Boys cross country: Grayslake Central at head of class in Lake County
It could be a banner year for the Grayslake Central boys cross country team.
After finishing second in the Northern Lake County Conference, winning the Class 2A Antioch regional and finishing seventh at the sectional last fall, coach James Centella welcomes back five of its top six runners, including postseason stalwarts Bryan Vale (senior, regional champion, sectional runner-up) and Trey Sato (sophomore, regional runner-up). Sophomores Will Welty and John Vagnoni will be strong as well. Vale, Sato and Vagnoni were part of Central's state-qualifying 3,200 relay team this spring.
"Our top four could possibly be our second-best top four in school history only behind our state title team from 2015," Centella pointed out. "We are looking for a fifth runner to be relatively close to that top four. If we do that, we can have the possibility of finishing very high at Detweiller this fall."
Round Lake won the NLCC title last year, but coach Kevin Brady pointed out only two of the top eight runners from that championship squad return in the form of senior Giovanni Justo and junior Anthony Sementa. "They will have to be the leaders who start to rebuild our team after so many of our varsity runners from last year graduated," Brady said. "This will be a rebuilding year. It will be important for our up-and-coming runners, especially our sophomore group, to find some success to set them up for the future."
Grant was third in the NLCC a year ago. Senior Charlie Hamann and junior Dane Glover are the only two runners out of the top seven back from the Bulldogs' sectional-qualifying team. Seniors Harrison Scalf and Joseph Zamora have made big strides and figure to score frequently for coach Jeff Durlak.
"There will be a lot of new faces in our lineup," Durlak said. "There are many upperclassmen and underclassmen who may lack varsity experience, but will be counted on quite a bit during the season. The work ethic and training put forward thus far has been great and should lead to improvement throughout the season."
Antioch returns senior Lucas Baronello, who was seventh in the conference last year (16:28 PR), while sophomore Carter Webb placed in the Top 25 in conference and won the JV league title. Transfer Nic Bourgault also will help the Sequoits.
In the North Suburban Conference, Lake Zurich is the defending champion and returns sectional runners Danny Burns, Dylan Myers, Kevin Loftus and Cole Boudreault.
"We have the smallest team I have coached in 15 years, but we may have the most high harriers (athletes who run at least 400 miles over the summer)," coach JB Hanson pointed out. "So, while we may be fewer in numbers, the commitment level is as high as it has ever been. We will be very formidable from top to bottom."
Warren was second a year ago in the NSC and will be powered by 3,200 state runner-up Luke Wiley (sixth in the 1,600 as well). Cole Kaether and David Lara also will be at the top of the Blue Devils scorecard. "We would like to challenge for the conference title," Warren coach Brett Heimstead said. "The main goal is to focus on the state series and to get to the state meet as a team."
Libertyville took third in the conference, won a regional and would have advanced to state as a team. Back is the senior trio of Ali Faiz, Andrew Brooks and Jack Hamilton. Faiz and Brooks were part of the Wildcats' all-state 3,200 relay team this spring, while Hamilton's character and leadership were cited by coach Stuart Mendelsohn.
Mundelein coach Kurt Rutz noted his squad has no seniors and only two juniors on the roster. "We are a very young and inexperienced team," he said. "The priority will be to learn to run as a team."
Carmel's top runner is Jeremy Bobber, who coach Jim Halford said had a tremendous summer. Sophomores P.J. Biegel and Ian Steward, plus Nate Starzec, Mario Durnil and Mathew Lotz provide further hope for the Corsairs in the East Suburban Catholic.
Vernon Hills, under new coach Steven Szabo, returns Brady Clegg, Erick Herrera, Charlie Blackmer and Nathan Faitsch from a 2020 sectional-qualifying team.