Almost but not quite déjà vu all over again

Dan Santino of Ignatius and Christian Swenson of Loyola battled at the front of the Chicago Catholic League Championship.  Photo by Steven Bugarin.

Dan Santino of Ignatius and Christian Swenson of Loyola battled for three miles at the front of the Chicago Catholic League Championship–with Chris Korabik of Ignatius and Sal Flight of Fenwick in pursuit. But the outcome of the team championship would be decided behind them.  Photo by Steven Bugarin.

To get a full understanding of the almost cosmic drama at the 2013 Chicago Catholic League Cross Country Championship at Turtlehead Lake on Saturday, October 12, you probably have to look back at the last few previous championships.  Only the coaches and the seniors at the race—and a few parents—could have those memories.

In October of 2010 at the Chicago Catholic League cross country championships, Loyola Academy and Saint Ignatius came to the meet at Schiller Woods with what appeared to be evenly matched teams.  Loyola had narrowly beaten Ignatius at the CCL North division meet three weeks before.   Ignatius had not won the CCL meet since 1991 [Correction: since 1994] ; Loyola had won in 2008 and 2009–and five times total since 2000.

The Wolfpack CCL cross country championship in 2010 was the first since 1991.  Photo by Steven Bugarin.

The Wolfpack CCL cross country championship in 2010 was the first since 1991. Photo by Steven Bugarin.

The 2010 CCL race probably meant a whole lot more to our Ignatius team.  Among other things our boys had become used to watching dominant Loyola teams win championships, while we had not even been able to compete.  Now we seemed to have a realistic chance to win.

At the front of the race in the first mile then sophomore Jack Keelan and senior co-captain Jack Cross from Ignatius locked horns with junior William Hague from Loyola.  But missing from that mix was a second top runner from Loyola, senior Mac Ford, who was struggling back in the pack.  We would later learn that Ford and his brother Todd had been suffering with illness all week.

As the race developed, Keelan pulled away for a ten-second win over Hague, running 14 minutes and 57 seconds to break 15:00 for the first time in his career, and Fenwick’s Steve Blazer moved up for third.   But in the pack as they approached the finish Ignatius had moved forward to take control of the race.

In 2010 Patrick Santino raced into fourth place--but then collapsed 50 meters in front of the finish line.  He crawled to the finish as other runners passed him--and finished eighth overall.  Photo by Steven Bugarin.

In 2010 Patrick Santino raced into fourth place–but then collapsed 50 meters in front of the finish line. He crawled to the finish as other runners passed him–and still finished eighth overall to help Ignatius to the team win. Photo by Steven Bugarin.

Junior Patrick Santino had charged into fourth, a surprising turn in our favor—and perhaps a potentially deciding blow.  But then 50 meters from the finish line, he collapsed.  He got up, but he collapsed again ten yards from the finish.  He began to crawl toward the line.  Senior Tom Beddome from Loyola passed him to finish fourth, then Cross went by for fifth.  Senior Ian Barnett of Fenwick went by, then senior Tom Condreva of Brother Rice.  Santino crawled across the line just in front of junior Ryan Clardy of Fenwick for eighth place.

With the race still in some doubt, seniors Jack Doyle and Peter Devitt from Ignatius crossed in 12th and 13th to seal the win for Ignatius with 35 points.  Mac Ford, Loyola’s best runner for much of the 2010 season, would finish 16th as their fourth finisher, and his junior brother Todd finished 26th.  Loyola’s total was 55 points.

A year later a much improved Todd Ford would get his revenge, winning the CCL meet at Midlothian Meadows by outkicking Keelan, and Loyola would win the 2011 team title, 35-63.  Then in 2012 Keelan and Ignatius won convincingly, as Keelan set an amazing course record at Turtlehead Lake (14:29), and Ignatius finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 20th to score 35 points, once again, to Loyola’s 53.

The 2013 CCL championship shaped up a lot like the 2010 race.  Dyestatil.com ranked Loyola 11th in the state and Ignatius 12th.  The Wolfpack defeated the Ramblers convincingly at the Palatine Invite at the end of September, but Loyola won the Pat Savage Niles West Invite in October– by just a point.

The race started somewhat slowly, with a large pack that included six Ignatius runners, five Loyola runners, three Fenwick runners, and a few single runners–senior Steve Sismelich from Providence Catholic, Dan O’Keefe from Mt. Carmel, and James Durkin from Brother Rice.  At the mile mark, Fenwick senior Brixton Rill had moved out to a ten-meter or so lead going just under 5:00, with the pack just a little bit over that.

As the runners headed up the hill north of the Turtlehead Lake, the pack seemed to break up a little bit—and Rill’s lead disappeared.  Ignatius sophomore Dan Santino, brother of Patrick Santino, and Loyola junior Christian Swenson moved toward the lead with Sal Flight of Fenwick in tow.  As the pack strung out, it seemed that the four remaining Ignatius runners were taking  positions among three  Loyola runners, with the sixth Ignatius runner also in front of Loyola’s fifth.  This seemed like good news for the Wolfpack.

