FREEPORT, Ill.—Being shorthanded may be a problem for other squads, but not the Knights boys cross country team.
Competing Saturday at the Freeport Pretzel Invitational without their top two runners this season in Nathaniel Kucera and Ryan Bower, the Knights still placed second in the 10-team field.
Winnebago ran tough, placing their scoring five all in the top 13 of the race to run away with the team title with 45 points. Kaneland was next with 78, followed by Rock Falls’ 108, Boylan’s 111 and Jefferson’s 123.
For coach Chad Clarey, it’s all about the packs for his group, and for a second week in a row, the Knights were running together throughout the field.
“Our team continues to do a nice job of packing up, finishing in groups,” Clarey said. “Our top three raced within 10 seconds of each other, and our fifth through seventh also split seven seconds between one another.”
Kyle Carter, who has been progressing since he began running again a little over two weeks ago, led KHS with a 10th place finish with a time of 16 minutes, 2 seconds. Carter was the top Knight a year ago.
“He is battling and taking small victories on this road to full strength,” Clarey said of Carter.
Luis Acosta had a break through race, finishing 11th, and just five seconds behind Carter. Andrew Lesak was the third Knight to finish, placing 15th in 16:12.
Brandon Park ran aggressive, placing 20th overall with a time of 16:46.
Then another KHS pack of Brock Robertson (25th, 17:03), Phil Cutsinger (27th, 17:06) and Mitch Reger (28th, 17:10) finished in a cluster.
Clarey was pleased with Robertson, a senior in his first year on the cross country team, performed.
“(He) finished as our No. 5 today, and he really pushed himself hard through the first 1.5 miles to establish that position,” Clarey said. “He has shown strong improvement these past four weeks.”
Dylan Kuipers (42nd, 17:42), Jimmy Walker (48th, 18:08), Phil Rawers (86th, 21:23) and Connor Pennington (88th, 21:40) also competed for the Knights.
With conference looming, the Knight harriers headed to the Byron Invitational Wednesday (results not available before press time) before the head west to their annual stop at the Sterling Invitational Saturday.
“We will hopefully be back at full strength and depth at conference (Oct. 19 at Morris),” Clarey said. “In the meantime, we work to get healthy, freshen up, and keep pushing that pack further toward the front of the field.”
Clarey is optimistic about his team as they head into the home stretch of the season.
“It’s tough to be patient, but we feel good about where we are headed with such a tight-knit pack,” he said.