Boys running crew clinches 16th trip to State in 26 years
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland—Chilly weather and northern Illinois powerhouses did their collective best to stop Kaneland boys cross country.
But the Knight collective powered through to earn a State berth.
In the loaded Belvidere Sectional on Saturday, the Knights finished fifth overall with a point total of 174.
The Knights outlasted sixth-place Grayslake Central by 11 points for the final qualifying spot.
Belvidere North was crowned sectional champ with a 47 point output, while Dixon had 95 for second place. Deerfield had 108 for third, while Crystal Lake Central had 109 to fill out the top five spots in the 21-team gathering.
In 2011, the Knights took fourth at sectionals, while it was lone Knight Trevor Holm that qualified in 2010. KHS finished fifth in 2009.
The is the 16th time the Knights have qualified for State since 1986, and they have made the trip in four of the last five years.
Belvidere North speedster Garrett Lee finished first overall in his final sectional, completing the three-mile course in 14 minutes, 49 seconds.
Kaneland junior Kyle Carter was tops for his team with a time of 15:42.2 for 16th place, followed by senior counterpart Conor Johnson at 15:51.1 for 17th place.
“Our 1-2 punch of Carter and Johnson was great,” KHS coach Chad Clarey said. “We knew we needed to beat Vernon Hills and Grayslake Central, and they beat other top runners. Our three, four and five runners made a huge impact.”
Senior John Meisinger (39) was third for the KHS lineup at 16:20.3, followed by Luis Acosta (48) at 16:32.0.
“Senior John Meisenger saved his best race of the season for a course he races well on last fall,” Clarey said. “John beat important scoring runners from teams we needed to defeat in such a talented and loaded field.”
Junior Nathaniel Kucera (54) was fifth for the Knights with an effort of 16:41.9, and fellow senior Brandon Huber (56) took sixth at 16:43.6. In seventh for the Knights was Ryan Paulson (70) at 16:53.4.
“Luis Acosta and Nathaniel Kucera looked exceptionally strong through the mid-race checkpoints,” Clarey said. “Kucera cramped up a bit, fell back, then finished strong to complete our scoring.”
Clarey said it was his team’s pack-running mentality that led to the strong team finish.
“Our pack made the difference for us today, running right at 60 seconds,” he said. “Having our third to seventh runners just 33 seconds apart was an advantage for us; being able to see your own teammates throughout the race is such a big key for us.”
The State race takes place on Saturday, Nov. 3 at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity to race without the burden of pressure (from having to qualify), set some new PR’s at Detweiller (Park),” and give ourselves a shot at bettering our 2011 finish,” Clarey said, referring to the team’s 15th-place mark in Class 2A last season.