As the runners completed their first swing around the lake and headed toward the two mile mark north of the lake again, the race had taken even clearer shape.  Santino and Swenson were on the lead, with Sal Flight of Fenwick running with them.  Ignatius senior co-captain Chris Korabik was chasing in fourth.  Then three more Ignatius runners—senior co-captain Taylor Dugas, junior Andy Weber, and junior Kallin Khan–had taken positions in a chase pack with two Loyola runners, junior Spencer Kelly and senior Teddy Brombach.  Trailing that pack were Loyola’s senior Matt Randolph and junior Jack Carroll, along with Sismelich, Rill, and Durkin.  Ignatius senior Patrick Manglano and O’Keefe, trailed that group.

Turtlehead Lake course map for the 2013 Chicago Catholic League Championships.

Turtlehead Lake course map for the 2013 Chicago Catholic League Championships.

The race leaders went into a narrower path that goes around a small pond on higher ground north of Turtlehead Lake itself, then it finished the hill, going across a ridge—the highest point of the course.  It was on that hill, about a half mile from the finish, it seems, that the race began to change.

First Khan, who was running faster than he had ever run, and then Weber, who had missed school and practice during the week with flu-like symptoms, dropped from the first chase pack.  Meanwhile Randolph and Carroll, Loyola’s fourth and fifth runners, began to move up.  Behind them Manglano was closing hard for Ignatius, as well—but he was chasing from farther behind.

With about a half-mile left in the race, Swenson took the lead at the front of the race in front of Santino.  Flight was in third, but Korabik was close in fourth.  Dugas was matched up with Brombach and Kelly—with Durkin and Sismelich racing them as outsiders to the team drama, but still a factor in determining the important place points.  It was a pretty even race, three on three for Ignatius and Loyola.

Behind that group, Loyola’s Randolph and Carroll were racing Khan, Weber, and Manglano from Ignatius to decide the team race—three on two.  It seemed to be advantage Ignatius.

And then with about a half-mile to go, Weber waved Khan and then Manglano ahead of him.

Junior Andy Weber was running with the chase pack as an important scoring runner until he began to fade with a half mile left in the race.  Photo by Steven Bugarin.

Junior Andy Weber was running with the chase pack as an important scoring runner until he began to fade with a half mile left in the race.  He would collapse in sight of the finish line and crawl across the line–but the race outcome was already decided in Loyola’s favor.  Photo by Steven Bugarin.

Over the final half-mile of the race, Weber would slow dramatically, then begin to wobble, and then, with 100 meters to go, collapse.  He would get up and try to run, and then crumble again—twice—before crawling over the finish line.  Our second runner in September when he ran a personal best of 15:20 at Detweiller, Weber would finish the race a minute slower and was a non-factor in the team scoring in 19th place.  He was probably dehydrated from his week of using Sudafed to handle his flu symptoms—and he had run himself into exhaustion.  As a precaution his parents took him to Northwestern’s emergency room, where an IV helped revive his physical body—although he would then face disappointment about the race outcome when his father finally gave him the news.

At the front of the race things had gone well for Ignatius.  Santino was behind Swenson by a few meters with just 300 meters left in the race—but then he surged and ran past him for a four-second win in 15:04.  Korabik, running his best race of the year, outkicked Flight for third in 15:20.  Korabik would later be awarded the CCL’s Lawless Award as the top senior finisher.

But then Kelly and Brombach finished fifth and sixth, both outkicking Dugas in seventh—although at that point the score was still Ignatius 11 and Loyola 13.  The race was decided by the chasers at numbers four and five for both teams.  After Brother Rice’s Durkin in eighth, Loyola’s Carroll finished ninth, putting Sismelich from Providence and Rill from Fenwick behind him–and in front of his Ignatius chasers.   Loyola’s Randolph then finished 12th in 15:43, just a second in front of Khan in 13th and Manglano 14th.

There were definitely some elements of déjà vu all over again from 2010—with some key changes in Loyola’s favor this time—as Loyola pulled out a close 31-35 win.

The teams will meet again at the Illinois High School Association’s 3A Lake Park sectional this coming Saturday.  In 2010, after Ignatius won the CCL meet, Loyola placed fourth to defeat fifth-place Ignatius at the Niles West Sectional, but both teams qualified for the state meet.  There Loyola finished 13th and Ignatius 20th.

Let’s hope that the cosmic tumblers repeat themselves this year—and Ignatius can turn the tables at the end of season races at Lake Park and Peoria.

The first step, of course, will be for both teams to qualify for the state meet again this coming Saturday.  It will be a battle.  York would seem to be a lock for the first spot as the state’s number one ranked team.  But Mike Newman’s final Dyestatil.com season rankings put sectional competitors Lane Tech 8th, New Trier 9th, Ignatius 11th, Maine South 12th, and Loyola 13th.  Five pretty equal teams will race for four spots.

It is a lot like 2010, actually…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Almost but not quite déjà vu all over again

  1. Mike

    Best of luck to the team at Sectionals and beyond…..keep up the great work! Coach- one tiny point….I could be wrong but I think my classmates won CCL in 1994…..not 100% sure though….

  2. Indeed you did–apologies. It was 1991 for CCL track before we won last year, and 1994 for CCL XC when we won in 2010! I write these things off the top of my head when I should be checking.

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