This weekend, the Illinois Cross Country club headed north to Kenosha, Wisc., for UW-Parkside’s Lucian Rosa Invite. The meet provided perhaps the club’s biggest challenge yet this season with a difficult course and strong competition. The team responded, with some great performances on the Dannehl National Cross Country Course in front of lots and lots of IXC supporters. By unofficial score (thanks to Beau Barber), the men took ninth of 19 teams and the women took tenth of 22 teams.
The men raced first at Parkside and for the first time this season, the top dog was Jared Ripoli. After running his best race of the season at Augustana, Jared came back with another strong showing of 26 minutes and 29 seconds. Of course, Jared is used to the hills and weaving trails of Kenosha by now after a second place finish team finish last year and two high school appearances at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional held here.
The boys of Lake Zurich cross country know the Parkside course well, as they make the trip up every year for the season opening Horlick Invite, where Austin “Chief Milwaukee” Kuehr and Brian “Sly Bri” Griffin both competed last year. It seemed like their familiarity with the course paid dividends. Both continued to show improvement, and Brian actually ran almost 15 seconds faster here than at Augustana, hitting 28:42.
Another runner making his return to Kenosha was Ryan Somerfield. Ryan last ran at Kenosha as a high school sophomore for the prestigious “Eagle Invite.” It seemed like he felt right at home on the course as had his best race of the season so far, running 27:56, a full minute and 29 seconds faster than Augustana. He feels like he’s finally getting back into shape and it shows.
While several guys were making returns to Kenosha, Tyler Dixon had never raced here before, but he instantly fell in love with the course. I’m not sure how in love you can fall with that first mile, but good for Tyler; he ran 28:43 with his grandparents cheering him on from the sideline.
Jon Hootman looked like he was ready to drink the blood of the innocent on the course yesterday. Despite his embarrassment at not knowing what a charger is, Jonny Hoots put his shame behind him and had a solid performance on Saturday morning. Head coach Steve Krauklis said that the Hotman has been putting in the work and the results showed, he ran 80 seconds faster than last year at this meet.
Krauk said that Eric de Guevara was due for a good race, and he got one this weekend. While Eric expressed concern beforehand about the crowded forest trails, it seems things worked alright for him (maybe by running through competitors’ legs). He ran 26:46 to be the team’s third finisher.
In front of Eric in the two spot was Greg Netols; behind him was none other than David Oskar Choi. David proved that last week’s breakout performance at Augustana, where he finished fourth for the team, was no fluke. It looks like something has clicked for David and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do the rest of the season. Joe “@ZanyZeller” Zeller rounded out the men’s scoring five, followed by Adam Cobert and Michael “One-Speed” Frintner.
Special shout-out to the competitors who made their IXC debut on Saturday morning. Matt “Swagmaster” Dini had a fantastic first race with the club, dropping a 27:52. Danny “Ayala-te” Ayala and Mike Schiable also had solid debuts in their first 8K races with the team.
For the women, the front pack looked excellent. The 1-5 split on the day was 1:05, the women’s best of the season by far. It was a 19 second drop from last week at Augustana, and a huge 35 second drop from the Illini Challenge at the start of the year. This was the first time this season that this scoring five of Emma Grimes, Megan Mocogni, Erin McKee, Heather Guetterman and Lexy Rudofski all competed in, so look for big things as the women’s full lineup prepares for the postseason.
Emma led the way once again for the women with an 18:49 5K, a 28 second improvement from last year. Last year’s meet was Emma’s first time as the women’s top finisher and she has been on a tear ever since. Per usual, Emma had a monstrous kick, even though she thought it was substandard. She will be motivated and ready to go when she gets to race again against NIRCA competition, so the schools headed to Champaign for Regionals better beware.
Behind her was the women’s captain, Megan, with a 19:15, another solid performance that put her 10 seconds ahead of last year. Freshman phenom Erin and savvy veteran Heather finished just a second apart at 19:28 and 19:29, respectively. Fellow freshman phenom Lexy Rudofski finished off the women’s scoring five.
The women had a strong front pack throughout the whole race, about halfway through, Megan, Erin and Lexy were all running side-by-side. It’s a promising top five for the women, with seasoned frontrunners, young freshman standouts, and some serious racing prowess.
But the women have plenty of depth beyond Saturday’s first five. Rounding out the top five were Emma Burkhardt and Thea Cudnowksi. Emma has had a great season so far after putting some serious work in over the summer and Thea has been a model of consistency this year for the women’s squad. Shout-out to Nataly Medlin, who made her debut with IXC on Saturday.
Travel coordinator Monica O’Connor continued her comeback trail at Parkside with an impressive performance. She ran a full minute and twenty seconds faster than last year. And that race comes on the heels of one of the most difficult meets of the year for her to travel-coordinate for, so props to Monica.
Speaking of that travel, a big thank you to all of the families who graciously offered their homes for the team to stay at on Friday night- the Coberts, Ripolis, O’Connors, Kuehrs, Mocognis and Wageners. Special thanks to the Coberts, who in my unbiased opinion had the most awesome accommodations of anyone (I’m still salivating over Mrs. Cobert’s pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies).
Also, thank you to everyone who came out to support the team in Kenosha. It was great to see so many families there to cheer us on. While I can’t remember them all, shout-outs to the Cudnowskis, Frintners, Dixons, Mrs. Hootman, Rudofskis, Shirleys, Ayalas, Medinas and of course, my dear ol’ Dad. We love getting the chance to race in front of our families, so thank you once again.
Now, the team’s attention turns to the post-season and NIRCA competition. IXC will have two weekends off before the NIRCA Midwest Regional, hosted at our own beautiful University of Illinois Arboretum on November 1. It’s our one true home meet of the year and the penultimate race of the season before NIRCA Nationals, so we hope to see you there!