Photo: Trent Holm (left) will serve in a senior leadership role for the Kaneland boys cross-country squad. File Photo
by Mike Slodki
KANELANDâ€”How does a team that finished fifth in the Class 2A boys cross country race a year ago repeat the appealing end?
With the same preparation and attack, and new personnel to replace the graduates.
â€œFor the most part, everyone is healthy, but we are resting and repairing some pieces to our team,â€ coach Chad Clarey said.
Out of the 14 to go to State, nine return.
Clarey has some holes to fill, but the senior leadership of Grant Alef, Trevor Holm and Tommy Whittaker provide stability to a team that lost five of its top seven places.
â€œWe return three seniors and each one of them is an All-State athlete in cross-country, track or swimming in 2009.
Holm finished 23rd in State and Clarey likes his trajectory.
â€œHe has had a good summer. Heâ€™ll see where the best runners in the state are and compare himself to that,â€ Clarey said.
Alef was often the fifth runner for the Knights a year ago and was second and fourth in two events for swimming Junior Nationals recently.
â€œHeâ€™s finally on dry land now and ready to run. I think Iâ€™ll be a quicker transition for him. He worked his way up through the lineup last year,â€ Clarey said.
Whittaker, a sprinter by nature, â€œhas groomed himself to be a nice distance runner and had an excellent offseason,â€ Clarey said.
The junior circuit includes Austin Paulson, Jake Ginther, Kelvin Peterson, Frankie Furco, Clayton Brundige, Stelios Lekkas, John Michek and Nate Rehkopf.
â€œWeâ€™ve got solid juniors and eventually we look for the frosh/soph runners to make their push during the season. Kids that might be in that mix are (sophs) Conor Johnson, Billy Hart, John Meisinger,â€ Clarey said.
Other sophomores include Nick Messina, Ryan Paulson, Gus Stott, Brad Kigyos, Nicholas Albano, Chris Wido, Brandon Huber and Justin Pollastrini.
Freshmen are Luis Acosta, Ryan Bower, Garrett Patterson, Dylan Kuipers, Phil Cutsinger and Kyle Carter.
A new opportunity for getting back to the postseason promised land also brings a new opportunity for fresh conference foes in the Northern Illinois Big XII.
â€œWhen we ran in the old Western Sun Conference, we only finished in the top four one time. It was that talented and Sycamore who was a State champ didnâ€™t even win the conference. Geneseo has a nice nucleus, DeKalb is getting better. I think Yorkville would be the team to beat going into all this,â€ Clarey said.
The regular season begins on Tuesday, Aug. 31 against West Chicago and Wheaton Academy, while the Eddington Invite takes place on Saturday, Sept. 18. Conference is on Saturday, Oct. 16.