Top teams: York, Wheaton Warrenville South, Downers Grove North, Naperville North, Glenbard South, Neuqua Valley, Hinsdale Central, Glenbard West, Naperville Central, Wheaton North.
Top athletes:Addison Trail: Luis Eugenio, jr., Luis Miranda, sr., Israel Olascoaga, sr., Juan Valdez, jr.; Benet: Matt Kowalczyk, soph., Brady McLaughlin, jr., Phil Parsi, jr., John Stoppelman, sr.; Downers Grove North: Ryan Clevenger, jr., Jeremy Craven, sr., Marc Mathy, sr., Zack Smith, sr.; Downers Grove South: Jacob Amiri, sr., David Fish, sr., Ryan Heneghan, jr., Max O'Meara, soph.; Fenton: Rodrigo Estrado, sr., Marcus Falconer, sr., Leonel Rodriguez, jr., Cristan Silva, sr., Danny Wiggin, sr.; Glenbard East: Vince Booth, sr., Davarus Jones, jr., Russell Karas, jr., Jack Peters, sr., Teddy Sullivan, jr.; Glenbard North: Joey Campagna, jr., Chris Marshall, jr., Isaace Medina, sr., Kevin Panuska, jr.; Glenbard South: Andrew Kladiva, sr., Joe Meade, sr., Joe Singleton, sr., John Wold, sr.; Glenbard West: Chris Buechner, jr., Paul Christian, jr., Nate Crail, jr., Ben Hecht, jr., Eric Neumann, soph.; Hinsdale Central: T.J. Caveny, sr., Alex Domiano, jr., Kevin Huang, sr., Billy Magnesen, sr.; Hinsdale South: Ryan Cusick, sr., Roman Drabchuk, soph., Joe Eilbert, jr., Vincent Perez, jr.; IC Catholic Prep: Brendan Doherty, jr., Christopher Maroaquin, jr., Nick Moore, jr., Phillip Roberto, jr.; Lake Park: Eric Dade, sr., Jeremy Lozano, sr., Matt Miarka, Andy Tomaka, sr.; Lisle: Jeff Chan, sr., Joe Chernov, sr., Connor Corrigan, sr., Adam Resendez, jr., Ryan Zurek, sr.; Metea Valley: Ben Casselman, jr., Tim Danielson, sr., Brenden McGrath, jr., Connor Oates, sr., Payton Sipes, sr.; Montini: Matt Fisch, jr., Tyler Pacanda, jr.; Naperville Central: Ryan Auld, sr., Masic Chen, sr., Tim Gianlopoulous, sr., Christian Schafer, sr.; Naperville North: Kerry Gshwendter, sr., Ryan Hanselman, sr., John Klaiber, jr., Andrew Ladeur, jr., Jake Pecorin, sr.; Neuqua Valley: Nick Bushelle, sr., Matt Horsely, jr., Grayson Jenkins, jr., Shiva Singh, soph., Michael Widman, jr.; St. Francis: Danny Cody, jr., Mike Deaton, sr., Andrew Hallet, sr., Matt Lorish, sr., Nick Vilimek, sr.; Waubonsie Valley: Jeff Colvin, sr., Garrett Eicher, sr., Eric Onsager, sr., John Vollrath, jr., Patrick Wolak, soph.; Wheaton Academy: Jonah Jones, fr., Brandon Lach, jr., Jacob Robleski, soph., Mitchell Smith, soph., Noah Van Dyke, jr.; Wheaton North: Kilty Askin, jr., Joseph Emmanuel, sr., Wes Noyes, sr., Danny Steeno, jr.; Wheaton Warrenville South: Kyle Cepeda, jr., David Dillon, sr., Nolan McKenna, sr., David Santana, sr., Luke Schroer, sr.; Willowbrook: Luke Caron, sr., Ed Garner, sr., Nick Turek, sr., Will Unseth, sr.; York: Alex Bashqawi, sr., Kyle Mattes, sr., Nathan Mroz, sr., Matt Plowman, jr.; Timothy Christian: Michael Larkin, soph., Isaac Nunez, soph., Noah Pavlakos, soph.
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Scouting report: John Wold simply could not be stopped last year in the Class 2A state series to culminate the boys cross country season. The Glenbard South junior continued his run to the state championship on the final day of the season last year in Peoria. Wold toured the 3-mile layout in 14 minutes, 16 seconds to become the second state champion in program history for the Raiders. "Time is the biggest motivator," Wold said. "The faster you run, the better chance you have of wanting to run where you want to run." Junior teammate Joe Singleton was not far behind, placing sixth overall to lead Glenbard South to fifth place in the final team standings. Wold and Singleton were the only non-graduates among the top eight competitors at the state meet last year. They are the central reason why Glenbard South enters the season as one of the teams to beat in the middle-tier division of the three-class state meet.
