Cross country: Naperville North, Neuqua Valley tops at West Aurora

Due to a technical glitch with timing equipment, team results of Saturday's Class 3A West Aurora cross country sectional were not confirmed until the awards ceremony at the end of the meet.

However there were few surprises as 8 of the 10 teams that advanced to next Saturday's state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria are returnees from last year's championship competition.

All five of the girls' squads that qualified are repeats from last year as are three of the boys' teams.

Naperville North's boys are returning to Peoria after a one year absence while it has been since 2010 that the Geneva boys competed as a team at the state meet.

The Naperville North girls team, which is a constant at the state meet, won the race with 50 points. Junior Sarah Schmitt's first place time of 17:36 on the 3-mile course at the Stuart Sport Complex led the Huskies.

"I just know that a lot girls get out pretty fast so I wanted to take it out nice and comfortable," said Schmitt, who took the lead at the halfway point. "Then I just move up and then run my best and see where that took me."

"It was a good race I think we moved well as the race unfolded," said Naperville North coach Dan Iverson, whose team was second downstate last year. "We will aim to do the same thing as we do every year - run our best race on the course and see where it puts us."

Neuqua Valley, led by Caitlin Horn's seventh-place finish finished second scoring 101 points.

Geneva's Emma Ehrhardt (17:51) crossed the finish line third, earning the Vikings third place.

"I honestly didn't expect myself to stay up with the leaders. My strategy was to run how I feel and see where it goes and try to get in the top ten," said Ehrhardt. "I ended up feeling pretty good at the first mile and I just kind of took it."

The senior is making her fourth trip to the state meet.

"Coming in on paper, I had both teams making it. But paper doesn't mean anything if they can't actually perform - but perform they did," said Bob Thomson, who coaches both Geneva squads. "The girls I thought we would be contending with Neuqua for second or third. The entire team stood out because they did what we asked of them."

Metea Valley and Batavia finished fourth and fifth respectively, taking the last two state team berths.

Leana Goldman took top honors for the Mustangs by finishing eighth. Marygrace Golden was the top Bulldog runner with a 14th place finish.

Audrey Ernst (4th, 17:54) and teammate Madison Kaufmann (19th) from St. Charles North captured two of the seven at-large slots. The top seven runners from non-qualifying teams also advance to the state meet. Other area individual qualifiers are Meghan Donavan (16th) from Naperville Central and St. Charles East's Anna Arrick (17th).

Neuqua Valley won the boys sectional crown with 25 points by having runners finish in first, second and third.

"We ran solid. Most of our guys did, we had a couple of guys who didn't run too well but overall we ran OK," said Neuqua Valley coach Paul Vandersteen. "We didn't run our sophomore Zach Kinney today. We rested him to get ready for state meet so we will see what happens next weekend."

Wildcat Jackson Jett crossed the finish line first with a time of 15:12 followed by teammates Matt Milostan (15:19) and Josh Mollway (15:20).

"I was in the lead pack. With the wind, I just wanted to get into a good rhythm," Jett said. "About 2 miles in, I made my move and after that I just wanted to hold on and go as hard as I could to the finish line."

Led by Charlie Zimmer's fifth-place finish (14:32), Marmion's 105 points earned the Cadets second place.

"Going into the race I really wanted to stick with the top pack and stay with my teammate Michael Ronzone (9th). We worked together really well during the race and played off each other," Zimmer said. "With 800 (yards) to go I made my move and caught about half the pack."

Geneva ended the six-year drought by placing third. Tyler Dau (6th) and Josh Rodgers (7th) paced the Vikings.

"I thought the boys would be third. Physically I knew they were ready, they just had to put their mental side together and they did - it was awesome," said Thomson. "The boys haven't been (to state) since 2010 so it's great when a program can send both their boys and girls. We are one of the few teams that can say that."

Naperville North took fourth-place honors led by Matt Boelke's 19th place finish. St. Charles East claimed fifth behind Jake Beno's 12th place finish.

Individual qualifiers include Tommy Chavez, Naperville Central (13th); Ralph Papa, Metea Valley (15th), Thomas Shilgalis, Naperville Central (16th) and David Castillo, West Aurora (19th).

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