St. Charles East will bring something every cross country team wants this time of year when it lines up next Saturday at the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley sectional -- confidence.
Fresh off its first conference championship since the St. Charles school split last weekend, the Saints continued their breakthrough season Saturday by edging Wheaton North to win the Class 3A Wheaton North regional at St. James Farm.
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The Saints scored 50 points to Wheaton North's 53. St. Charles North (81), Bartlett (83), Geneva (87) and South Elgin (175) also qualified for the sectional.
Now St. Charles East takes aim at a top-five finish and a state berth next week against the likes of Wheaton Warrenville South.
"We're moving in the right direction," Saints coach Chris Bosworth said. "More than anything I think it's confidence for the guys going in. We won conference, we won regional, for them it's 'We belong in the top five.' We've got to have that pack together which I think we did pretty well today."
Senior Max Rowland finished third in 15:30 to lead the Saints.
"Max ran well," Bosworth said. "He said for the first time he's starting to feel good."
Sophomore Mark Sciurba (15:40) finished sixth and senior Lucas Werner (16:05) 12th while sophomore Mike Gerkin was 13th and junior Will Muckian 16th to round out the Saints' top five.
"Mark has solidified himself as No. 2. Gerkin ran a better race than conference," said Bosworth, who added Werner and Muckian both moved up from their normal spots. "We have guys who want to step up and fill that (fourth and fifth) spot."
Seniors Nathan Klair and Kevin Davis led the charge for the North Stars taking fifth and seventh, respectively.
The trick next week for Kevin Harrington's squad will be getting their 3-5 runners to close the gap with the front two.
"We keep running better," Harrington said. "We're not where we need to be. And we know that. But at this time of the year you just plug forward and keep going. We're just not packing the way we need to for next week. That's our challenge. Our kids are definitely giving what they got. We know our backs are against the wall. We could easily be top five (at sectional) and we could easily be No. 8."
Harrington said Klair and Davis are doing all they can to keep the program's nearly decade-long streak of state appearances alive.
"They were running up front close to each other and that's good," Harrington said. "They've been a great pair. Those two as seniors have done everything they can. They've done the work to be up there.
"Kevin keeps getting better and better. Nathan expected to be a front-runner a lot earlier. He hit a little dry spell midseason but his legs are starting to look really good. He's got another spring in them. They did everything they can this summer. They'll put their nose in and see what happens (at sectionals)."
Geneva senior Blaine Bartel, won the Upstate Eight Conference River last week, took fourth in 15:34. The Vikings' No. 2-6 runners finished within 8 seconds of each other in 18th through 26th. That group only has one senior.
"Blaine is doing really well and the boys are running in a nice pack," Geneva coach Bob Thomson said. "It's a young group. Hopefully next week they do a little better. We've got some nice young depth."
Wheaton North senior Joseph Emmanuel followed last week's DuPage Valley Conference championship by winning the regional in 15:14.
Emmanuel, who also won the Benet Invitational this fall, didn't match his 14:28 time from the DVC meet but also didn't have the same competition to run against.
"I ran good," Emmanuel said. "I didn't have a guy with me so my goal for this race was just to win and help my team advance."
The Falcons did, with Wes Noyes (ninth), Danny Steeno (11th), Kilty Askin (15th) and Chris Stopka (17th) following Emmanuel.
Bartlett's Dan Cotton finished second in 15:28. Seniors Anthony Peters and Alex Peters also finished in the top 20 in 10th and 19th, respectively, for the Hawks.
Senior John Danner ran a 15:52 to lead South Elgin in eighth place.