From Friday's initial field events to the final relay, Kaneland kept the pressure on the other squads at the annual Kane County boys track and field meet at Burlington Central to win its second straight title and third in school history.
The Knights scored 117 points to outdistance second-place St. Charles North (101) on a chilly, windy night on Rocket Hill, buoyed by two victorious relay teams and strong performances from hurdler Dylan Nauert, thrower Nate Dyer and sprinter Brandon Cottier, among others.
West Aurora placed third (82), followed by Geneva (61), Batavia (52.5), Burlington Central (50), Marmion (25.5) and South Elgin (19).
"It was tight and it was tough," said Kaneland coach Eric Baron, whose Knights last year tied Geneva for the county title with 74 points. "St. Charles North came for us and West Aurora came for us, and we were a little off. Our field events didn't go as well as hoped, but the boys got it done when they needed to. Dylan Nauert had a huge meet for us."
Nauert won his second straight Kane County title in the 300-meter hurdles (40.80), placed fourth in the 110 hurdles and was part of a third-place 400-meter relay team.
Arguably, Nauert's shining moment came in the 1,600-meter relay when he ran the third leg and stormed past a St. Charles North runner to give Kaneland a lead it did not relinquish. He and teammates Brandon Bishop, Kyle Carter and Nathaniel Kucera, all juniors, finished in 3:24.17.
"I feel very blessed," Nauert said. "I'm just thankful I get the chance every day, every meet to do something that I love. If you win, you win. It just happened two years in a row at county and I couldn't be more happy."
Dyer won the shot put with a heave of 50 feet, 11 inches. The junior nearly won the discus as well, but Batavia senior Sebastian Vermaas dropped Dyer to a second-place finish by throwing 154-10 on his final attempt.
"It was a lot of pressure," Vermaas said, "but it's always good to perform under pressure."
Cottier finished fourth in the 100, fifth in the 200 and took part in two third-place relays, joining his coach in a select group of athletes who can say they scored points at the Kane County Meet all four years in high school.
Kaneland gained additional field points when Dylan Kuipers and Kory Harner finished third and fourth, respectively, in the pole vault.
The Knights were also victorious in the 3,200-meter relay, thanks to a time of (8:03.15) posted by senior Conor Johnson and juniors Kyle Carter, Luis Acosta and Nathaniel Kucera.
St. Charles North held a slim lead for portions of the meet until Kaneland pulled away late. Still, the second-place finish was the program's best showing at a Kane County Meet.
County champions for the North Stars included junior high jumper Erik Miller -- who needed fewer attempts to clear 6-1 height than Burlington Central second-place finisher Dan McCurdy -- junior pole vaulter Kaleb Kirby (13-3) and the 400-meter relay team of seniors Zach Kirby, Connor Larson and Josh Phelan and junior Jack Feeney (43.41).
Larson enjoyed a big night overall. Battling a hamstring strain suffered last week, he said he "ran all day" to keep the leg loose. The therapy worked; he won the 100-meter dash in 11.17 to nip teammate Grant Loess (11.21).
"It was a big win," said Larson, who was also ran a leg for North's second-place 800-meter relay team. "I felt really good coming out of the blocks that race. It was a lot of fun. I thought it would be close between me and my teammate and it was. Our plan was to run first and second, so we got our goal done: 18 points in the 100."
West Aurora senior Benny Prunty won the 200 dash (22.40) by powering through a headwind and eventually pulling away in the turn from St. Charles East junior Jordan Duncan (22.78).
"I knew he runs a good curve, so I knew I had to, too," Prunty said of Duncan. "That's the strength of my 200. I just had to finish strong and put my arms down in the straightaway."
The Blackhawks stayed in contention, thanks to first and second-place finishes in the 800 by seniors Brandon McKay (2:00.57) and Alan Martinez (2:01.24).
Burlington Central, which had never played host to the Kane County Meet, acquitted itself well with a pair of champions. Senior Ryan Olsen won the 400 by narrowly holding off South Elgin senior Jeff Broger to win by .11 seconds.
Central freshman long jumper Jason Berango turned in the surprise performance of the meet. Coming off a frosh/soph invite last weekend in which he finished sixth in the event, Berango jumped 20-7¼ to win the title by ¼ inch over Loess.
"It's just crazy," Central coach Mike Schmidt said of Berango, a talented prospect who also finished sixth in the 100-meter dash. "He's kind of been in a slump with his long jumping, but he just did magnificent. He had 3 jumps over 20 feet. He couldn't get over 17 feet on the weekend."
Geneva gained a county champion when senior miler Michael Bianchina's well-timed kick in the final stretch allowed him to pass Batavia sophomore Ryan Wieties in the final 50 meters. Bianchina won in 4:32.68.
Other individual champions included South Elgin junior triple jumper Kyle Kumerow (44-3¼), Aurora Central Catholic 110-meter hurdler Patrick Lefevre (15.06) and Marmion junior 3,200-meter runner John Graft (9:53.57).