After barely missing a trip to the state meet as a freshman, Antioch sophomore Charlie Smith more than made up for that disappointment Saturday afternoon in the 72nd annual high school state meet at Detweiller Park.
Smith started off fast on the 3-mile course, and he never looked back in the Class 2A race as he wound up placing 10th in 15:02 to earn a place on the coveted top 25 all-state team.
"He (Smith) had a great day, and the last month of the season he finished strong," said Antioch coach Chris Bailey, whose team earned a Northern Lake County Conference crown behind Smith's lead. "We knew he had a shot at the top 10, and he really stepped up today and did it."
Smith was cautiously optimistic heading into the pressure-packed meet, but a strong break after the starting gun sounded paved the way to a fantastic finish.
"I was surprised that I finished 10th, I thought I would finish in the teens," said Smith, who missed the state meet by one place out of sectionals last year. "The course was a little sloppy, but the key for me was to get out strong, and to find a good position early."
Vernon Hills junior Jimmy McDonald had a solid 33th-place finish to close out a very successful first-year of cross country for the Cougars.
And after all-state performances as a sophomore (25th), and a junior (12th), a less-than-100 percent-healthy Grayslake Central senior Eli Minsky still managed to finish in 39th place Saturday.
Downers Grove North completely rolled to the Class 3A crown with 73 points with Neuqua Valley (149 points) finishing a distant second to the Trojans.
In its 10th straight trip to the state meet, Lake Zurich took 11th place behind senior Patrick Burns' 17th-place finish. Jacob Bieniek was the Bears' No. 2-runner in 86th place while teammate Patrick Hart placed 108th.
"He (Burns) was awesome, he was just tough the whole way, and his goal was to get one of those medals," said Lake Zurich coach J.B. Hanson. "A lot of our guys stepped up big, and every week somebody else steps up so it was a fitting end to the season."
Besides Burns, Libertyville senior Alex Tam also put the finishing touches on a great senior campaign as Tam placed 15th in 14:41.8 as an individual qualifier. Lyons' Danny Kilrea ran away with the individual title in 14:07.6.
Mundelein took 12th place in its first trip downstate as a team in school history as junior Robert St. Clair led the Mustangs in 34th place.
A cramp to key junior Michael Parduhn really hurt Mundelein's team scoring. But the Mustangs still got a 41st from sophomore Dillon Blake, and a 53rd from junior Aidan Afonso. Mundelein's Carl Schoenfield placed 122nd.
"For our first trip down there we did well. The cramp really hurt us or we could have been in the top six," said Mundelein coach Kurt Rutz. "It happens unfortunately, but all of our top four ran p.r.'s."
Stevenson senior Nikita Smyrnov also had a solid finish with a 46th-place run as an individual qualifier.