Normally, a rivalry takes a back seat when a conference championship is on the line.
But when the rival is the team standing in the way of a title? Well, that's different.
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Grant and Lakes are friendly rivals -- in fact, they rooted for one another when both finished in the top five in the Class 2A and 3A state meets last spring.
But when the gun goes off Thursday night at Mundelein for the North Suburban Conference boys track and field championships, the friendly rivals will be strictly foes -- for one night, at least.
Field events start at 4 p.m., with finals on the track slated to start no earlier than 6 p.m.
"The message to our guys was we can only control ourselves," said Lakes coach Kurt Rowells, who helped lead the Eagles to their first Lake County Invitational title last week. "We know (Grant) is the defending champs, but we have to stay focused on what we do."
Grant has won or shared the NSC title each of the last two seasons, becoming one of only three teams to ever win back-to-back titles (Lake Zurich and Zion-Benton are the others). Grant is also aiming to become the second team in conference history to win three consecutive titles ;Zion-Benton was the other.
In order for the Bulldogs to climb the mountain again, they will need to slow the Eagles and NSC Lake Division champion Warren. The Blue Devils are led by sprinting standouts Darius Davis and Isaac Walker.
Grant's top comeptitior is Illinois-bound senior Jonathan Wells. He is the top seed in the 110 high hurdles, long jump and the high jump, where he is the defending Class 3A state champion.
But the Bulldogs are much more than just Wells.
'We know that nothing is guaranteed," said Grant coach Tom Evans. "Our motto, is 'Exceed your seed.' This is an exciting time for us."
Wells' younger brother Octavian is a major sprint and relay contributor, while senior Kyle Hatton is a returning state medalist in the 800.
Speaking of the 800, it could be the best race of the night with Hatton facing off against Mundelein junior Bryce Richards and Stevenson sensational sophomore Jared Borowsky.
Lakes will counter the Wells brothers with the likes of Corey Hertz in the sprints and Miami of Ohio-bound junior Ryan Mullen in the throws. Mullen is the top seed in the discus but will have to try and catch Grant senior Jack Bychowski and Warren senior Nitin Tangellamudi in the shot put. Tangellamudi has re-written the school record each of his last three meets.
Where this meet will likely be decided is the relays. Grant and Lakes are the top two seeds in the 1,600 relay, which figures to provide a fitting end to what should be a great battle.
One of the top individual performers to watch is Lake Zurich freshman Matt Pereira. He is the top seed in both the 3,200 and the 1,600 and will be aiming to put his mark on a traditionally strong distance conference by completing the rare distance double.