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updated: 9/4/2014 11:08 AM

Boys cross country: Scouting the Fox Valley

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  • Burlington Central's Clay Musial is a returning state qualifier who finished in 26th place in the Class 2A state finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria last season.

      Burlington Central's Clay Musial is a returning state qualifier who finished in 26th place in the Class 2A state finals at Detweiller Park in Peoria last season.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Dundee-Crown's Alex Clark, left, and Ricky Nueve run side-by-side nearing the final leg of the varsity run at the Elgin Invite cross country meet at Lords Park in Elgin on Tuesday.

      Dundee-Crown's Alex Clark, left, and Ricky Nueve run side-by-side nearing the final leg of the varsity run at the Elgin Invite cross country meet at Lords Park in Elgin on Tuesday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


Bartlett HawksCoach: Jeremy Ruston

2013 finish: 3rd place Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division

Top returning runners: Seniors Will McConville, David Johnson, Chandler Morgan, juniors Justin Isla, Matt Edmier, Derek Hull, sophomore Sammy Peters

Key newcomers: Sophomores Anthony Nicolini, freshmen Brandon Kim, Kevin Kelley

Outlook: Ruston, a former standout runner at Elgin, feels pack running will be a key to the team's success this season. "Our strengths this season will be maintaining a tight back and working well as a team," he said. "Our varsity team is pretty interchangeable at every position right now and could change from week to week. There may not be a front-runner this year to carry the team so we will rely on our close pack to keep us in races. The Top 7 will be very close every race with a split around a minute. That tight group will be very beneficial in big races." Bartlett has 4 total seniors on the team. "We have a lot of young guys that have been waiting for a chance to prove themselves and are hungry to show what they can do. The amount of improvement they have had as a team just over the last couple of months has been incredible and I believe the ceiling for this team is very high. Our goals for this season are to continue improving and stay healthy. Ultimately, the main goal is to finish in the top half of the conference and sectional meets and gain experience."

Burlington Central RocketsCoach: Vince Neil

2013 finish: 2nd place Big Northern Conference

Top returning runners: Clay Musial, Kyle Neubauer, Nick Harvey, Wes Metcalfe, Eric Johnson

Key newcomers: Sophomore Mitchell Roedel, freshman Jack Zettl

Outlook: Central brings back three of its Top 5 from a 2013 team that finished second in the conference and missed a team state berth by 11 points at the sectional. Musial finished 26th in the state in Class 2A, missing an all-state honor by one place. "Although we did graduate a few varsity athletes last season, we do return three of the Top 5," said Neil. "These boys are stronger than last season, but the major difference will be closing down the gaps from runners 3-7. We will need to continue to improve our pack running in order to give us a shot to get Downstate."

Cary-Grove TrojansCoach: Layne Holter

2013 finish: Ninth place Fox Valley Conference

Top returning runners: Seniors Michael Saxon, John Cody, Tyler Stordahl, Joe Veal, junior Sang Seo, sophomore Alex Ratkovich

Key newcomers: Senior Daniel Speer, freshmen Jack Warnecke, Lars McInturff

Outlook: Saxon, Cody, Seo and Ratkovich were sectional qualifiers a year ago. "We have experience," said Holter. "Many of the seniors have been running varsity for two or three years and are eager to finally race in their age group. We have great leadership, determination and focus. In the summer we made big strides in our team chemistry, improvements in our toughness and the team developed a greater understanding of the principles of training. This team, when healthy, will make significant improvements over last year." Holter has high hopes for Saxon this season. "He is more focused than I have seen him be in the last year," said Holter. "I expect him to have significant improvement from last year. Tyler missed his entire outdoor track season due to injury. He was running great indoors and is hungry to get back into racing. The Adams twins (Jack and Kyle) both are sophomores and will likely earn a varsity spot by midseason."

Crystal Lake South GatorsCoach: Rich Eschman

2013 finish: 5th place Fox Valley Conference

Top returning runners: Senior Justin Miller, juniors Tommy Melone, Doug Cain, Timmy Siesennop, sophomore Jon Prus

Key newcomers: Junior Doug Hall, sophomores Miles Foydl, Alex Foydl, freshman Jack Becker

Outlook: Eschman notes the Gators may only have one senior in the group's Top 10. "We will be a very young team this year," he said. "Our top two runners could be Jon Prus (sophomore) and Jack Becker (freshman)." Eschman sees another competitive FVC where teams such as Huntley, McHenry, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge, he feels, could be among the top tier teams.

