Boys cross country: Northwest suburbs loaded with talent
If you are looking for big-boy cross country, the Northwest suburbs is the place to be this fall.
The area boasts four teams that finished in the top 18 places in the state in Class 3A a year ago with Hersey going second in the state and 19th in the nation, Barrington ninth, Maine South 13th and Rolling Meadows 18th. On the Class 2A front, St. Viator placed 21st.
Hersey, which won the Mid-Suburban League title, as well as a NXR Midwest title, returns four runners from the state runner-up, including defending Class 3A individual champion Josh Methner, as well as all-state performer Max Svienty.
"Our entire team is key to our success," Huskies coach Kevin Young said. "We don't pride ourselves on end results, but rather doing things the right way along the entirety of the journey. We return four of the guys who competed on the state team. We have some big pieces to fill if these guys are going to accomplish their goals."
Young said runners 5-15 will be vital this season. "We have a lot of talent up front and a lot of depth from 5-15, but our 5-15 needs to get closer to our fourth guy," he explained. "The pack is going to be a strength and a point of improvement for us. If our top dogs do their things, and a few guys fill in some spots, we could have a huge year. These guys have committed to each other and expect some fun to be had during the season."
Methner and Svienty (20th in Class 3A), in particular, possess valuable big-meet experience. "Our top guys have valuable experience and talent at the top level, so that will be used to help charge this crew," Young said.
Young said the MSL must be monitored closely this season. "Like the past few years, our guys are looking to win conference," he said. "I hope every team goes into the season looking to do what is going to set them up for success. We are going to do what is necessary to give us the best chance for success late in the season, and we have the talent to get it done. There are teams in the conference that are going to make some big improvements this season, and we've put the target squarely on our back. The guys understand we'll live with the results as long as we get after it. We're not going to beat ourselves. Someone else has to beat us. We are better for having to race the other MSL teams."
Maine South won the Central Suburban League title, but graduated state runner-up Tommy Brady (now running at Michigan). However, Joey Kasch is back and is poised for a breakout season (14:59 at state last year; fifth in the CSL). He was sixth this spring in Class 3A in the 1,600. "Joey has really had a great summer," said Hawks coach Greg Nordahl. "He does not have a training partner on the team, but looks to be far ahead of a strong pack. He trained the last few years running behind Tommy and occasionally in front of him. He has learned the hard work and effort to be able to be a top-tier runner in Illinois from Tommy."
Luke Burkum and Adam Christopher also will be keys for Maine South. Christopher was injured during the second half of the season. "Adam and Luke have stepped up their senior year to be leaders and are a very competitive tandem," Nordahl added.
Rolling Meadows, third in the MSL a year ago, returns state-tested runners in junior Stephen Barretto and seniors Jack Martin and Jacob Johnson-Wright. "We will have a very good 1-3, but we will have to have some guys step up and fill our four and five spots," Mustangs coach Frank Schweda said. "Jose Castillo should be able to fill that fourth spot. We will have to have our guys stay healthy, and the top three will have to keep close to one another during races."
Palatine was fourth in the conference and has returning all-state runner Richard Jacobo back (23rd in Class 3A). Andrew Duran, Ian Cameron and James Spencer are senior leaders along with Jacobo. "On paper, we are chasing Hersey and Barrington," Pirates coach Chris Quick said. "Both teams were Top 10 at the state meet and return significant members of those teams. We are hoping to challenge both for an MSL title and a state meet berth."
Elk Grove will be led by Michael Johnson and Liam Saluski. Wheeling, under the direction of 20th-year head coach Tom Polak welcomes back junior Bryan Martinez. "Bryan has taken on the role of the top runner this summer," Polak said. "He has worked harder than anyone, and wants to be the guy who leads this team. Fremd brings back seniors Jack Wolski and Thomas Novak.
Senior co-captains Erik Osorio Cruz and Angel Villegas lead Maine East. Osorio Cruz was an all-CSL North selection in 2018. Maine West returns seniors and 2018 sectional qualifiers Ray Ure and Jonathan Kang, along with junior Adam Gorcyca. Leyden, third in the West Suburban Conference Gold Division, advanced as a team to sectionals. Seniors Danny Casarez and Jose Garcia return from that sectional squad.
Northwest suburbs' boys cross country at a glance
Top teams: Barrington, Hersey, Maine South, Palatine, Rolling Meadows
Top returning runners: Stephen Barretto (Rolling Meadows, Jr.), Richard Jacobo (Palatine, Sr.), Joey Kasch (Maine South, Sr.), Jack Martin (Rolling Meadows, Sr.), Josh Methner (Hersey, Sr.), Max Svienty (Hersey, Sr.), Jacob Johnson-Wright (Rolling Meadows, Sr.)
Season outlook: The area has no shortage of talent once again. Hersey was the Class 3A runner-up and has returning individual state champion Methner and all-state runner Svienty back. Barrington took ninth in Class 3A and had three non-seniors on that state team, including Patrick Furlong (48th in the state), Joey Furlong (88th as a freshman) and Ben Deweerdt (97th). Maine South won the CCL and sports returning state qualifier Kasch who broke into the 14s at the state meet. Rolling Meadows and Palatine were third and fourth, respectively, with the Mustangs sporting a formidable 1-3, while the Pirates have all-stater Jacobo back. Of note, Schaumburg is under the direction now of coach Kirk Macnider, who had been the Hoffman Estates girls' coach since 2004. Macnider ran for his farther at HEHS from 1993-1997. "It's exciting to be home," he said. "The boys have rededicated themselves. Numbers are up. Energy is high. We are very optimistic and plan on coming into the postseason very strong."