Cross country: DuPage County teams remain among state's elite
PEORIA -- The Neuqua Valley boys cross country team was dealt a most unexpected blow when Zach Kinne, instrumental to the Wildcats' Class 3A first state track and field championship and runner-up cross country finish during the 2017-18 school year, moved over the summer.
But the Wildcats were unfazed this season.
Neuqua Valley has qualified for every state competition as a team in cross country since 2001.
Wheaton Warrenville South captured its first title in program history with a 40-point victory over Hersey Saturday at Detweiller Park, but the Wildcats also claimed a fourth consecutive state trophy by defeating highly regarded York and St. Charles East for third.
Neuqua Valley (159 points) bested the Dukes (185) and Saints (187) to conclude a three-year run of finishing first, second and third.
"It wasn't about vindication," Neuqua Valley coach Paul Vandersteen said of the departure of Kinne. "That's what life is all about. We did what we had to do."
St. Charles East had battled WW South in their regular-season encounters, but Neuqua Valley reversed the results of the Waubonsie Valley sectional in denying the Saints for the third trophy.
"We ran six seniors," Vandersteen said. "(St. Charles East) ran six underclassmen. Having older kids makes a big difference."
The Wildcats' Michael Madiol and Chris Keeley were all-state, placing 19th and 21st to secure the latest Neuqua Valley state trophy.
"I think what was most important was running for the team," Madiol said. "We just talked about it that it was more important to run for the team today. There were other guys counting on you."
"It literally means the world," Keeley said. "I know coming into the (state) meet, people had us ranked fifth, ranked sixth. It proved we could be up there with the top teams in the state."
Mustangs win first trophy:
It was an exceedingly difficult task to secure a trophy in the girls Class 3A finals.
"If you finish in the top-three in Illinois (in Class 3A), that means you are nationally ranked," said Glenbard West coach Paul Hass, who boasted the individual champion for a third straight year, Katelynne Hart.
For the third consecutive year national powers Naperville North and Yorkville went to the wire, with the former winning for an equal number of times in a row.
"Don't forget about Downers South, Lyons Twp., Minooka and us," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Harvey said. "There's great programs up and down the state. What the state needs to do is recognize more teams with a fourth trophy, like they do in other sports."
But Downers Grove South earned its first trophy in program history as junior standout Brenna Cohoon finished in eighth place to power the Mustangs to third with a 127-191 result over Lyons.
Minooka, the last team to defeat Naperville North in a Class 3A finals, was fifth; WW South was sixth.
"We have been knocking on the door the last couple of years," Downers South coach Doug Plunkett said. "(Cohoon) is easily the best cross country runner in program history."
The turning point for the Mustangs was finishing third to Naperville North and Yorkville at perhaps the unofficial Midwest championship in Minneapolis this season.
"It got us some recognition on the national level," Plunkett said of the Minneapolis finish.
The depth of talent in Class 3A for Illinois girls never disappoints.
"When you are running against the best, it really makes you better," said Laura DeAngelis, coach of state qualifier York.
"We just have to keep working," said Harvey, who had all-staters Samantha Poglitsch and Laurel Moneysmith.
Silver ever present:
The ramifications for elite status for Class 3A boys in the state is equally noteworthy.
"You need to be a top-five national team to win the (Class 3A) state meet," said Downers North coach John Sipple, who had to surrender the team title to WW South over the weekend. "The state has got so competitive. Five different teams have won state titles the last five years."
The West Suburban Silver is invariably tied to the distinction.
Jack Roberts, the lone returning starter for Downers North, Glenbard West stalwarts Rory Cavan and Stephen Moody, and York junior Ethan Kern finished in successive order from Nos. 4 through 7 Saturday.
"In terms of the West Suburban Silver, it just makes all of our kids better," Sipple said.
"I had put in a lot of work these past four years," Cavan said. "To do it right next to my teammate is pretty special."
But WW South reigned supreme this year behind Billy Hauenstein and Co.
"It's remarkable," Hauenstein said. "No one could do it without the other."
"(The Tigers) had to overcome some adversity," Vandersteen said.