Dundee-Crown ChargersCoach: Tyler Carlson

2013 finish: 11th Fox Valley Conference

Top returning runners: Seniors Todd Noreen, Alex Clark, juniors Josh Wizgird, David Yonamine

Key newcomers: Ricky Nueve

Outlook: Carlson returns plenty of program experience with this group. "We have quite a few seniors and juniors who have been running varsity for a long time and have a wealth of experience to share with the team," said Carlson. "They put in a strong summer and are anxious to race. There was some success by new runners during track and we are hoping that experience translates over to the cross-country course this fall. This team has some good seniors who have grown over the last two years and have bought into the program. I like how they push one another and hold one another accountable. They understand the importance of team and working together. Carlson expects a competitive FVC, as always. "I think we're still currently looking up at a lot of times, but I think if we race right we can surprise some teams. Overall, there is a lot of quality in the FVC. I'm excited for the races not only as a coach, but as a spectator because there should be some terrific battles on the course this year." Noreen is shooting for his third sectional qualification in a row.

Elgin Academy HilltoppersCoach: Joe Zambetti

Top returning runners: Juniors Corinne Lam, Michael Lucas

Key newcomers: Juniors Michael Huang, Devin Uner, freshmen Prudhive Gudapati, Ben Simon, Max Bromet, Connor Jawerski

Outlook: The Hilltoppers will have enough athletes this year to score in meets as a team for the first time in four years. "We have a lot of young athletes and a lot of newcomers," said Zambetti. "Looking at our preseason thus far I can see we have a lot of potential. We're working on creating team chemistry and learning the spot in general. Even so, we have high expectations this year and are expecting to have a good showing at conference."

Elgin MaroonsCoach: John Devine

2013 finish: Seventh place UEC River

Top returning runners: Seniors Logan Jostes, Scott Valena, Will Marston, Matt Gedritis, juniors Victor Balcazar, Brandon Copeland, Vince Coletti

Outlook: This is Devine's 20th season coaching the boys' program at EHS. "We want to move up in the River Division and become a threat to St. Charles East," he said."We aim at having 40 runners on our team this year." Veteran leadership is one of numerous strong traits on the team. "We have quality senior leadership, a good base of summer training by many and a hunger to compete, especially runners such as Logan, Scott and Brandon," said Devine. Experienced depth could be a concern. "We will need to avoid injury to stay competitive in team scoring. "

Harvest Christian Academy LionsCoach: Steven Bland

2013 finish: NAC champions

Top returning runners: Senior Dorian Frederick, junior Caleb Vislisel, sophomore Michael Sisko

Key newcomers: Senior Jake Adams, freshmen Andrew Debrescu, Kyler Young

Outlook: The Lions, who advanced to the Class 1A state finals as a team in 2013, are out to defend their Northeastern Athletic Conference title among other goals. "Our primary goal is to win the conference and then from there it would be to advance the team to sectionals and then state," said Bland. "Our strength always is a team of athletes unafraid to work hard and push themselves to the limit. They have confidence and through consistency that will achieve our team goals." Bland said freshmen Debrescu and Young have a chance to get into the Top 7, while Adams is new to the team after playing soccer. Adams and Dorian were part of the Harvest 3,200 relay team that qualified for state in track this past spring.

Huntley Red RaidersCoach: Matt Kaplan

2013 finish: Seventh place Fox Valley Conference

Top returning runners: Senior Elijah Gren, juniors Keagan Smith, Seth Conroy, Mike Grocholski, sophomore Matt Kapolnek

Key newcomers: Junior Zach Hollman, freshman Joey Ozzauto

Outlook: Huntley returns its Top 5 runners from a year ago. "This season should be a lot of fun for our team," said Kaplan. "Our team will look to improve our finish at the conference meet. We have an overall goal of reaching the state meet as a team for the first time in school history. To make that goal a reality, we have to learn from each meet and stay healthy." Smith, Conroy and Grocholski lead the charge for the Red Raiders. Kaplan said Kapolnek had a strong summer and will challenge for a team Top 3 position. Hollman, a newcomer, will help as well. "One strength this team has is chemistry," said Kaplan. "When you have a group that gets along this well and is on the same page with each other, that only can lead us to success. We're looking forward to what should be a successful 2014 season." Smith took 16th in the state in Class 3A and earned al-state honors. Huntley also advanced to the sectional as a team last season.

