Boys cross country: Motivated Mundelein takes 2nd at Palatine Invite

The Mundelein boys cross country team seems to be coming of age.

Two years ago, the core of this season's team took first at the Palatine Invitational in the freshman race.

Last year, Mundelein just missed qualifying for the Class 3A state meet after finishing sixth at the Waukegan sectional.

But this year the Mustangs seem to be fully invested in the moment.

Kentucky's St. Xavier won its second Palatine Invitational title, storming to the victory at Deer Grove East on Saturday by placing five runners in the top 30.

St. Xavier also won the 2012 title and finished runner-up in 2013 and 2016.

"It's the ultimate measuring stick," said St. Xavier coach Chuck Medley. "We came here to run against the best."

And on a hot and steamy morning, that is what St. Xavier did.

Unofficially, it was the hottest Palatine Invitational on record. And without question it was the first time that both the girls and boys varsity races were moved up to adjust for the heat.

But Mundelein rose to the occasion by placing five runners in the top 43 spots to take second place with 159 points with one of its best performances of the season.

"I would say so," said Mundelein coach Kurt Rutz, who was pleased with the 16-second split between his top five runners. "I wasn't sure, but after seeing the actual split - that's hard to beat.

"They are right on schedule to do something special."

Hinsdale Central (170 points) took third, followed by Plainfield South (190) and York (201).

Junior Robert St. Clair (15:31) paced Mundelein by taking 21st place.

"I think the Palatine Invitational is a pretty good measuring stick for any team," said St. Clair, whose team initially was recorded as finishing in sixth place but was eventually awarded second place after a timing issue was straightened out. "We did a good job and we are getting pretty confident, now we just have to keep the pack moving."

Junior Michael Parduhn (15:37) and junior Aiden Afonso (15:43) kept things rolling for the Mustangs by taking 29th and 36th place. Sophomore Dillon Blake (15:45) and senior Carl Schoenfield (15:46) closed the door for the Mustangs in 40th and 43rd place.

"It's a boost for our confidence knowing we can run with all these other teams," said Parduhn, who says last year's sectional finish has been helpful to the team's focus this fall. "It's a big motivation for us to do better. We're ready."

Maine South junior Tommy Brady used a nice kick to secure the individual title in 14:44, holding off a strong effort by Libertyville senior Alexander Tam (14:47).

"We all did pretty well in the heat," said Brady, who started picking up the pace with 800 meters to go before switching gears in the final 400 meters. "I guess it just came down to the kick."

Tam did a nice job of shadowing the leader before finishing in second place. The Wildcats senior has started the season hot and continued to impress on Saturday.

"His running tactics have improved greatly, along with his training," said Libertyville coach Stuart Mendelsohn of Tam. "Just staying with the leaders and letting them do the work, then giving whatever was left at the end. And it came down to whoever had the best kick."

Athens senior Wyatt McIntyre (14:52) took third, with Barrington senior Nick Laning (15:01) taking fourth.

"It was a matter of pushing through the heat and just staying focused throughout the race," said Laning. "There was a tight pack in front, and you always had to be ready to make a move."

F.W. Parker senior Jack McNabola (15:09) held off Marmion Academy senior Michael Ronzone (15:12) for fifth place.

York was missing senior Charlie Kern, the defending Palatine Invitational champion.

But senior Sean MacGregor (15:14) picked up the slack by finishing in eighth place and leading the Dukes to a fifth-place finish.

"Everyone wants to compete," said MacGregor whose team was aided by a senior Tim Stevenson (15:26, 17th). "So we went out and did what we do best - race."

Stevenson senior Brett Lucas (15:18) also had a fine race in picking up an 11th place finish for the Patriots. He got off to a hard start before just missing a top-10 finish.

"I'm way more confident than last year," said Lucas. "I feel like I have the ability to do something, and that is the biggest change."

Prospect was not running its full lineup, but No. 1 Knights runner Jack Terry was eager to make his mark. He used a fast start to gain position, then hung on in securing 18th place in 15:27.

"I know later in the season I can be up there further," said Terry, "but I'm happy with how I competed today."

Dundee-Crown senior Anthony Hurgoi (15:33) took 23rd place, followed by Hersey senior Ryan Theisen (15:34) and Lake Zurich senior Patrick Burns (15:35) to round out the top 25.

Laning's effort led Barrington to a ninth-place team finish.

Hersey sat four of its varsity runners, including sophomore Josh Methner, and placed 11th.

Prospect ran to a 14th-place finish, followed by host Palatine in 16th place.

"We just looked flat today," said Palatine coach Chris Quick, whose team was coming off a big Mid-Suburban West win against Barrington on Tuesday. "We didn't get out well and it was kind of a trudge from behind after that."

  The boys race starts during the Palatine cross country invitational at Deer Grove Forest Preserve on Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  Stevenson's Brett Lucas runs during the Palatine cross country invitational at Deer Grove Forest Preserve on Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  Barrington's Nick Laning closes in on the finish line during the Palatine cross country invitational at Deer Grove Forest Preserve on Saturday. The Broncos senior place fourth individually. Joe Lewnard/
  Marmion's Michael Ronzone nears the finish line during the Palatine cross country invitational at Deer Grove Forest Preserve on Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
  York's Sean MacGregor heads for the finish line during the Palatine cross country invitational at Deer Grove Forest Preserve on Saturday. Joe Lewnard/
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