On November 19, 2016, twenty-one seniors from all around Illinois came together to form one team and race for the Mideast Cross Country Championships. The team featured many All-State, All-Conference, and top runners from the Land of Lincoln. What started out as a bunch of strangers who like to run assembling nervously at a highway oasis, ended as a group of talented teammates who will forever share the bond of competing in Kettering, Ohio in the 30th year of a meet that produced countless NCAA Qualifiers, All-Americans, and Olympians. The meet prides itself on not only the tradition of the meet and its participants, but also on the quality and character of the people involved. Year in and year out, the best of the best make the trek to Ohio. The race never disappoints, and the character of the athletes doesn’t either.In the girls’ race, Team Illinois was positioned well and moving up throughout the race. The team race was extremely tight between Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. The front pack of 4 runners included one athlete from each team, which was a unique dynamic to watch unfold. In the final 200 meters, Emma Ehrhardt from Geneva caught the Ohio and Michigan runners to be the first Illinois athlete to win the overall title since 2011. Ehrhardt won the race with a time of 18:33. She was followed closely by Maine South’s Madeline Dingle in 5th place with a time of 18:46. Picking people off by the handfuls was Yorkville’s Alexis Grandys, who was 11th in 18:54. Illinois’ tight pack followed, which included Nicki Cast from Metea Valley, Caitlin Horn from Neuqua Valley, Maddie Dearborn from Yorkville, and Allison McGrath from Wheaton Warrenville South. Cast finished 14th with a time of 19:01, Horn was 15th with a time of 19:02, Dearborn was 17th with a time of 19:02, and McGrath was 18th with a time of 19:03. Next in for Illinois was Hersey’s Sarah Harden in 21st with a time of 19:10. Aurora Central Catholic’s Abby Fioresi was 27th in 19:19, Hailey Bowes of Hersey was 36th in 19:40, Marist’s Maryclare Leonard was 41st in 19:50, and Caroline Johnson of Neuqua Valley was 44th with a time of 19:55. The Illinois girls had the strongest top 7 of any team, but Michigan edged them out for the team title by 5 points. Michigan was 1st with 41 points, followed by Illinois with 46, Ohio with 49, and Indiana with 108. This marks a huge improvement from last year, and a very exciting finish for Emma Ehrhardt to take the title.
Oh the boys’ side, Team Michigan proved to be a tough contender by putting their top 5 in the top 7 in the race. Illinois made progress by grabbing 2 of the remaining top 10 spots. Von Steuben’s Jaime Marcos led the way, placing 6th in 16:02. Oswego East’s Dylan Zangri was next, finishing in 10th with a time of 16:08. Lincoln-Way West’s Evan Mitchell, Naperville Central’s Thomas Chavez, and Riverside Brookfield’s Mateo Nunez all finished closely together. Mitchell crossed in 16:25 for 24th place, Chavez finished in 16:36 for 29th place, and Nunez completed the course in 16:37 for 31st place. Sandburg’s Martin Skucas took 33rd place in 16:44, Metamora’s Jacob Gillum placed 35th in 16:58, Geneva’s Brian Kuehl placed 37th in 17:03, and Mercer County’s Ethan Murrow placed 39th with a time of 17:58. Michigan won the team title with 18 points, followed by Indiana with 55, Ohio with 85, and Illinois with 100.
The day before the race, the temperature broke 70 degrees, the sun was shining, and there was little to no wind. Friday night’s cold front brought in temperatures in the high 30s, rain, sleet, and wind. The challenging course and the less than optimal conditions made this year’s race quite the battle. Team Illinois rose to the occasion and made us all proud! Congratulations to the team on a job well done!
The 2016 team was coached by Oswego East’s Lisa Cook, Oswego East’s Jim Milner, IMSA/West Chicago’s Paul McLeland, and Geneva’s Bob Thomson. A huge thank you goes out to the athletes who represented Illinois at the 30th Mideast Cross Country Championships, as well as the coaches throughout the state for supporting Team Illinois and encouraging their wonderful athletes to sign up. Go Illinois!
Results can be found at: http://www.mideastxc.com/results/
Team Illinois website: http://teamillinoiscrosscountry.weebly.com/