Big finish for York at Palatine Invite
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York won its 28th boys cross country state title last year, and the Dukes are right on target to add a 29th this fall.
On Saturday in a loaded Palatine Invitational field that included some of the top teams in the Midwest, York once again left its mark.
Senior Alex Bashqawi and senior Nathan Mroz finished 1-3 in leading York to a commanding victory with 49 points, easily outdistancing Kentucky's St. Xavier (107 points) and Hersey (112 points).
Bashqawi (14:43) made a move 50 meters from the finish, overtaking McHenry junior Jesse Reiser ( 14:44) to win the individual title, with Mroz (14:45) in hot pursuit.
"I definitely think we can do something big this year," said Bashqawi of York team that placed five runners in the top 25, including a sixth-place finish by senior Kyle Mattes (14:58). "We're focusing on the pack and we just kind of race. It's all about the team."
Reiser set the pace early and was clinging to the lead with the finish in sight, but the junior could not hold off the hard-charging Dukes.
"My strategy was go out with all the guts I have and finish the race hard," said Reiser who placed seventh in Class 3A last season. "Today it really didn't work out; York kind of picked on me that last mile and made their move."
York is ranked No. 1 in Class 3A for the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches poll, and the Dukes have been picking off its opponents all season. Last week York dominated the Richard Springs Invitational in Peoria, defeating the state's No. 3-ranked O'Fallon — last year's state runner-up — by 65 points. On Saturday, the Dukes continued to dominate, winning by a 58-point margin.
"We mark off the teams we want to beat and when we put them away we move on," said Mroz who is healthy this year after an injury-plagued junior season. "We keep checking off the list."
So, is a state title on that list?
"A state title is on that list," said a smiling Mroz.
Senior Chris Striegel (14:58) and senior Max Mudd (15:09) paced defending meet champion St. Xavier to second place.
Junior David Rodriguez (15:14) took 12th place in leading No. 4 Hersey to third place.
"York is really dominant, but we were right behind them and we'll continue to improve," said Rodriguez, who was a bit off after finishing third in Peoria last week. "Individually it was a bit of setback, but I will be right where I need to be come November."
The Huskies were without No. 2 runner Andy Philipose, who was out with an ear infection. But senior Erick DeLoera (15:27) and junior Grant Von Der Lippe (15:28) gave the Huskies a lift by finishing 21st and 22nd.
"Coach (Jay Renaud) has been challenging me to stay up with our front guys," said DeLoera, who has returned to cross country after a season of playing soccer. "I just have to keep believing in myself."
Senior Jack O'Neil (15:31) and senior Matt Stadnicki (15:35) added to Hersey's successful effort by taking 27th and 30th place.
With their solid finishes in invitationals, it's clear that Hersey has joined the discussion in terms of elite teams.
"I think it really solidifies us as one of the top teams in the state," said Renaud. "I was happy last week, but I'm even happier after this week — and we'll be even better when Philipose returns."
New Trier (161 points) and St. Ignatius (212 points) rounded out the top five followed by St. Louis University (225 points), Maine South (244 points), and Chicago Jones Prep (268 points). Host Palatine (290 points) and Barrington (331) rounded out the top ten.
Junior Sam Oh (14:52) gave Stevenson a lift by taking fourth place. The Patriots junior didn't qualify for state last season, but Oh took a big step forward on Saturday.
"I just kept picking it up throughout the race," said Oh. "This is probably the best I've run so far; it was a big boost for my confidence."
Barrington has had it share of all-state runners the past two season, including an eighth-place finish by Erik Peterson in 2011 and a 12th-place finish by Ryan Burgoon in 2012.
Senior Jake Herb is following in their footsteps. A week after finishing 12th at the Richards Springs Invite, Herb (15:04) continued his rise by taking ninth on Saturday.
"I have to blaze my own trail," said Herb of his emergence. "I just have to run my own race, today was a good benchmark."
Fremd senior Harry Winter (15:19) gave the Vikings a lift by taking 15th place. Winters is eyeing his first state berth, and the Viking senior measured up pretty well in a tough field on Saturday.
"I was really happy with my effort today," said Winter who had injuries derail his state aspirations last season. "I've yet to run at a state meet, so it's definitely motivating me."
Senior Argeni Bailon (15:24) and junior Graham Brown (15:28) finished 18th and 23rd to lead host Palatine.
"The last mile really hurt, but I was able to keep moving up," said Bailon of his finish. "We know where we are as a team, and we know what we want to do."
Libertyville senior Pat Humen (15:25) paced the Wildcats by finishing in 20th place.
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