Handling some pretty tough hills was the name of the game for boys cross country runners Saturday morning at the Pat Harland Invitational hosted by Antioch.
Some warm and humid weather conditions made the grueling 3-mile course at Fox River State Park in Silver Lake, Wis., even more of a challenge for area runners although everyone was pretty happy that the rains held off in time for both varsity races to be completed.
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Crystal Lake Central showed why it is one of the elite teams in the state in Class 2A by capturing the championship of the 14-team meet by a final score of 30-69 over runner-up Warren.
Jacobs was also impressive with a third-place score of 97 points followed by Grayslake Central (122 points) in fourth, and the host Sequoits (195 points) in sixth.
Crystal Lake Central's Ryan Pitner was the individual champion as he easily outdistanced second-place finisher Matt Johnson of Jacobs down the stretch.
"My goal was just to try to stay with Pitner," said Johnson following the race. "I kind of just drafted off him the whole time and with about 400 meters left he took off."
Warren put together a great top-five pack led by sophomore Dustin Macuiba in eighth, senior Adam Shurson in 11th, junior Will Kellerhals in 13th, junior Jakob Martinez in 17th, and senior Marcus Shamberg in 20th.
"We have a nice pack, we just have to get them all to move up a little bit," said Warren coach Bill Dawson. "Every meet we seem to get a little better so it will be interesting to see how much we improve by the end of the season."
The Golden Eagles also got a 10th-place finish from Corey Albrecht and an 18th from senior Zach Johnson, who is the twin brother of Matt Johnson.
"It was a good trio, and Zach Johnson had a nice breakthrough race after being on and off with injuries and sickness," said Jacobs assistant coach Ben Sharko, who was filling in for head coach Kevin Christian on Saturday. "Corey (Albrecht) has been a very consistent second man for us and it was a pretty decent day for us. But we still haven't shown our best and the hills took a toll on everybody today."
Grayslake Central also had a strong trio of runners in the meet with senior Kevin Orozco in seventh, junior Max Brunk in 14th, and sophomore Jack Battaglia in 15th.
"This was his (Orozco's) best race of the season, he's been training really hard, and he's been really focused," said Grayslake Central coach Jimmy Centella. "He (Orozco) ran with some really tough guys up front today and if the team doesn't make it downstate he is one of those guys who can battle for an individual spot."
Grayslake North was once again led by top senior runner Ryan Bruder in fifth place. But the Knights have been running without key junior Jack Barreca at full strength physically for the better part of the season.
"This year he (Bruder) seems to be improving pretty well and just by comparing times (from last year) I think he has a shot to get out of sectionals this year," said Grayslake North coach Brandon Boyd. "He's very strong, he's constantly wanting to do more and push himself for farther distances and faster times. And he's doing really well bringing the varsity team along with him."
Elgin was led by junior Logan Jostes in ninth place followed by Warren's Patrick Kreis in 22nd, and Antioch top runner Dan Ressler in 23rd on his familiar home course.
Lakes was led by junior Jimmy Burchard in 24th while Antioch junior Zach Besson placed 27th. Jacobs teammates Jonathan Godinez and Matt Goldby placed 33rd and 34th respectively.
"We haven't run this course all year and last year we had run this course two times already by now," said Lakes coach Andy Schroeder. "One of our goals was to run our fastest race on this course, but we were off by about five to 10 seconds for each guy today."