Preseason is over—and now it gets real

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The 2013 Wolfpack XC team assembles at the Bahai Temple in Wilmette for its annual photo, this year with newcomer assistant coach Nate McPherson.

Before he left for the Stanford cross country team’s preseason training camp in Mammoth Lakes almost two weeks ago, Saint Ignatius graduate Jack Keelan teased me about not posting enough on this blog.

I should have teased him back.  Maybe it’s because I don’t have state champion Jack Keelan to write about anymore.

But I do, of course, have our Saint Ignatius team to write about, and the new and what we think is an improved 2013 team opened its competition season this week at the ICOPS Invitational, staged by Wheaton Academy at the under-contruction Reed-Keppler Park in West Chicago.  A year ago Keelan led us to an easy win as we scored 33 points to defeat ten teams including Aurora Central Catholic (66) and St. Viator (76).  On Saturday we scored just 21 points to defeat 12 other teams including Wheaton Academy (58), St. Viator (106), Aurora Central Catholic (111) and Providence Catholic (124).

Sophomore Dan Santino (15:45) won the three-mile race, with senior Taylor Dugas 3rd (16:11), junior Andy Weber 4th  (16:20), senior Chris Korabik 6th  (16:38), senior Patrick Manglano 7th (16:39), and junior Brian Santino 15th  (17:30).  We can’t compare times from this year to last because construction in the park required changes to the course.  Those changes seemed to make the course a little bit long—estimates ranged from 15 to 30 seconds longer than three miles, perhaps.  It was also a hot day.  In any event, we think our team can and will run a lot faster–and maybe as soon as the weekend ahead.

The ICOPS field is not a strong one compared to some of the other first weekend meets like the St. Charles Leavey Invite, the Hinsdale Hornet-Red Devil Invite, the Lyons Township Lions Pride Invite, or the Fenton Invite, to name just a few races in our Chicago area.  We had been annual Leavey Inviters until last year when the field was down-sized, and we were riffed.  Perhaps we should have filled the schedule by trying to get into another of the highly competitive meets.  But the lower-key ICOPS meet still brings us out into the Western Suburbs for our first meet of the year to run a parks course, and the less intense meet gives our newer runners a chance at some first-meet success.  Our schedule gives us other chances to face tougher competition–including the weekend ahead of us.

This year’s meet gave our team a lesson in team running and success.  Our frosh-soph team eeked out a genuine team win.  Sophomore Andrius Blekys led the team in fifth place, with  sophomore Jack Morgan in 8th(19:12), sophomore Tony Imburgia in 9th(19:14), freshman Paul Tonner in 10th (19:15),  and sophomore Seamus Brennan in 17th(19:45) as the scorers.  Meanwhile, sophomores Liam Sullivan (25th, 20:24) and Colin Hogan (27th, 20:29) completed the team.  St. Viator seemed to have the race won as they placed four runners in the top six.  But our Wolfpack won with depth, placing the number six and seven runners ahead of St. Viator’s fifth scorer to win the scoring race by just a point, 49-50.

With the First to the Finish Invite at Detweiller Park in Peoria up next week, the ICOPS meet really stands as the end of our preseason.  Next week it gets suddenly serious.

We’ve had some other preseason milestones as summer vacation ended and school got underway three weeks ago.

ICOPS is not really our first race of the year.  On Labor Day weekend we were hosts for what we call the Wolfpack Howl.   For the last four years we have invited Coach Andrew Adelmann’s Jones College Prep team to Washington Park, which would have been the site for Chicago’s Olympic Stadium, for what we like to call a practice or a scrimmage race.  This year, of course, that means a scrimmage race against the defending 2A state champions.  We race just two miles, with most of it on the Washington Park jogging trail.   Jones and Ignatius split our teams up into smaller intersquad teams—navy, gray, and white for Jones, and white, maroon, black, and gold for us.  Then our intersquad teams race each other.  This year we also added a third team, University High.

