September 17, 2014 – HC v. DGN Dual Meet Preview, or, how XC would be covered if it was Monday Night Football

If tomorrow’s meet were to be broadcast on Monday Night Football, I imagine the opening segment would begin with dramatic music, reaching towards a crescendo, while a baritone-voiced narrator intoned,

“Tonight, two storied programs from the western suburbs of Chicago lock horns in an epic battle to determine which can endure the longest.  Last year, these two teams met seven times, and while Hinsdale managed to escape each time, the gap between the two kept narrowing.  The climax came at the fabled IHSA state meet, where the Red Devils emerged the victors but the Trojans stole the headlines: unable even to qualify for the championship meet in 2012, they stormed to the runner-up position merely one full rotation of the Earth later.  The two teams, heretofore unknown to the state’s elites, stood at the pinnacle of success: first and second in Illinois.  So equally impressive were both teams’ achievements that the awards given for Coach of the year split, with John Sipple of DGN earning that distinction from prestigious Dyestat Illinois, while Jim Westhphal was honored by the Illinois Track and Field Coaches Association.  Now, as both teams attempt to rebuild after the loss of their best runners to the University of Illinois, we’ll learn who has the edge in this early portion of 2014: it’s returning #1 against returning #2 – Florida State versus Alabama, The Spurs versus the Heat – as we kick off the dual meet season.  Are you ready for some running?”

Cue Hank Williams.  Then down to the field where Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth would discuss the following possible story lines:

-The dual meet debut of the freshman.  After putting down initial marks at the Hornet-Red Devil meet two weeks ago, the young men in red will get to see how much progress they have made, now that they have gotten used to more rigorous training.  Expect many PRs from the young men.  Will someone new emerge into the top 7?  Look for Thomas Pierce, Justin Lue, and Jonathan Clark to make an attempt.  Will Matthew Alvero break 14:00 after coming achingly close with the 14:01 he ran at KLM? Will the Kowalchuk twins finish within one second of each other again?  What about Colin Yandel – will he have new confidence after winning the election for freshman student council president last week?

-The Danner/Planson rivalry renews.  In an indoor track meet held at Hinsdale South last winter, these two youngsters duked it out in a 1600, with Planson just edging out Danner and both narrowly missing the 5:00 mark.  Since that time, both have seen astronomical improvements.  Planson is coming off an outstanding race where he finished second overall out of over 700 runners with a new PR of 15:45.  Danner did even better, running an amazing Sophomore time of 15:12 in the Varsity race – made all the more impressive given he did so after losing a shoe!  While the two may not run in the same race tomorrow (Planson will run the Sophomore race, while Danner will likely be in the Varsity) the evening will still afford fans the opportunity to check out these two future All-Staters.

-Big time PRs awaiting for the former “black group” members.  No one seems more better positioned to earn a huge personal best than Graham Reid and Stephen Rosas.  They’ve strung together excellent weeks of training, and are looking to rebound after disappointing finishes at the Hornet-Red Devil Invite.  Their training partners Alex Lambert and Joe Griffin both did have huge breakthroughs in that first meet, but should both be ready to run even faster tomorrow – with Lambert looking to break 17:00 for the first time.  Watch out also for Sophomore Ben Schnieders who has been running with this group in practice and looks ready to drop his PR as well.

-The Varsity squads on both sides are coming off an emotionally and physically exhausting weekend.  Both DGN and HC ran well at the ‘First to the Finish Invite’ last Saturday.  Of 49 competing teams, the Devils finished 1st while the Trojans were 6th.  Now that only 2 teams are racing, how will the top athletes react to the Dual meet format and it’s peculiarities.  Reports from the DGN camp are that the team will be focusing on the “Minooka Invitational” this weekend (against many of the top teams in the state, including Neuqua Valley) and so may hold their fire at the Dual.  Look for the Central pack of Evertsen, McBrien, Brenk, Hill, Feldman, and Gartner (and possibly even a season debut from Alex Domiano, listed as day to day) to work with nationally ranked Ryan Clevenger and Danner at the front.  In a meet in late August, Clevenger won in a relaxed 15:30, while Danner was second in 15:40.  We shall see how the winning time tomorrow compares.

-Will former DGN Coach Kupisch be in attendance?  A favorite memory from last year’s state meet came about an hour after the awards ceremony.  The Hinsdale runners and fans were milling about in the grassy area southwest of the course when all the sudden we heard a loud: “Hey Hinsdale!  Hip, Hip!” and then a chorus of voices shouting “Hooray!”  Coach “Koop” was leading the cheer, as the DGN crowd graciously offered congratulations to us on our win.  Few are the individuals as passionate and unabashed about XC as Koop.  Nowhere will you find as much mutual respect between programs as between the boys’s cross country teams at Hinsdale Central and Downers Grove North.

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