it's not from a lack of effort," said Barrington coach Ty Gorman. "The guys ran aggressive right from the beginning and tried to hold on."
Hersey was right in the thick of things, too. Sophomore David Rodriguez (15:19) and junior Andy Philipose (15:25) gave the Huskies a charge by taking sixth and ninth place. Also cracking the top 25 was senior Jack O'Niel (15:48) in 22nd place.
"I was feeling good in the first mile, then dropped it back a bit in the second mile, then came through in the last 800 meters," said Rodriguez who finished 28th in the MSL last year. "I'm feeling pretty good with my finish this year."
And the Huskies are pleased with their third-place team placement, quite a jump from eighth last year.
"We're feeling really happy with our finish," said Hersey coach Jay Renaud. "Palatine was probably a little too good today, but we're moving forward."
Prospect (112 points) took fourth place followed by Buffalo Grove (133 points) and Fremd (148 points).
Shaffer set the tone individually, but Salvano showed great resolve in pulling away from Burgoon to secure second place. The Bison junior came on strong over the final 2 miles.
"The second mile is when I really started to push," said Salvano. "I wanted to prove something to myself, and everyone in the MSL that I'm a force to be reckoned with."
Hoffman Estates junior Billy Thomas (15:17) came in two seconds behind Zambrano to secure fifth place, followed by Rodriguez, Schaumburg senior Evan Prizy (15:20) and Fremd junior Harry Winter (15:23).
"Once Shaffer took off we all tried to push each other," said Thomas. "This race gives me some confidence heading into the state series."
Prizy secured his third consecutive top 10 finish in the MSL and was part of the chase pack.