Cross country: Neuqua Valley, Glenbard West win state prep meet
PEORIA -- Neuqua Valley senior Josh Mollway can count numerous times competing or training at Peoria's Detweiller Park cross country course.
His list still doesn't include the race for which Detweiller is known best -- the state meet.
"It would be amazing. That's been my goal since I came into this program, to run at state my senior year," Mollway said.
The way Mollway and the Wildcats competed at Detweiller in Saturday's Richard Spring Invitational, they should return on Nov. 5, contending for the program's third state championship.
Mollway and seniors Jackson Jett and Jake McEneaney finished 6-7-9 as top-rated Neuqua won comfortably with 65 points, 53 ahead of Mahomet-Seymour.
Neuqua and Lake Zurich have been rated 1-2 since the preseason. The Bears were third with 206 points even though senior Brian Griffin won in 14:34.5.
"Anytime you come to Detweiller it's special," McEneaney said. "We really are focusing on the state meet and hoping the Nike national meet. This is a stepping stone. But at the same time, when we show up to race, we show up to race."
Muddy and soft course conditions hampered times. The Wildcats' front trio began conservatively, keeping the leaders in sight before strong third miles.
Mollway closed in 14:59.9 with Jett and McEneaney split by York junior Charlie Kern in 15:02.4 and 15:04.8. Sophomore Zach Kinne and senior Matt Milostan were 19th and 27th.
"We were able to get really good positioning out of the front and we were able to find each other right away," Mollway said.
Amazingly, the Wildcats had a 9-mile workout Friday, several runners were battling head colds and senior Scott Anderson, their top 2015 state finisher, debuted this season but in the open race. Mollway was last year's open champion.
"We didn't rest for this meet at all. I was actually very surprised at how well they ran," Neuqua coach Paul Vandersteen said. "We run together, we race together. Josh is kind of our leader of our pacing so they trust him."
Geneva senior Tyler Dau was 16th. Wheaton Warrenville South was fifth with sophomore Scott Maison leading a top-four pack between 41st and 47th.
In the girls race, top-rated Glenbard West dominated for the third straight year as freshman Katelynne Hart and junior Lindsey Payne finished 1-2 in a second straight invite.
The Hilltoppers had 73 points. WW South was an enthusiastic second with 160.
Hart and Payne broke from the leaders during the second mile, establishing a nine-second lead. They remained united down the long, final straightaway before Hart won the sprint to the chute 17:06.2 to 17:08.9. Third place was 17:43.1.
"That was definitely cool. All of the people helped us get to the finish, all of that cheering," Hart said. "It was a little different than (winning Sept. 10) at Lake Park in that it was a finish up a hill, but I love this course, too."
Sophomore Katie Hohe was seventh with senior Janie Nabholz 27th and sophomore Chloe Connolly 38th. Only Nabholz remains from the Hilltoppers' first state title lineup of 2013.
"It's been really exciting and really helping us get through these tougher workouts because we know that a state championship is attainable," Hohe said.
The Tigers beat two higher-rated teams and were 55 points ahead of Palatine.
Seniors Allison McGrath and Sara Atkins were 10th and 12th and sophomore Laurel Moneysmith 17th. The No. 4-5 finishers were new varsity additions -- sophomore Amanda Obrist and freshman Maria Rucoba.
"It's just awesome to have this confidence boost to see that we are there and that we're getting even better," McGrath said.
Fourth-place Geneva was just three points from Palatine with 218 and fifth-place Neuqua had 223. Geneva's Emma Claire Ehrhardt and Neuqua's Caitlin Horn were 19th and 25th.