72nd annual IHSA boys state cross country meet
When: noon Saturday, awards ceremony at 1 p.m.
Where: Detweiller Park, Peoria
Area teams: none
Area individuals: Grayslake Central senior Eli Minsky (12th in 2016, 25th in 2015), Vernon Hills junior Jimmy McDonald, Antioch sophomore Charlie Smith
Outlook: Not only does Minsky head into his third state meet as a two-time all-state runner, he was also a big part of Grayslake Central's state championship team in 2015 and the Rams' runner-up squad last year. That success and experience should serve him well downstate, although he has had to battle through many nagging injuries throughout the 2017 season to get to this point.
After missing the state meet as a freshman by only one place at sectionals, the sophomore Smith should be an all-state (top 25) contender. And while McDonald is only a first-year cross country runner, he also has the potential to make a serious push for a place on the all-state team. Smith, McDonald and Minsky were the fourth, fifth and sixth individual qualifiers to advance to state out of the Kaneland sectional.
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, awards ceremony at 3 p.m.
Where: Detweiller Park, Peoria
Lake Zurich -- Coach J.B. Hanson; seniors Patrick Burns (51st in 2016, 73rd in 2015, 121st in 2014), Jacob Bieniek (121st in 2016), Sean Ginn, Drake Heisterkamp (199th in 2016); sophomores Patrick Hart, Adam Cupples; freshman Jack Gilboy
Mundelein -- Coach Kurt Rutz; seniors Carl Schoenfield, Kaleb Carlson; juniors Robert St. Clair, Michael Parduhn, Aidan Afonso, Matt Olorvida; sophomore Dillon Blake
Area individuals: Libertyville senior Alex Tam (40th in 2016), Stevenson senior Nikita Smyrnov (157th in 2016)
Outlook: Despite losing three Division-I runners from last year's third-place in the state team to graduation, Lake Zurich still took second place in the powerful Hoffman Estates sectional last weekend to advance to its 10th consecutive state meet appearance.
The Bears still have four returning runners from that squad back and ready for action Saturday afternoon, including four-time state qualifier Burns. Hanson is optimistic that his team will put together a solid effort, although the Bears will be hard-pressed to be among one of the teams contending for a top-four trophy.
"It's always a balance between getting out, getting in position and being competitive in the second half of the race," said Hanson, whose team has won nine North Suburban Conference titles in the past 10 years. "It's always tough (at state) with a lot of congestion, so we're excited to get back there."
Mundelein is even more excited to reach the pressure-packed meet as the Mustangs' fourth-place finish at sectionals secured them the first trip to the state meet as a team in school history.
St. Clair was fifth at sectionals, while sophomore teammate Blake was also a huge factor with an 18th-place run.
Libertyville's Tam is on schedule for a potential all-state finish (top 25) after he placed 40th in the state as a junior.
"I want to run faster (than sectionals) and break my school record (14:36)," said Tam, who placed third at sectionals in 14:52. "You want to go out fast (at state), and it's a really flat course, which is really fun."
Stevenson's Smyrnov hopes to make a huge jump in his final state meet.
"I think he has a chance to be all-state," Patriots coach Scott Sommers said. "He's run under 15 minutes before. That course (Detweiller Park) is usually a little faster and flatter than the courses up here."
-- John Bumbales