Boys cross country season preview notebook

Highland Park’s Ben Casey (1052) runs during the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational last season. | File
Highland Park’s Ben Casey (1052) runs during the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational last season. | File

BUFFALO GROVE

This is Zach Crandall’s first full year as Buffalo Grove’s boys cross country coach, but he has been with the program as an assistant for a decade. He said this year’s group is the most dedicated he’s coached.

“It’s also the deepest team,” he said. “Their potential is incredibly high and there will be a lot of competition for the last few spots.”

The Bison finished 13th at last year’s Class 3A state meet. Junior Kevin Salvano is a returning all-state runner and junior Tom Cleary has a chance to be an all-state runner as well. Other key returners include seniors Jake Wenzel, Montana Nimerfroh, Tripp Wallner and Eli Hinkle.

New contributors this year could include juniors Evan Schmidt and Jack Lenard, sophomores Arturo Bautista and Josh Hellyer and freshman Mitchell Guittar. Guittar finished second in the state as an eighth grader.

CARMEL

Jim Halford said senior Patrick Hogan is one of the most improved runners that he’s coached.

“He wasn’t overly gifted in the beginning but he kept working and getting faster,” Halford said. “He’ had worked very hard to get where he is and is a great role model.”

In addition to Hogan, the Corsairs return senior Patrick Pastika, a state-qualifier in track. Senior Austin Truesdale is trying cross country for the first time; in track, he was selected as Carmel’s most-improved runner. The Cosairs will also count on sophomore Stephen Lacke.

“We should have a real solid team,” Halford said.

LAKE ZURICH

The Bears begin this season with victories in 42 consecutive dual meets.

“As [the streak has] grown, we [emphasize] it more,” Lake Zurich coach JB Hanson said. “No one wants to be the team that [breaks] the streak.”

Sophomore Matt Pereira is coming off a breakout track season. He ran the mile in 4 minutes, 16 seconds, which was within tenths of a second of the national high school record for freshmen.

“Like a lot of kids, he benefited from a nice cool summer of training,” Hanson said. “He’s fit and itching to race. He will be among the best in the state.”

Seniors Justin Shim and Mark Spatz are both captains and set the tone for the team each day. Junior Matt Milner is battling back from a foot injury but should improve with each race. Sophomore Brian Griffith did not run cross country last year but is already turning heads in practice and will be a key member of the team. By the end of the season, so will freshman Patrick Burns.

“We’re young but very talented,” Hanson said. “We could have five different guys run as our No. 2 on any given day.”

MUNDELEIN

Look for the Mustangs to improve on of their ninth-place showing in the NSC a year ago. Mundelein returns five of its top seven runners, led by senior Bryce Richards. Richards is more accomplished at track than cross country but is poised for a breakout season.

“He’s dedicated to making this his best cross country season,” Mustangs coach Kurt Rutz said.

Junior Uly Hagedorn is coming off an impressive track season. Other key returners include seniors Chris Palacios and Mickey Cardenas and junior Joe Clow.

Junior Mitchell Alberts may be the team’s most improved runner.

“He could surprise some people,” Rutz said. “He put in big miles and had a fantastic summer.”

Other key newcomers include senior Enkh-Orgil Enkhbayar, a transfer from Rockton Hononegah, and sophomores Ben Krauss and Steve Van Belleghem.

VERNON HILLS

The Cougars return three runners who placed in the top 42 at last year’s Class 2A state meet: sophomore Shane Williamson (27th) senior Rob Williams (40th) and senior Tyler Smith (42nd). Those three helped Vernon Hills place third overall. During the regular season, Cougars captured the first NSC title in program history.

“We’re pretty excited,” coach Mark Whitney said. “If we stay healthy, I think we have another good season in front of us. There’s a [sense] that there’s still more to do and that we can make a run at a state trophy.”

Whitney said junior Trevor Moyers is set for a breakout season and junior Caleb Ju has made significant improvement. Also contending for spots are juniors Sam Laneman, Bryan Castellanos and Alex Geier and sophomore Tim Krashevsky.

BARRINGTON

Tom Root, a 2004 Barrington graduate, spent the past five years as the boys cross country team’s assistant coach but moves over to the head role this season. He said he loved what he saw from his runners this summer.

“Our team is extremely fit after a relatively high-mileage summer,” Root said. “As long as we keep focusing on the little things to keep ourselves healthy and engaged, we are going to be a difficult team to beat come October and November.”

The Broncos feature top returners such as seniors Konrad Eiring, Kyle Monahan and Ben Laning. Key newcomers include seniors Tate Fisher, Kurtis Monahan and Andy Gensburg and juniors Alex Maher and Jack Coombs. Maher, who was relatively new to cross country last year, could be the team’s most improved runner.

DEERFIELD

The Warriors took a different approach to training this summer. They were more conservative in June before picking up the intensity in July and August. Coach Jeremy Kauffman said his team’s most improved runners are seniors Billy Anderson and Alex Wolfe, junior Danny Rosen and sophomores Robby Winter and Michael Hincker.

HIGHLAND PARK

The Giants will be led by the combination of senior Ben Casey and junior Brett Davidson. Coach Steve Buti said that Casey will be at the front of the pack most races and that Davidson has a chance to become an elite runner.

To repeat as CSL North champions, the Giants will need senior Andrew Huddleston, senior Dylan Kahn and sophomore Jonathan Rosenfeld to stay healthy and produce consistently. Senior Eddie Herz should contribute right away in his first season on varsity. Freshmen to watch include Nate Amster and Fitz Laurie.

“We have a team goal of trying to get back to the state meet,” Buti said.

LAKE FOREST

The Scouts return 10 of their top 12 runners and look to improve off their sixth-place showing at the North Suburban Conference meet. Developing depth will be the key to reaching that goal.

“We have a very strong 1-2 and a close third man so we can punch a low score early,” coach Nathan Sweet said. “We just need to have a couple of guys make a decision that they are going to close the gap to our top three and be solid 4-5 runners.”

Once again, junior Mark Meyers will anchor the Scouts’ lineup; he earned all-state honors as a sophomore. Senior Matthew Mekaelian may be the team’s most improved runner.

“He has become a much stronger athlete regarding training intensity throughout each training cycle,” Sweet said. “He has grown into a strong leader of the team.”

Sweet said sophomore Etienne Najman has benefited from training with Meyers and Mekaelian and is ready to run faster times.

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