Cross country: Lake Zurich's Myers, Gilboy run strong at Loyola regional
It was almost like a practice day.
There were Lake Zurich seniors Jacob Myers and Jack Gilboy nipping at each other's heels as they have so often over the last four years.
"It's been really helpful for both of us that we've always been pushing each other," Myers said. "It's brought out the best in both of us at all times."
Myers and Gilboy were at pretty close to their best on Saturday afternoon at the Class 3A Loyola cross country regional.
The two classmates, friends and friendly rivals, were leading the pack along the three-mile race and wound up taking two of the top three places. Myers won the regional title with a 15:22. Gilboy took third place with a 15:29.9.
"I think we have a really healthy competition," Gilboy said of his rivalry with Myers. "We always congratulate each other. I just love competing with (Myers) in practice and that's made me a better runner. I would not be where I'm at without Jake. I tried to stay with Jake in this race and it was fun to work with him like we do in practice."
Myers edged out second-place finisher Nick Falk of New Trier, who clocked a 15:23.
New Trier ultimately won the team title with 50 points while Barrington took second place (54 points) and Lake Zurich took third (66 points).
Fourth-place Hersey (95 points) and fifth-place Loyola (122 points) also qualified for the sectionals.
Quinn Born was Hersey's top finisher in sixth place with a 15:47.6. He was followed by Barrington's Jake Ziebarth, who took seventh with a 15:52.8.
"This is great. We're happy," Hersey boys coach Kevin Young said. "We had only one of seven returning from last year. But these guys have been great to work with, and they were awesome today."
Young was also excited that the Hersey girls team will be advancing to the sectionals as well.
Loyola won the girls' meet with 63 points. Barrington finished second with 71 points, New Trier was third (96) and Lake Zurich and Hersey were fourth (105) and fifth (130) respectively.
The Huskies got a big boost from sophomore Anna Harden, who won the regional championship with a 17:58 after having recently won the Mid-Suburban League championship. She beat out second-place Brooke Johnston of Lake Zurich (18:07.6). Loyola's Morgan Mackie got third (18:14.8) while Molly Fitzpatrick of Barrington and Maeve Norman of Loyola finished in fourth (18:27.8) and fifth (18:39.3) respectively.
"The start was a little fast, but I like starting fast and I knew I had to keep the pace and that I could keep the pace," Harden said. "Today, I had to push the pace a little harder because I was being pushed (by the other top runners).
"It definitely gives me a motivation and it challenges me. I think I was pretty prepared for the challenge. I think I was hoping to get a bigger lead earlier, but you can never control the competition, you can only control what you do."
And what Harden has done to improve since a promising freshman year in which she finished second in the regional last season was to add on the miles.
She has been regularly running 60 miles a week, about 15 to 20 miles a week more than just a year ago.
"That's played a big role in my endurance and pace and my ability to maintain the pace when I start off so quickly," Harden said. "That's helped me make the runners around me so uncomfortable."
Meanwhile, Hersey girls coach Danielle Freeman has been impressed with Harden's work, but also wants to make sure Harden herself stays comfortable and not too overworked.
"I wasn't sure I was on board with that at first because you worry about injury and burnout," Freeman said of Harden's increased weekly mileage. "But if there's anyone who can handle that, it's Anna. She's been running since she was in fourth grade and has been steadily building. She comes from a family of runners. She is the fourth of four children who run and she's watched them and admired them and they've given her all kinds of advice.
"Anna is fun to coach because she know about the physiology of running and training and we are able to have really good conversations about what helps her as an athlete and she really takes that all in."