Conant's Zach Dale proved to be a show-stopper on Saturday at the Mid-Suburban League cross country meet at Willow Stream Park in Buffalo Grove.
The Cougars junior passed the first mile in the lead group before taking command and pushing the second mile, making separation in the final mile and crossing the finish line first in 14:26 with arms extended.
Dale became the first Conant runner to win an individual title.
"It's very special," said Dale of his title. "It's always great competition and everybody is looking to put on a show."
Hersey did that as well, placing five runners in the top 17 in securing its first team title since 1972 with 50 points and ending Palatine's streak of MSL titles at 10.
"It's about time for us," said Hersey coach Jay Renaud. "The team went in with the expectation to win, and they didn't buckle under the pressure."
Ten-time defending champion Palatine gave Hersey a battle, taking second with 82 points. Next were Buffalo Grove (91 points), Barrington (108 points), and Prospect (118 points).
Palatine junior Graham Brown (14:45) took second, followed by Barrington senior Jake Herb (14:47), Hoffman Estates senior Billy Thomas (14:48) and Buffalo Grove sophomore Kevin Salvano (14:51).
Dale took 15th place in the 3,200-meter run in the Class 3A boys track state meet last spring. He's only gained momentum since then, winning titles at the Lyons Invitational, Bartlett Invitational and Sterling Invitational.
"You knew this was coming, especially after the spring he had," said Conant coach John Powers of Dale's rapid ascent. "Today he stuck to the plan and got it done. He's gaining confidence with every race he has run this year."
Dale made his move in the second mile and then shook Brown in the final mile to win with a 19-second cushion.
"I wanted to push it in the second mile," said Dale, "and shake off anyone trying to slow it down. I felt really good going into that final mile."
Hersey got it done with a solid pack, as senior Andy Philipose (14:54) and junior David Rodriguez (14:57) took sixth and seventh place. The Huskies kept it rolling with senior Matt Stadnicki (15:02) and senior Jack O'Neil (15:04) taking 9th and 11th place, followed by junior Grant Von Der Lippe (15:12) in 17th. Senior Eric DeLoera (15:21) added a 24th-place finish.
"We are starting to build up now, this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Philipose who missed a chunk of the season with an Achilles injury. "It's unbelievable to get the title -- 1972 was a long time ago."
Hersey's top five had a remarkable 17-second split.
"It's not about one individual, it's about the team effort," said Rodriguez. "We've been working for this since the summer."
Palatine gave Hersey a fight, as Brown led the Piratess' charge with one of his best races of the season.
Senior Argeni Bailon (15:03) and senior Emil Kozakiewicz (15:08) added a 10th and 14th place finish to aid the Pirates' attack. Senior Adam Brauer (15:23) secured 25th place for the Pirates.
"It's a bit disappointing, but there is no shame in losing to team as talented as Hersey," said Brown. "You just have to tip your hats to them."
Buffalo Grove has had its share of challenges this season. Top runner Steven Salvano has battled a virus all-season and the Bison had a coaching change in mid-season, but sophomore Kevin Salvano stepped up big on Saturday in pacing BG.
"With Steven going out, I wanted to have a breakout year," said Kevin who has stepped into his brother's shoes. "Last year was a learning year, but this year I wanted to have a successful season."
Sophomore Tom Cleary (15:06) and junior Jake Wenzel (15:12) bolstered the Bison by taking 12th and 18th.
Barrington jumped out early in the first mile paced by Herb, who held strong throughout the race.
"I felt really good at the end of the race," said Herb, who at one point challenged for the lead. "I am excited. It's my senior year so I am going for broke."
Junior Konrad Eiring (15:13) and senior Pitcher Seagrist (15:15) held strong in taking 19th and 21st for the Broncos.
Prospect also made a move with junior Mike Anderson (15:08, 15th) and senior Blake Hallman (15:09, 16th) pacing the Knights to a fifth-place finish. Senior Ben Pederson (15:18) finished 22nd.
Senior Harry Winter (14:59) helped Fremd to sixth place by finishing eighth. Senior Nick Vucovich (15:07) and senior Nick Macius (15:13) also supplied a punch for the Vikes in 13th and 20th place.
"I just wanted to hold on during the last mile," said Winter who is looking for a big finish this season after being slowed by injury at the end of last season. "I am feeling a lot better today than I was last year."
Hoffman Estates senior Billy Thomas was on fire to start the season, winning the Fenton Invitational and Lake Park Invitational in back-to-back weekends. The Hawks senior has been slowed by injury since that big start, but Thomas was back in form on Saturday and clinging to the lead at the mile mark before take fourth place and helping the Hawks to seventh place. Sophomore Bryan Gamboa (14:49) had a 23rd-place effort for the Hawks.
"I got out hard and pushed the pace," said Thomas. "I'm feeling like I have more strength, and it's coming back and I am gaining confidence."
Conant (186 points), Rolling Meadows (272 points), and Wheeling (277 points) rounded out the top ten.