After winning the Grant regional last weekend, the Lake Zurich boys cross country team kept on rolling Saturday morning against even tougher competition in the Class 3A Schaumburg sectional.
The Bears used another typical team effort from top to bottom to get the job done on the 3-mile Busse Woods course as they proved themselves to be the class of the 21-team field with a winning score of 104 points.
Barrington nipped Mid-Suburban League rival Palatine 136 to 137 for second place while Hersey (178 points) and Highland Park (200 points) earned the final two team berths to the 2012 state meet next Saturday at Peoria's Detweiller Park.
Warren was the next highest finishing Lake County area squad with a seventh-place score of 237 points while Stevenson (271) placed ninth, and Grant (297) placed 12th.
Senior Trevor Kuehr led Lake Zurich's surge to the championship with an eighth-place run followed by teammates Alex Milner (14th), Jon Ramirez (19th), Jared Ripoli (22nd), and Rubin Riano (41st). The last time the Bears won the Schaumburg sectional they placed second in the state to York by two points in 2010.
"I'm pretty happy about it, and I wanted all-sectional (top 10) today," said Kuehr. "At the beginning I was just trying to stay with my teammate (Milner) so I would be in good position and today we had everybody up where we needed to be."
Lake Zurich coach J.B. Hanson is cautiously optimistic about his team which is peaking at the right time.
"Everything seems to be coming together now, we're running our best races, and that has been the goal all along," Hanson said. "Our third and fourth guys did a good job moving up through the field and it was nice to have Rubin Riano back today as our No. 5 runner.
If you wanted to earn a trip downstate, you had to be way up towards the front of the huge field Saturday because there was an extremely small margin of error for a berth to state as a top-seven individual at-large qualifier.
The first berth went to individual champ Quentin Shaffer (14:59.07) of Prospect followed by Lake Forest's Billy Bund in second, Buffalo Grove's Steven Salvano in third, McHenry's Jesse Reisr in fifth, and Hoffman Estates' Billy Thomas in seventh.
Then came Warren's "Mr. Reliable," as senior Martin Martinez pulled through with a ninth-place finish to earn the sixth at-large berth to state despite not having his greatest performance of the fall in the pressure-packed meet.
"I've just had a pretty bad couple of weeks and this was not my best performance today," said Martinez, who placed 24th in Class 3A last year. "My brother (Jakob) had a really good race and the last couple of weeks he's really stepped up."
Jakob Martinez placed 24th for the Blue Devils followed by teammate Reese Brady in 43rd. Warren coach Bill Dawson was pretty happy with his team's overall performance under the cool, dry running conditions.
"We wanted him (Martin Martinez) to advance and he did, and next week is a whole new race," Dawson said. "Jakob ran really, really well, and I think the whole team represented themselves well."
With Martinez earning the sixth at-large berth, that meant only one spot to state was left.
And after missing out of the state meet by one place last fall, Libertyville senior Nick Korhumel stepped up and said "I'll take it" as he placed 11th in 15:30 to earn a downstate trip.
Korhumel and Libertyville coach Mark Buesing had to wait patiently through some nervous moments before the final results were announced and they knew he had barely reached his elusive goal at last. This year, Schaumburg's Evan Prizy was the hard-luck runner who missed state despite placing 12th individually.
"It's like the happiest day of my life, to be honest with you, and this has been my goal since eighth grade," said Korhumel, who placed 12th at regionals. "Last week I did not have a very good race and the last couple of nights I haven't gotten much sleep because I've been thinking about how I was going to run the race tactically."
Buesing was as happy or happier than Korhumel to know that his top runner was going downstate.
"This is the first athlete who has qualified for state during my tenure, and three kids have missed it by one place," said Buesing, who is in his 12th season. "Of all the kids I've coached, that was the best race I've seen run here."
Sam Oh led Stevenson in 25th place followed by Cary-Grove's Dustin Throw in 26th, and Grant's Trent Peters-Clarke in 28th.
The Class 2A Belvidere sectional proved to be a real challenge for area runners as host Belvidere North rolled to the title with 47 points.
Kaneland edged Grayslake Central 174 to 185 for the fifth and final trip to state while Vernon Hills (186 points) was a very close seventh.
Lakes' senior Ryan Prais (eighth) will be making his third trip appearance to state as an at-large qualifier and he will be joined by Vernon Hills' Ben Mohrdieck (11th), Grayslake Central's Kevin Boyle (14th), and Vernon Hills' Kyle Whitney (19th).