The deeper Jones team dominated the color teams race, as their Gray team led by all-stater Peter Schaible defeated their Navy team led by all-stater Kyle Maloney, 61-63.  Our Ignatius teams, in part because we split our roster four ways, couldn’t really compete, scoring over 100 points.

But Dan Santino won the race overall for his Ignatius Gold team, with Taylor Dugas of the Ignatius White team a step behind as second individual—both running around 10:00 for two miles.  Schaible and Maloney finished third and fourth, with our Andy Weber fifth for the Maroon.  Jones runners followed in 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th.  Then Chris Korabik from the Black was 11th and a new runner for us, junior Kallin Khan of the Gold, was 12th.

It is easy to do a quick calculation to see that Jones won the dual meet, but just barely, 28-31.

We considered this a good result against the defending state champion.  Korabik, who ran 15:08 as an individual qualifier at the 3A state meet last year, is still recovering from a summer foot injury that set his training back a few weeks.   If he runs with Santino, Dugas, and Weber, Ignatius wins.

Until someone beats them head to head, Jones is the best team in the city.  They defeated Lane Tech in the Chicago Public League meet last fall before winning the 2A state championship.  Lane Tech returns with a strong team to challenge them this year for the CPL title.

But we think we can challenge both teams for the unofficial city title over the next few months.  We will race Jones again at our Connelly-Polka Invite at Midlothian Meadows in Markham on September 21 and then at the Palatine Invite on September 28.  We won’t race Lane Tech until the IHSA regional or even sectional.

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Our annual picnic after the Wolfpack Howl practice meet in Washington Park was moved inside this year to our Hyde Park condominium living room and kitchen area because of heavy thunderstorms. We did manage to run the race, however.

We celebrated after the Wolfpack Howl meet with another annual event—a picnic at our home, a nearby Hyde Park condominium building.  Taylor Dugas’s father Jeff wheeled two old-school kettle grills with pecan wood to burn into our parking lot and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs for 50 boys and their parents.  Adding to the adventure, he did it in a downpour.  We had managed to fit the race in that morning between two different thunderstorms that rolled through the area.

Dugas had to revive his grill fires and dry out his wood after the first storm.  The rain also moved all the sweaty boys and their parents indoors to our living room and kitchen area, about 80 people total.  My wife kept smiling.  The week before she had asked me, “What do we do if it rains?”  It has never rained before, I told her foolishly.

The indoor picnic was our fourth team party of the young season.  Another term for party might be “team-building activities.”

The previous Saturday had been our annual Bahai Temple run.  We assemble at Chicago’s north Loyola Park Beach and then run north five miles to the Bahai Temple in Wilmette.  Our varsity boys make the return trip, as well.  Then we eat pizza and throw a Frisbee on the beach.  It is a tradition I inherited from John Lillig, head cross country and track coach at Ignatius before me.

The Friday night before that our team made a visit to LaGrange Park’s Village Pool at the invitation of the family of Sean Freeman, one of our juniors, for a party that was supposed to be held in July but was postponed by a cold 60 degree day back in the summer.  The boys took a run on the jogging trail there.  Local boy Jack Keelan joined the team as neighborhood guide—and he joined them for pasta, watermelon, and a dip in the pool, which included some chicken fights until the lifeguards told them to stop.

The previous Saturday the team had travelled to the New Buffalo, Michigan, area for our third annual run on Lake Shore Road there.  Our meeting site this year was the Blekys family home in Lakeside.  They served 35 boys lunch after the run—and then senior runner Matas and sophomore Andrius escorted the boys to a nearby Lake Michigan beach.   Another highlight for that day was a visit from Tom Coyne, Ignatius class of 1951 and city cross country champion in the fall of 1950, who made the trip from his home in Kalamazoo.

On our training calendar, we call this Week 5.  It has already been a busy season—or rather, preseason.

This week in Peoria we expect it to get real—and really fast.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Preseason is over—and now it gets real

  1. Nubbinz

    Glad you guys are ready for the big test of Peoria. Always keep in mind that the state series is when it really counts, though. I am pumped Chris is recovering as well as he is. Best of luck this weekend, I’ll be cheering all the way from California.

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