KLM yesterday, late afternoon. The tops of maples were aglow, though shade was creeping towards the eastern edge of the course. A quick comparison to the scene of the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational, held at this same location three weeks previous, would reveal far fewer runners and fans yet far more mosquitos. It is not inaccurate to say we all would pay a price in blood for the privilege of participating or witnessing the events unfolding in the semiannual Hinsdale Central-Oak Park-Proviso tri meet.
The most dramatic race of the day, it turned out, would be the first. Last season, when these boys were all young freshman still finding their way in the world, Oak Park soundly defeated Hinsdale, scoring an impressive 18 against our 39. The Huskies went on to finish 2nd in Conference while the Devil’s settled for 4th. How would things shake out one year hence?
One consistency would prove to be the continued dominance of Oak Park standout Irwin Loud. Last year’s individual conference champion controlled the race, running smoothly and crossing the line in 15:53.9, a time almost 20 seconds faster than that achieved by the individual champion at the Sophomore level of the Hornet-Red (Naperville Central’s Thomas Chavez won in 16:12.7). The race for team champion played out in the matchups occurring behind Loud.
The next two athletes, our own Ethan Planson and Oak Park’s Eric Mulshine, played a bit of cat and mouse in the early parts of the race, with each jockeying for position. At conference last year, Mulshine was 5th overall, while Planson was 13th. On this day, it would be Planson who would emerge the victor. He took the lead for good at about the 3200 mark, and crossed the line 5 seconds ahead of his able competitor in 16:22.6, besting his HRD time by 5 seconds. After that HC and OP traded spots: Belgrad in 16:44, Bayles of Oak Park (12th in freshman conference last year) 12 seconds back. Then came our own Doorhy and Schnieders, followed by Oak Park’s Carew. Both teams had 4 runners in, with Oak Park (1/3/5/8=17) grasping an ever so slight advantage over the Devils (2/4/6/7=19). It would all come down to the final runners.
As it turns out, those runners would all be in red. There was John Bynan (a grizzled veteran, to the extent any Sophomore in high school can be considered a grizzled veteran – he’s overcome a lot, is what I am saying), hard-working Joe Miscimarra, faithful Andrew Denos (sporting some new spikes), and newcomer Emmett Grundberg. Grundberg is totally new to the sport, but has improved leaps and bounds in his short time with us. His time yesterday, as our 8th man and the 12th overall finisher in the race, was 18:01.1. Last year, Griffin Gartner ran 18:08 in his first KLM dual meet. More on that later.
Final score: HC-28, OP-29. First win of the year for the Sophs. We sure look a lot better when Belgrad, Doorhy, and Bynan are in the lineup (which was not the case against DGN).
This race lacked the drama of the previous race. I was standing about 350 meters from the starting line, acting as a human flag to prevent runners from cutting rounded curve too much. By that point, there’d already emerged a lead pack with our top 7 and Oak Park’s Jack Monaghan. The next time I saw the boys, just short of a mile, it was red only. That’s how it finished, with the usual trio of Matt, Chris, and Blake running together until the final straightaway (McBrien notching his first victory in a Varsity race), a spirited Griffin Gartner a few strides behind, then Feldman, Hill, and Domiano in quick succession. The split on 1-5 was 13 seconds and 1-7 was 21 seconds.
One athlete who moved up nicely in the latter section of the race was Nick Tandle. With 1000 meters remaining, Nick was behind 5 Oak Park athletes. By the final turn, he’d passed all but one, the aforementioned Monaghan. As Nick pulled on his shoulder, the two increased their pace, and the footrace bagan. Monaghan emerged in front, but Nick had the satisfaction of pushing to the limit an athlete who’d run 4:29 for 1600 last track season.
The next Hinsdale athlete to cross the line, making his season debut, was Austin Kleber. His time of 16:30 compares favorably well to the 16:47 he ran in our first KLM dual meet last season. We are hopeful Austin will come on strong as the Conference meet approaches, as he did in 2013.
One other athlete to note was Alex Lambert, who broke 17:00 for his first time ever, running a strong 16:57 despite not having his erstwhile running companion Joe Griffin there to push him. Few have worked as hard as Alex over these past four years, and it is gratifying to see him improve so much.
Final score: HC-15, OP-50. The next two duals will be challenging tests, as we take on York next Thursday and Lyons Township the week after that.
The instructions I gave the freshman as we gathered after their penultimate pre-race stride was “be competitive today – don’t be complacent – try your best to beat the guys in front of you.” In last week’s meet against Downers North, the freshman had looked like, well, freshman. This is not in any way an insult, but an acknowledgement that racing is learned behavior – it does not come naturally, contrary to what some who don’t know our sport may think. It can take years to learn how to pace properly, how to control pre-race nervousness, how to know when to start your kick. We are in the very early stages of this educational process, but yesterday showed we are progressing in our studies.
One especially positive development was to see that our freshman are beginning to start more aggressively. Of course, an all-out sprint from the gun is a recipe for disaster, but a controlled strong pace to establish position is key to running well. Our freshman group of Neil Cumberland, Sean O’Connell, Steven Zaher, Colin Yandel, Kiril Kuzmonovski, and Thomas Pierce got out hard, taking 6 of the top 8 positions by 400 meters. Not coincidentally, places did not change all that much by the end: at the conclusion new had 6 of the top 9 (and 9 of the top 12). Cumberland led the way again, winning his first ever Cross Country race in 10:41. Sean O’Connell earned the silver in 10:52, while Zaher was 5th in 11:10. In the end, the freshman emerged with their first victory of the season, 23-36.
If I had unlimited time, I’d write about every individual on our team for every race. Of course, time is finite (all the more reason to run your races faster) so I am limited in that capacity. At the very least, I think it is important to highlight the athletes on our team who have shown the largest improvement since the beginning of the season. Our philosophy on this is consistent: anyone who is willing to work hard is welcome on the team – and success will be defined by how far you come from where you started – which is obviously different for each guy. So here are some huge success stories, of guys who have dropped the most time from the first time we ran the KLM course (September 6) to yesterday.
- Ethan Mortenson (fr) -1:23
- Emmett Grundberg (so) -1:04
- Jack Kanzler (so) -0:53
- Luke Northey (so) -0:52
- Mac O’Donnell (sr) -0:49
- Donald Brorson (fr) -0:45
- Zach Sayre (jr) -0:45
- Jack Borys (fr) -0:42
- Harrison Helm (jr) -0:39
- Daniel Hu (jr) -0:32