There is quite a buzz for the Hersey boys cross country team this season, with expectations rising quickly.
And the Huskies look ready to meet them.
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Junior David Rodriguez powered a pack of 10 Hersey runners through the first mile before the Huskies dialed it down a bit in rolling to a season opening 15-50 Mid-Suburban League crossover victory over Schaumburg at Melas Park in Arlington Heights on Tuesday.
Hersey finished third in the Mid-Suburban League and third at the Schaumburg sectional last season before placing 19th in Class 3A, a dissatisfying finish for them. But this season the Huskies are considered one of handful teams that could secure a trophy.
"We haven't really done anything as team yet," said Hersey coach Jay Renaud of his team's finish last season. "On the bus home from state last year, the team talked about wanting to contend for a state trophy this year."
And the Huskies have the look of team that can do some damage, especially with front-runners like Rodriguez and senior Andy Philipose.
Rodriguez looked comfortable running a smooth first mile (4:55) before settling into a comfortable pace. The junior took first in 16:55, leading a pack of 11 Huskies across the finish line before Schaumburg sophomore Jonah Kaufman (17:51) put a dent in the scorecard for the Saxons
"We're definitely ready," said Rodriguez of the Huskies drive to Peoria. "It's been our goal since the end of last season to secure a state trophy. We have plenty of depth and me and Andy (Philipose) look to drive it."
Senior Matt Stadnicki (17:06), senior Kevin Kovach (17:14), junior Kevin Ziegenhorn (17:15), and senior Jacob Komenda (17:16) went 2-through-5 in giving the Huskies a commanding victory.
Philipose was held back and finished 14th, but the senior will be a key cog for the Huskies' drive in November.
"Our goal is top three in the state, and we know there is a lot of competition," added Philipose, "We didn't go all out today; we're saving it for the bigger races. We know what is at stake this year."
Senior Eric DeLorea (17:23), Grant Vonderlippe (17:23), senior Jack O'Neil (17:50) finished 7-8-11 on Tuesday, but they will also be joining the fun up front as the season progresses for a deep Huskies squad.
"They all are incredibly hard workers -- we're just trying to keep the team humble and focused," said Renaud. "We unleashed them in the first mile today, and then kind of reined it back in. It was good start."
Now the Huskies are hoping for a great finish.
Kaufman was joined by senior Omar Alhayek (18:24) who finished in 18th place in leading a young Saxon squad that lost its top six runners from last year.
"Hersey ran a great race today," said Schaumburg coach Scott Lilley. "We're a young and inexperienced team; we're looking to keep building."