There was some great competition at the team and individual level among boys cross country competitors Saturday morning at the Wauconda Invitational.
The team battle for first place was a classic, with Lane Tech holding off a late surge by Wheaton Warrenville South to take home first place in the 23-team meet. Lane finished at 47 points, just ahead of WW South's 53 on the slightly under 3-mile Lakewood Forest Preserve course.
Crystal Lake Central was considerably behind those two squads with a third-place score of 116 points.
The battle for fourth place wound up being a close one, with Conant putting together a solid finish to outdistance fifth-place Warren 130-139 in the final standings.
Wheaton Warrenville's South's trio of Nolan McKenna (second), Luke Schroer (fourth) and Kyle Cepeda (fifth) helped carry the Tigers to runner-up honors under ideal running conditions for this early in the 2013 season. McHenry's Jesse Reiser was the individual champion.
"They've been working really hard together and they're starting to take what they learn in practice and implement it into the meets," said Wheaton-Warrenville South coach Greta Havey, who was elated with her team's performance. "Our next hurdle is to work on the pack, but it's moving in the right direction and it's only our second meet of the season."
Conant's push for fourth place was led by junior Zach Dale, who placed third (15:06) in a fast-paced race.
The Cougars' pack also got some good support from Robert Smolik in 28th, James Pesce in 29th, Shujaat Sultan in 34th and Christian Serrano in 36th.
"I was expecting to at least stay with them (Reiser and McKenna) for a few miles, but I think I dropped off after about a mile and a quarter so I think I could have stayed with them a little longer," said Dale, who was all-conference in the Mid-Suburban League last fall. "I think we ran pretty well as a team, but the pack got a little broken up in the woods."
Conant coach John Powers was happy with his young leader, and the Cougars still have a lot of room for improvement.
"I thought (Dale) ran really well today and those two guys ahead of him (Reiser and McKenna) are very good competition for him," said Powers, whose team was coming off a meet on Thursday. "We've kind of been working on tightening up our pack, they're getting better, and we're learning how to set our personal goals aside to better our whole group."
Warren put together the consummate team effort, as the Blue Devils' pack showed great consistency behind Marcus Shamberg in 20th, Dustin Macuiba in 23rd, Adam Shurson in 26th, Will Kellerhals in 32nd and Pat Kreis in 38th.
"I'm trying to train them not to be too passive at the beginning of the race and it's a work in progress," said Warren coach Bill Dawson, who is in his 32nd season. "The pack is good. We just have to move the whole pack up a little bit. They don't trust their talent yet. I hope by the end of the year they will keep pushing each other and move all the way up."
Grant was led by senior Dalyn Romig's 10th-place finish, while Grayslake North's squad was paced by senior Ryan Bruder in 21st place. Grant junior Jeffrey Brundidge was right on Bruder's heels in 22nd place, while Lakes was led by senior Jimmy Burchard in 30th.
Mundelein's top runner was junior Bryce Richards in 31st place. Grant junior Frank Cardy took 33rd, and Warren junior Jakob Martinez placed 43rd.