Who needs an all-stater?

  • Marmion's Michael Ronzone (1842), Mitchell Guittar (1851) and Neuqua Valley's Scott Anderson (2040) in the boys Class 3A state cross country final at Detweiller Park in Peoria Saturday.

      Marmion's Michael Ronzone (1842), Mitchell Guittar (1851) and Neuqua Valley's Scott Anderson (2040) in the boys Class 3A state cross country final at Detweiller Park in Peoria Saturday. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/10/2015 9:23 PM

PEORIA -- Paul Vandersteen was incredulous two days after the Neuqua Valley boys cross country team defeated York on a sixth-man tiebreaker to earn the Wildcats' fifth Class 3A trophy since 2007.

"Usually, the formula is you need at least two all-staters to win a trophy," Vandersteen said after the Wildcats finished behind only Sandburg and Lyons Twp. "I have never heard of a team getting a trophy with zero all-state guys. Not just an all-stater, but we didn't even have anyone close to all-state."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But the Wildcats, a two-time Class 3A champion, claimed third place behind a balanced attack featuring Scott Anderson, Matt Milostan, Caleb Ferguson, Jake McEneaney, Aidan Livingston and sixth runner Jackson Jett.

"It's unusual, but it's not unprecedented," Benet girls coach Scott Brooks said of winning a trophy without a top-25 individual.

Still in awe:

The brilliant run Naperville North senior Judy Pendergast crafted on Saturday to win the Class 3A girls individual championship is still eliciting awe among area coaches.

"The first girl in state history to break 16 minutes says it all," Brooks said. "That whole race was amazing."

"I have never seen a high school runner with such poise," Metea Valley girls coach Eric Anerino said. "I have seen it in college, but not high school. She stands as an elite."

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Pendergast broke the record of 16 minutes, 2 seconds set by Madeline Perez, the former Glenbard West star by eight seconds. Perez established the mark three years ago as part of the first leg of her distance triple crown feat (state cross and the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs in track and field).

"(Pendergast) certainly had a race for the ages," Glenbard West girls coach Paul Hass said. "She has run lights out the whole season."

Both Hass and Naperville North girls coach Dan Iverson said the most remarkable aspect to the achievement was less-than-ideal footing.

"Her time could have been even lower had the ground been harder," Hass said.

"It was the flawless execution of a race plan," Iverson said.

Resting up:

Lindsay Graham, the defending champion from Glenbard West, has not competed since injuring her foot toward the end of the last track season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"She is doing really well," said Hass, who coaches the Hilltoppers' distance runners in the spring.

Graham recently made an oral commitment to Furman University in South Carolina and is expected to at full strength for the start of indoor track in late January.

Peak performance:

The Benet girls made their first Class 3A state appearance in four years as Clare McCabe and Mae Tully finished in back-to-back slots to lead the Redwings.

"For me the whole season is all about conference, regional, sectional and state," said Brooks, whose team won the East Suburban Catholic. "One of the things I was happy about is we kept getting better during the season. (McCabe and Tully) both ran lifetime bests (at Detweiller Park on Saturday)."

Familiar faces:

Gianna Salzbrunn knows all about the legendary Yorkville girls program.

"I ran on the Yorkville middle-school team," the Montini senior said.

Yorkville captured its fifth consecutive Class 2A title with ease on Saturday.

Salzbrunn is an electric athlete who fell just short of earning another all-state medal.

"I am disappointed but not discouraged," said Salzbrunn, who has six track and field state medals, including a relay state championship from last spring. "I feel like I didn't go out hard enough in the first mile. I felt like I passed a lot of girls in the second mile. I have some very good goals for track season that are amplified now because of (my finish). I am going to take this (cross result) as a blessing and a lesson."

Still going strong:

The Glenbard South boys extended their consecutive appearances at the Class 2A state meet to six after finishing just outside the top 20.

"It's pretty much where we expected to finish," Glenbard South coach Doug Gorski said. "We didn't do anything particularly special. If we would have been 15 or 16, that would have been pretty good. Next year we're hoping to do a little more damage."

Gorski will count on juniors Christian Hilliard and Joe Wood, the Raiders' third- and fourth-counting runners, for next season.

The next level:

The Metea Valley girls joined the Mustangs' competitive cheerleaders and female bowlers as the only programs in school history to qualify for a state meet as a team.

"I think they did exceptionally well, considering it was our first time qualifying for state as a team," Anerino said. "We are exceedingly excited about the future of the program. Fifteen of our top 16 girls are returning next year."

Kyla Ohst was the lone senior on the Mustangs' 12-runner state roster.

All-state track veteran Nicki Cast led Metea Valley throughout its postseason run.

Metea Valley edged sister school Neuqua Valley for 14th place overall in Class 3A on Saturday.

"(Cast) had an excellent season," Anerino said. "That is the type of progression she has had."

The Mustangs' junior leader was 36th in the field.

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