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home : sports : sports   April 29, 2016

9/4/2013 1:24:00 PM
Area boys cross country ready to run

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NT Sports Staff

Area boys cross country teams are optimistic entering the 2013 season with talented runners returning to many area schools.

Below is a look at each team's outlook for the season:
La Salle-Peru
Coach: John Beatty
IHSA classification: Class 2A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: With only a handful of returning runners, Beatty thought it may be a down year for the Cavaliers, but an influx of first-time runners and freshmen have his hopes up.

"I thought we'd have a really big building year ahead of us, but we might be more competitive than we were last year," Beatty said.

Returning are senior Justin Taylor and juniors Andrew Broset, Jeremy Merdian and Brandon Pippin.

The freshmen, who are expected to contribute on varsity toward the end of the season after gaining experience at the freshman/sophomore level, are Alex Kessel, Ryan Porter, Brendon Sebastian and Jordan Veracini.

Beatty hopes the Cavs have a strong showing in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet and advance either the team or individuals to state.

"Now that we have more numbers than I thought we'd have, we can set different goals than I thought we'd have to," Beatty said. "In the conference meet, we can probably pick off a few more teams that I didn't think we'd have a chance at this year. For the guys to get out of sectionals would be an outstanding year. It's not out of the realm of possibility, but they're going to have to work really hard."
St. Bede
Coach: Dennis Summers
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: After failing to send any runners to the sectional meet last season for the first time in his career, Summers is taking a different approach.

"We're starting out a little slower," said Summers, who is in his eighth season. "Last year we had a tougher preseason and they came out pretty strong, but it seemed like by regional time they were tired. So we're trying something a little different this year. We're starting a little easier and progressively working toward the end of the season.

The Bruins return six letter winners in seniors Leo Lopez and Jake Condon, junior Garrett and sophomores Jake Hocking, Jake Kerasotes and Andrew Lopez.

Freshman Brent Koogler is a newcomer to watch for the Bruins, while seniors Abram Yucus and Adam Hunter, junior Jeff Barnes and freshman Jeremiah Johnson also are new to the squad.

Coach: Tom Keegan
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: Al Baldonado
Season outlook: The Red Devils are strong at the top with Baldonado, who narrowly missed the state meet last season and qualified for state last spring in track and field.

"Al has a pretty good idea what he wants to do," Keegan said. "He put on kind of a brave front at sectional when he missed (state) by a place and a couple second, but I think that fire burned in him. He got a taste of success in track. He wants to get down to Detweiller this year. He worked like a dog to get there, so I hope it all plays out."

Hall also returns Rosy Fuentes, Sandro Aldana, Christian Garcia and Ty Pullam.

"They got a taste last year," Keegan said. "They realize Al is a couple minutes faster than what they are and for us to have any type of success and not be a middle-of-the-pack team, we have to close the gap. That's been sticking out with them in the preseason. We'll see what happens."

Putnam County
Coach: Chuck McConnell
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Panthers are striving to "send as many runners to the sectional meet as possible," this year according to McConnell, a goal that will be led by returning No. 1 runner and senior captain Mario Flores.

Flores will be joined by fellow returning senior Jarred Clark and returning sophomores Joe Berg and Kurt Nabers.

New faces on the squad will be senior Stephen Morine and junior Daniel Jefferies as well as freshmen Christain Harris, Noe Flores aned John Sabotta.

"This is truly a great group of kids and they mesh very well together as a team," McConnell said. "They want to always improve and have great self-motivation to work hard in practices to obtain the goal of continued self-improvement."

Coach: Kevin Wohrley
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Trojans are taking a pack mentality this season.

With no set No. 1, Wohrley is looking for Mendota's top four runners to stay together during races.

Those four are senior Hayden Smith, juniors Lukas Brandner and Alex Harriott - who recently joined the team - and sophomore Tyler Schmitt, who was only able to run a few races last season.

"We just want to keep our group together," Wohrley said. "I want them to keep motivated and push each other hard in practice. We don't have a clear cut guy who's going to be in the upper tier, but if we can bring the whole group along, we can start bringing down the team score. We hope to progress as a team that way."
Coach: Doug Hearn
IHSA classification: 2A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Pirates return four of their top seven runners from a squad that advanced to sectionals last season.

Returning are senior Ken Armstrong, junior Chandler Armstrong and sophomores T.J. LeSeure and Seamus McGettigan.

"Most of them have been with me in track now and cross country a couple years," Hearn said. "I'm excited to see those guys starting to form their identity here. They've been doing a nice job of getting some of those groups together."

Hearn also is counting on senior Nathaniel Nelson, who was injured most of last season, senior Larry Coleman, who ran track last spring but is new to cross country, senior Colin Vandervort and senior Trevor Buhr.

Hearn expects the team to again advance to sectionals and hopes the Pirates can place in the top half of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Meet.

Coach: Dr. Dan Cheatham
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Crusaders are looking to rebuild after finishing 14th last year as a team at the Class 1A state meet.

Gone are 2012 NT Runner of the Year Luke Hill, to graduation, and last year's No. 2 in Mark Spika, who elected not to run this fall.

But Cheatham expects senior leader John Weissensel, younger brother to former Cru standout and current Lewis University harrier James Weissensel, to show the way with a group of three other seniors that includes and four-year runners Ken Murphy and Paul Jones and new team member Pat Burash.

Junior Corey Bugelholl, who saw some varsity miles last year as a sophomore, and sophomore Jacob Weiss, who ended his season with a varsity call-up and joined Bugelholl running at state, will also look to develop this fall for the Crusaders.

"We don't have a lot of experience in the sectional and state competition. We've got a lot of young runners, including four freshmen," said Cheatham, who will look to run both a fresh-soph and varsity squad for development if the Cru can keep injury free.

