Zach Dale knew it was going to be a good day right after the mile mark of Saturday's 12th annual Bartlett Flyin' Hawk Invitational.
"I just decided to put on a final surge and take off," said Dale.
The Conant junior certainly did just that, as he pulled away from the rest of the pack to capture the boys' individual title in a Sunrise Park course-record time of 14:42.1, breaking the previous mark that was set by former Jacobs star and current American 3,000-meter steeplechase record holder Evan Jager (during his sophomore season in 2004).
"I ran a 15:52 here last year," said Dale, who helped lead the Cougars to a third-place team showing. "I didn't think I'd be able to go even close to that (14:42) today."
Conant coach John Powers wasn't surprised in the least.
"I know it was something on his mind and you could see it was on his mind the last mile," Powers said of the course record. "He had a goal today -- to be first -- and he went out and grabbed it."
Dale's closest competitor was Danville senior Johnny Leverenz (15:19.2).
"I knew he was the 800-meter state champion (last spring)," Dale said of Leverenz. "I usually like to sit on people and kick but I wanted to try pushing the pace the first mile."
Three runners placed in the top 7 for team champion Lincoln-Way Central (46) while Jacobs (72) was a distant second.
"Our top two didn't run all that well today," admitted Golden Eagles coach Kevin Christian. "That's what killed us because our 3 through 7 ran great. Lincoln-Way Central is better than us but we should've been able to close that gap a lot more."
Senior Matthew Johnson placed 9th for Jacobs (15:50.9), just ahead of teammates Sebastian Baran (11th), Matthew Goldby (13th), Zachary Johnson (19th) and Jon Godinez (20th).
Conant also received top-20 efforts from junior Shujaat Sultan (15th) and James Pesce (16th).
"We wanted to be second and we wanted to give Lincoln-Way Central more of a scare but it just didn't work out that way," said Powers. "We're still in the experimental stage here."
Sophomores Keagan Smith (4th, 15:45.4) and Seth Conroy (8th, 15:49.6) cracked the top 10 for fourth-place Huntley.
"Before the race I felt a little bit tight but once that gun went off, I knew I had to get out there and do whatever I could to help our team," said Smith, who admittedly feels better prepared for what lies ahead this season.
"After middle school, I thought I had enough experience and I thought I was going to be good," he added. "But I've learned so much more since then. I've got great teammates and I learn something from them every day."
Fifth-place Bartlett was paced by seniors Dan Cotton (5th, 15:46.9), Anthony Peters (14th) and Alex Peters (22nd).
"This course is really slow compared to others but the early pace was pretty fast," said Cotton. "After the first mile, I heard the 4:58 (time) and was thinking either I stick with the first two guys (Dale and Leverenz) and ruin my race or let them go and battle those other guys. I just let them go."
Senior Alex O'Claire (10th, 16:00.2) was the top finisher for Larkin, while William Troman (32nd) led Streamwood's pack.
Junior Joey Campagna (17th) paced sixth-place Glenbard North.