Several area cross country teams got off and running Wednesday at the Morris Early Bird Invitational, marking the onset of the 2013 season. Morris, Seneca and Gardner-South Wilmington were on hand for the event and participated in both the boys and girls race.
“Five years ago, the IHSA moved up the first competition date and we saw it as an opportunity to get our athletes a meet,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “After three months of training in the summer and three weeks of practice, it’s nice for them to get out and perform in a competition.”
LaSalle-Peru’s girls won the 12-team meet with a score of 58. Morris was sixth with 122 points. The top finisher for the Redskins was freshman Maria Blanco (23:22.9) who finished 22nd.
On the boys side, Seneca’s Ross McCormick was the top finisher from the area. He was third in 16:33.2 over the three miles. Pontiac won the meet with 33 points and Morris was second with 67. The top finisher for the Redskins was Jacob Wantland (10th/17:41.8).
Full results can be found at www.kompusport.com.
Blumberg is now in his ninth year as cross country coach for the Redskins and is assisted by Derek Babson and Megan Cinto. There are currently 23 boys and 12 girls out for the team this fall.
“Any conversation about our best has to start with Jacob Wantland. He logs the most miles, puts the most quality miles in and has a desire to run at the next level,” Blumberg said. “After his season-ending injury last year, he had to patiently wait to be able to get back on the roads. ... He has an outside chance to get to the state finals as an individual.”
Blumberg said Austin Patterson and Tristan DeGrush, “appear to be in the best shape after Watty” but are also battling with guys like Nick Marino, Brock Kukman, Eric Robinson, Sam Allen, Jake Hesslau and Vinny Gallegos. Minooka transfer Cheyne Robinson and first-year runners Jon Turman, Jeff Burton and Al Alvarez are also battling for time.
On the girls side, Val Pfaff, Bridget Gile, Maddie Davy and Katie Erickson are returning starters for Blumberg.
“We will rely on them heavily for leadership and race results,” Blumberg said.
Freshman newcomer Maria Blanco, senior Emily Ashworth, who last ran as a sophomore, soccer player Alexis Halcomb and freshmen Olivia Thorsen and Bailey Posey are “getting into distance-running shape” and Avery Norris is another returner.
No team needs to be introduced less than the Indians, as they are a perennial state finalist.
“We had a group of kids that really dedicated themselves this summer,” Minooka coach Kevin Gummerson said about the boys team. “We lost six of last year’s top seven and we now have a group that has been waiting for their chance.”
Andy Geldean and Kyle Swanson are two seniors “that had a really nice summer” who Gummerson is counting on to be this year’s leaders. Others who could make contributions include: Kyle Brown, Ryan Weniger, Gabe Ceballos, Henry Bugajski, Ethan Milles, Matt Sak, Ben Ubert, Michael Bozue, Miguel Lomeli, Jon McAsey and Will Roberts.
Unlike the boys, the Minooka girls have six of the top seven runners returning.
“This group is very talented and is one of the more experienced and battle tested team’s we’ve had at Minooka,” Gummerson said. “We have six girls that have had the honor of running in at least one state cross country meet, so they know what it’s like there.”
Those that Gummerson is counting on this year are: Caleigh Beverly, Haley Renison, Kaitlyn Chetney, Moria McAsey, Haley McNamara, Gaby Gall, Colleen Coyle, Morgan Crouch, Caitlin Kurtz, Keely Doran, Maggie Ward, Rachel Ward, Ashley Tutt, Mackenzie Callahan and Ali Mondrella.
Seneca Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish are coached by Kim Sedlock. She is assisted by Jen Crouse.
Sedlock said she knows who she is counting on this fall.
“We’re looking for Caroline Collet to lead the girls team and Carter Gallick and Ross McCormick to lead the boys,” she said.
“Our boys team is a little smaller this year. We are looking for Ross McCormick and the seniors to lead the pack throughout the season,” Sedlock continued. “Our girls team is going to be solid again this year. We have most of our key runners returning and some impressive freshmen that will play a role in our success.”
Others on the boys team besides McCormick and Gallick are: Lucas Altobella, Scott Anderson, Brian Kluckhohn, James Miller, Jonny Wilson, Kole Gallick, Anthony Haase and Zach Rivett.
Others on the girls team besides Collett are: Anna Baker, Terah Coughlin, Jacey Lamboley, Rachel Towne, Morgan Armbrust, Shailee Bauer, Kassidy Maierhofer, Mali Seilheimer, Lexi Bogren, Madi Payne, Sarah Cameron and Sarah Virgo.
Gardner-South Wilmington Panthers
The Panthers have five boys and six girls out for the team this year. The team is once again coached by Larry Lane.
“I’ve got a couple of sophomores and freshman coming up to run with the varsity this year,” Lane said. “I’ve got two pretty solid runners on each team. Michael Mankowski and Nathan Ruffatti for the boys and Savannah Baldauf and Daly Galloway for the girls.”
Rounding out the team is Zander Harris, Michael Koss and Billy Evans for the boys and ReAnn Scoggin, Kitrina Hayner, Toni Hayner and Nicollette Shelton for the girls.