Metro Suburban Conference rival Illiana Christian, which the Raiders bested by 2 points in the league championship last year, is the lone team ranked above them in most preseason polls. The Raiders were state runners-up two years ago. "I think it's hard to look into rankings at this point in the season," Glenbard South coach Doug Gorski said. "You have a lot of good teams out there. It's going to take some of these senior guys to run faster (for us to contend for state)." The momentum Wold fashioned in the fall carried over into the spring when he also captured the 800-meter run at the state track and field meet.
"It is completely different (winning a state title in cross country versus track)," Wold said. "With track it's over in a minute and 50 seconds (in the 800 meters). In cross country you're out there for 14, 15, 16 minutes." In order for Glenbard South to achieve its ultimate goal, both Wold and Singleton more than recognize health is the central issue. Both struggled with injuries last fall and spring.
"If everyone remains injury-free, I think we will have a very solid team," Wold said. "There are some guys (returning to the team) who have made some solid improvements." Gorski said Wold has developed an inner drive in ascending to the highest echelon of the sport. "(Wold) is very competitive," Gorski said. "He really wants to win. He is a really good athlete with lots of talent."
Fenton is yet another member of the Metro Suburban Conference returning core members of its lineup to the state meet. "(Having the individual state champion in our conference) makes us better," said Fenton coach John Kurtz, in the middle of his fifth decade directing the Bensenville high school. "(Wold) challenges us. It's a positive thing, not a negative thing. It's a wonderful thing to go against the best."
Glenbard West coach Kyle Nugent was a member of the Raiders' lone state championship team, a Class AA title in 2001. The parallels to this season are striking. "Our conference (the now-defunct Suburban Prairie) was loaded. I think we went 1-2 with Geneva (at the state meet) that year." Wold has clear-cut individual goals as the season commences in earnest this weekend. "Health-wise, I honestly feel perfect right now," Wold said. "I would never want to peak this early. I think I am in a really good position (to repeat). I want to be in the 13s (for time)."
To add further intrigue to the local middle-tier programs, Benet, winner of 13 consecutive East Suburban Conference championships, has been reclassified to Class 2A this fall. St. Francis also looks to advance another full team to the state finals.
York, whose program is the most storied of any in Illinois with 28 state championships, is once again poised to make a run for iconic coach Joe Newton. York and downstate O'Fallon are the consensus top-two teams this year in Class 3A. Mattes is the Dukes' top returnee -- technically -- but Mroz has been anointed as their primary weapon after missing all of last fall with a hip injury.
"(Mroz) did not run one race," said Newton, whose state championship last fall came 50 years after his first at the Elmhurst school. "He's my No. 1 guy by far. We have four guys with (state) experience." York defeated O'Fallon for top honors last year. Fellow West Suburban Silver members Glenbard West, Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township are all state ranked entering the season. "We get jacked up every time we see each other," said Nugent, whose Hilltoppers made the state cut for the first time since 1978 last fall. "It makes everybody get better. We love being in this conference. It sounds weird if you're in the top five or six in the conference, but you are a state-quality team."
"I wouldn't want to be in any other conference," said Downers North coach John Sippel, who boasts one of the top returnees in the state in senior Smith. "It's a lot of fun to have that high level of expectation." Downers North is the lone ranked West Suburban Silver member not to have made the state field last fall.
The DuPage Valley Conference had four schools in the largest division last year as the two Naperville and the Wheaton high schools all made the 25-team field. The Huskies' Gschwendter and the Tigers' McKenna are the top returnees in the league. Wheaton North, the defending conference champion, must replace its top three runners from last year. The Redhawks' Auld is the top returning athlete for Naperville Central.
Neuqua Valley has won seven consecutive Upstate Eight Conference championships. The Wildcats have two Class 3A titles to their credit since 2007 -- the first year of the three-class state meet -- and Paul Vandersteen has Bushelle to spearhead yet another state run for Neuqua Valley. "There are more teams in the fray than I can ever remember," Vandersteen said. "If (Bushelle) stays healthy, I don't know how he is not going to be in top 15. It will be fun to see what he can do this fall."
Sister school Waubonsie Valley has state designs behind a balanced attack, featuring contributions from all four classes. The Warriors won the Aurora City Championship last weekend.
Lisle is the only Class 1A local program from the area. "I would like to at least qualify the team for the sectional," Lisle coach Ken Jakalski said.
Key dates: Sept. 7, Hinsdale Central Invitational; Sept. 7, Fenton Early Bird; Sept. 7, St. Charles East Invitational; Sept. 14, Peoria Central Invitational; Sept. 21, Peoria Notre Dame Invitational; Oct. 12, West Aurora Invitational; Oct. 18-19, Conference championships.
Predicted state champions: Class 1A: Champaign St. Thomas More; Class 2A: Illiana Christian; Class 3A: O'Fallon.