A little lightning and a quick downpour delayed the start of Saturday morning's Leavey Invite at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles by an hour.
It didn't take long for Matthew Johnson and his Jacobs teammates to get back on the course and find their stride.
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Johnson finished the race in 15 minutes, 28.6 seconds to take fourth overall, leading his team to the runner-up spot behind champion Downers Grove North.
"I was really impressed," Jacobs coach Kevin Christian said. "Matt Johnson ran with some of the state's best after he wasn't there last year."
After clocking in as the Eagles' second or third runner last year, Christian said Johnson has made noticeable improvements in the off-season.
"He had an unbelievable summer," Christian said. "He kind of flipped a switch. Last year he was struggling through workouts. His body language through everything now looks different. He never gets tired. He's looking great."
Corey Albrecht, who switched from soccer to come out for cross country, took second for Jacobs in 15:39, good for ninth overall.
"He ran a great race, and the rest of them filled in. That was exciting," Christian said of Sebastian Baran (15th), Matthew Goldby (28th) and Zachary Johnson (38th). "This is about as good of competition as you are going to see early season and they ran right with anybody."
Jacobs' total of 94 points trailed just Downers Grove North's 73. Batavia took third with 118, Wheaton North fourth at 137 and St. Charles East fifth at 145.
Senior Joseph Emmanuel paced the Falcons in 15:06.0 to take second overall and just behind winner Zac Smith from Downers Grove North in 15:05.5.
Emmanuel and Smith were even though the first half of the race before Smith pulled ahead, though Emmanuel pushed him the entire way.
"He started pushing it a little up the hill and he kind of got ahead of me a little," Emmanuel said. "It was a good race. I wanted to go out a little faster."
Sixteenth in this race last year, Johnson was happy with the improvement. He said his goal is to get under 15 minutes by state.
Batavia coach Mike DiDomenico was missing Ricky Downs and David Morrison. Mitch Zabka ran a 15:39 to finish seventh for the Bulldogs, Chris Orlow came in 11th in 15:45 and Ryan Wieties was 19th in 15:57. "I thought it was good up front but we need to find a backdoor," DiDomenico said. "If people are going to run tentative then we're going to have to look for other people to step up. They (Downs and Morrison) will bolster our team when they come back. If we are going to be a state caliber team we need to make sure if we get challenged we challenge right back."
In addition to his front-runners, DiDomenico said sophomore Shea Bastian did a good job stepping into the lineup and taking 57th.
"I was really happy with Zabka, with Orlow and really happy with this kid we just put in, Shea is a sophomore, I guess he proved me right," DiDomenico said. "It's always great when he proves the coach right. We're excited. We still have some work to do but I think we're on the right track."
Saints coach Chris Bosworth also said there are some things his team needs to work on. Will Muckian took eighth in 15:39 and Dan Wiitanen 20th in 16:02.
"We ran OK, not our best, we have a lot of work to do," Bosworth said. "We weren't on the same page today."
Marmion scored 153 points to finish sixth paced by Brady Bobbitt in 14th. A young Geneva team was back in 12th place but did have sixth-place finisher Blaine Bartel in 15:34.
"Blaine is running really well," Vikings coach Bob Thomson said. "He's our top kid. He was hurt a good part of last year."