"If I keep the freshman and sophomores together I think I can build for the next couple years," Cheatham said.

Coach: Pat Hodge
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Tigers will take to the trail in hopes of a return trip to the sectional after earning a team berth out of regionals last fall.

"We have some experience back from a team that qualified for the 1A sectional last year. It will be a challenge to repeat that as Zach Andersen (last year's No. 1 runner) is concentrating solely on soccer this year and we graduated Andrew Birkey," said Hodge.

Leading the way for PHS will be four senior runners in Mason Hunt, the Tigers top returning postseason performer after a 26th-place finish in the team points at regionals, as well as Alex Biggs, Patrick Arabia and first-year harrier Peter Wang.

They will be joined by a trio of sophomore runners in Dominic Biggs, Kaleb Kusmierz and Cody Workman.

"Cody Workman has shown some nice progress over last year at this point," Hodge said. "For most everyone else, we will be concentrating on building our base in the first part of the season as the summer mileage was minimal.

Bureau Valley
Coach: Dale Donner
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: Ryan Taylor
Season outlook: With a talented group returning from last year's team, the Storm look poised to launch another deep postseason run.

Leading the way will be Taylor, who finished fifth at regionals for the sectional-qualifying Storm and earned a solo state berth at the Oregon Sectional before capping his junior campaign with a 49th place finish in the Class 1A State Meet.

Hot on his heels will be another pair of seniors in Kane Eastwood, an NT Honorable Mention pick last fall who Donner expects to challenge Taylor for the No. 1 position, and No. 3 runner Andrew Smith.

"Kane Eastwood and Andrew Smith logged a lot of miles this summer to prepare for their senior season of cross country," Donner said.

The Storm will add depth with seniors Colton Peterson and Kody Church, juniors Charlie Lotspeich and Michael Trujillo as well as sophomore Yulian Osorio.

"The key to our boys' success will be our team depth, our Nos. 3-8 will change all year," Donner said. "If our boys put in the work these next two months, we could have a shot at a state run."
Coach: Adam Spencer
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Bulldogs will field a full five-man team this year, led by returning sophomores Johnee Schulte and Jacob Trudor.

Joining the duo for his first year of cross country will be senior Brandon Morris, a NewsTribune All-Area basketball player last year, as well as freshmen Nathan Bousum and Brady DeBruhl.

"Only being one year into starting the team, we are small and need to gain experience, but our two returning sophomores should have a good season," Spencer said. "The boys are also going to be in great shape for the start of basketball season, which is a big concern for all five of our members."

Coach: Keith Garcia
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: Garcia said health issues kept DePue's No. 1 runner junior Hector Madrigal from realizing his full potential last year.

"This year he's looked really good. He logged quite a few miles over the summer. He's looked good in camp and his times have dropped significantly," Garcia said.

Fellow senior Cristian Mendez, who focuses his time with the DePue soccer team but will also run cross country this fall, will help push Madrigal.

Juniors Jesus Garcia and Alberto Acosta will give the squad more upperclassmen depth, while three freshmen will look to join the mix.

Garcia said he is looking for the youngsters, Austin Kiest, Luis Cruz and Miguel Lopez, to step up as well. Kiest and Lopez finished second at IESA state last year as part of DePue's 1,600 relay squad.

"They're obviously fast at middle distance, so I'm hoping they can be good cross country runners as well," Garcia said.

Coach: Carol Bauer
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Knights have a three-man core in returning runners Levi Schmillen, Brandon Pongracz and Keegan Roth.

Schmillen is Fieldcrest's No. 1 runner and hopes to qualify for state.

Senior Christopher Leigh came back to cross country after not participating in a fall sport last year, although his main focus will be football.

The Knights added first-year seniors Dawson White and Zach Alden, and the team has six freshmen, including Kevin Stromberg.

"Schmillen is going to pick up individual awards, and Pongracz missed (a medal) by a fraction of a second at Morris(‘s Early Bird Invitational). He'll be in the hunt for individual awards," Bauer said. "As far as the team is concerned, we're more focused on running well and getting stronger."

Coach: Clark Owsley
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: Alex Pettis
Season outlook: Pettis, last year's Tri-County Conference champion who finished second at the Class 1A St. Bede Regional and third at the Oregon Sectional to qualify for his first ever state berth, returns to lead the Timberducks for his senior campaign.

"I look for Alex to be competitive with the top five runners at the sectional and compete for a sub-15:00 time at Detweiler," Owsley said. "Our goal as a team is to advance out of the regional."

Joining the proven Pettis will be No. 2 runner Trevor Wiley, an individual sectional qualifier last year for H-M who earned All-NT honorable mention status.

Also expected to contribute from a group of seven largely unproven runners on this year's team will be a trio of first year harriers.

Freshman Brandon Smith has shown Owsley "some natural footspeed," but the coach said it's too early to tell who that will translate to three-mile speed this early in the year. Juniors Jake and Nick Waldinger also will make their cross country debut after taking up track last spring.

"They're now juniors who've made great progress since their transition to distance running in February," Owsley said.

Coach: Bob Halberg
IHSA classification: 1A
Returning NewsTribune All-Area runners: None
Season outlook: The Clippers return Ben Hosto, Skylar Wheeler, Nick Bickett, Nick Dewey and Alan Stamberger.

Wheeler was the team MVP last season, but he will miss the first month with injury.
Paul Meyer and James Blackburn are newcomers to the squad.

"We have a good mix of upperclass and younger runners," Halberg said. "I'm looking for big things out of Hosto and Bickett. I expect a lot of improvement from prior years."

Kevin Chlum and Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6939, or at Follow them on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor and @NT_SportsChris.

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