Jacobs Golden EaglesCoach: Kevin Christian

2013 finish: Second FVC, 1st FVC Valley

Top returning runners: Seniors Matt Goldby, Kyle Eubanks

Key newcomers: Senior Alec Bognar, juniors Kyle Ross, Austin Albrecht, Cole Schwarz, Austin Nguyen, sophomore Garrett Brenizer

Outlook: Jacobs graduated three athletes (Matt Johnson, Zach Johnson and Corey Albrecht) who now are running in college. "Even with graduating five of the Top 7, I believe we are going to be just as good as last season, just not as deep," said Christian. "Matt Goldby had a breakout track season splitting 1:56.5 (800) and running a 4:26 in the 1,600 to lead the team. He approached the summer with a different mindset. He knows this is his last chance at qualifying for state cross country. Alec has gone from one of the last freshmen two years ago to a solid No. 2 man after working hard for four years. Kyle and Garrett are extremely solid 3 and 4 runners. After that we need someone to step up as the fifth runner. Austin, so far, is leading the charge." Christian said Huntley and McHenry will be teams to contend with in the conference.

Larkin RoyalsCoach: Eric Hill

2013 finish: Sectional team qualifier

Top returning runners: Zach Fifer, Eduardo Blatazar, Sebastian Alvarado

Key newcomers: Junior Luis Guadarrama, freshmen Manual Fuentes, Evan Powers

Outlook: Hill has plenty of newcomers on the roster this season. "We have a strong freshman turnout and we'll be looking for some contributions from the young squad," he said. "We are young and we have a lot to learn about racing and working together as a team. We need leaders to emerge since we have no seniors." Hill would like to see the Royals finish in the top half of the UEC River and again earn a sectional qualification as a team.

St. Edward Green WaveCoach: Katie Brackett

Top returning runners: Senior James Eisen, sophomore Trevor Odegaard

Key newcomers: Junior Alex Pitron, freshman Andy Bibler

Outlook: Brackett took over the team midsummer and is looking forward to working with this group. "The team's strength this season will be in the leadership that is being shown already by the returning runners," she said. "The team has a very positive energy. All are energetic and excited about the season. It always is a great feeling to show up to practice and all members of the team are excited to get going and working toward our goals. I feel the positivity that the team exudes and the encouragement they offer each other will be our major strengths throughout this season."

South Elgin StormCoach: Kari Turcan

2013 finish: Sixth place UEC Valley

Top returning runners: Seniors Max Keough, Brandon Van Bogaert, Chris Jo

Key newcomers: Sophomore Trinity Maynard, freshman Brady Tolva

Outlook: Keough is a returning sectional qualifier for the Storm. South Elgin has 47 runners out of for the program. "We have high numbers," said Turcan. "We have a tight pack of five runners which will help keep our spread down. We have a core group of seniors that have been running with us in some capacity for four-plus years. We also have 20 freshmen out, most of whom have a lot of motivation to be a top runner for our team." Newcomers Maynard and Tolva have been making progress. "Everything they have shown so far is strong," said Turcan. South Elgin's coach would like to see her team move up in the UEC Valley standings. "We want to keep everybody healthy and share the passion for running," she said.

Streamwood SabresCoach: Weert Goldenstein

2013 finish: 6th place UEC River Division

Top returning runners: Robert Douglas, Miles Juarez, Steven Benitez, Francisco Vega

Key newcomers: Jarod Adaya, Juan Payne, Isaac Vidales, Ivan Villapondo

Outlook: Goldenstein is pleased with the strong numbers in the program. "We have good numbers again this season, which will give us a bigger pool to draw from in putting together our Top 7," he said. "We also have quite a few guys that put in good miles over the summer. We want to consistently work hard and get better throughout the season and improve our position in the conference." Goldenstein sees St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Batavia as contenders in the UEC River.

Westminster Christian WarriorsCoach: Adriana Armstrong

Top returning runners: Sophomores Tom Danner, Ben Bertsche

Key newcomers: Freshmen Jason Yaccino, Sam Hild

Outlook: Danner is a returning sectional qualifier from a year ago. "The boys' team's strength will be the fresh talent among the freshmen runners," said Armstrong. "With more than half the team consisting of veteran runners, the new talent in the freshmen group will push and keep the whole team motivated. We want to see continued improvement not just in the runners' performances, but in the cross-country program. The team would also like to see another sectional-qualifying time not just with one runner, but multiple runners."

Hampshire did not respond to a request for information.

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