In the early going of the cross country season Glenbard West has dealt with more than its share of injuries and illness, but it looks like there's better days ahead right around the corner.
Glenbard West finished second to Crystal Lake Central on Saturday at the Eddington Invitational hosted by Kaneland at Elburn Woods. The Hilltoppers scored 53 points to finish 12 behind the Tigers.
Jacobs totaled 74 points to take third followed by Benet (152), West Aurora (158) and host Kaneland (160).
"We're done with the sickness and injuries I hope," Glenbard West coach Kyle Nugent said. "It's getting fun now."
The Hilltoppers were still without Chris Buechner, last year's No. 2 runner, on Saturday but placed all five of their runners in the top 20.
"I think we ran well," Nugent said. "I think we ran great considering. Every meet this year we've been missing guys but this is the most complete we've been. It's the best race we've run this year by far and when we get Chris back we should be really good."
Junior Paul Christian led the Hilltoppers in third place in 16:14. Junior Ben Hecht earned praise from Nugent for his ninth-place race.
Hecht made a name for himself last spring in track when he anchored the Hilltoppers' state 3,200 relay. Nugent said last week at the Peoria Invitational Hecht went out too fast, a lesson he learned from Saturday.
"We knew he could do this," Nugent said. "He's kind of new to cross country. Today he put it together pretty good."
Despite a sinus infection that kept him out of school for a week, Jack Billings ran a 16:34 to take 14th, and Jake Jaskowiak was 18th in 16:40 on an Elburn Woods course that the Hilltoppers have come to love.
"It's a tough course," Nugent said. "They love this course. They want to come back every year and that's why we keep coming back. They got kind of jacked up for this race."
Jacobs senior Matthew Johnson was the top area finisher taking second in 16:02, 11 seconds behind winner Ryan Pitner from Crystal Lake Central.
The two broke away from the pack about the halfway through the race. They stayed neck and neck for the next half mile before Pitner pulled away.
"I was pretty happy," Johnson said. "I was hoping for first but was still pleased."
Johnson said the second half of the course, which features tougher hills than most cross country courses, had an affect.
"As soon as we went up the second hill over there I started feeling it in my legs and had to slow the pace down a little bit," Johnson said.
Still, Johnson had a lot to like Saturday especially after being disappointed with his 41st-place finish last week at Peoria.
"My goal was to pace myself with the leaders and try to hang on and not push the pace," said Johnson who also has a fourth-place finish at the Leavey Invitational under his belt this year. "Last week I went out way too fast and died."
Corey Albrecht (15th), Sebastian Baran (16th) and Matthew Goldby (19th) ran a tight pack to key Jacobs' third-place team finish.
"I think this is probably the best team we've had ever," Johnson said.
Mooseheart junior Wal Khat ran a 16:15 to finish fourth. West Aurora's Connor McCue wasn't far behind in 16:24 for seventh, one spot ahead of Burlington Central's Clay Musial.
Chad Clarey had a lot to like from host Kaneland's sixth-place finish. Seniors Ryan Bower and Nathaniel Kucera finished 22nd and 23rd, respectively, in 16:48 and 16:51. Bower shaved 27 seconds off his PR.
"Two seniors out working hard to get the job done," Clarey said. "I'm happy with that (sixth place). A week ago we looked a little bit disheveled. We raced OK, set a lot of PRs, but this week we came back with a better purpose."
Junior Andrew Lesak provided one of the bright spots for the Knights with his 17:06 for 33rd, a time nearly a minute faster than his previous best.
"Andrew was one of the better surprises," Clarey said. "He decided to put himself out there and run a little further out to the front than what he's used to. And it worked out well for him. These are days that we learn and try some new things and see how that will evolve over the rest of the season. Sometimes you have a coming out race and if this is one that Lesak has than more power to us."
Clarey also was glad to get senior Kyle Carter, who has been out with a lower leg injury, back in the lineup. While Carter was back in 61st in 18:00, that was part of the plan.
"First race back, just cleared, we had a different race plan to lay back a little and he stuck to it," Clarey said. "He feels good, just a matter of getting the conditioning back. He said he felt healthy, there's no pain in his legs. We'll work with building his momentum like a snowball."
Geneva fielded a young lineup with three sophomores and finished back in eighth place. Senior Daniel MacDonald was the first in with a time of 17:15 for 40th.
"We're just going to have to do the best they can at this point in time," Geneva coach Bob Thomson said. "They are going to get some valuable experience. The future looks good."