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Photo finishing high school

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Photo by Steven Bugarin

I prepared this for our news people back at Ignatius, a recap of our first day at the state track meet.  And I owe Chris Korabik (@Cknation29), on the left above, a thank you for the tag line!

On the second day of the IHSA Boys Track and Field Championships today, four Ignatius athletes will compete for medals and team points.  In the preliminaries yesterday, the Wolfpack moved into serious contention  for four events.

In the 110 meter hurdles, senior Conor Dunham won his heat to advance to the finals in a time of 14.49 seconds; it is the second fastest time in school history, behind only Dunham’s own 14.15 mark in the sectional meet last week.  Senior Chris Hawkins also competed in 110s, running 14.79, but he did not qualify for the final.  He did, however, finish sixth and win his flight in the preliminaries of the triple jump, where he leaped 44 feet and 11.5 inches; that jump leaves him just two inches from third place.  He gets three jumps today to close the gap.  Dunham returned to the track in the 300 intermediate hurdles, where he battled long-time rival Imani Payton of North Lawndale College Prep in his qualifying heat.  Payton won by a step in 37.85 seconds, with Dunham at 38.14, but they were the fastest of the nine qualifiers for today’s final.  Finally, senior Chris Korabik finished second in his heat of the 1600-meter run to advance to the final, running 4 minutes and 14.80 seconds, second fastest of the rounds.

Junior Andy Weber will also compete today in the 3200-meter run, which has no preliminary race.  Senior Emmett Boyle competed in the pole vault on Friday, as well, but he did not advance.

To attend the state meet, Dunham, Korabik, and Hawkins had to miss graduation back in Chicago on Friday night.  Instead they made a cap and gown visit to the track in the evening during the open track meet there.  They marched around the infield as Weber carried a music player blaring Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”—and they took a few pictures.

“Our seniors made some sacrifices to be here,” said Coach Ed Ernst.  “We have a chance to score some points tomorrow.”

The Wolfpack finished fourth at the state meet last year.

 

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A Day Off–With a Showbie Homework Assignment

We had a teacher in-service today at Saint Ignatius, with a day off from school for the students.  On the day before our first meet of the indoor season tomorrow, we gave the boys a day off from coming to practice at Ignatius.  For many boys, it would have meant an hour commute each way for a two-hour practice.

But we still expected them to run.  Coach Nate McPherson gave his distance boys a homework assignment:  Take a selfie after or during a run today, and submit it on Showbie, the homework application site.
Yes, it was a cold day to run.  Some of the boys found treadmills or health clubs.

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February 7, 2014 · 8:03 pm

Summing it up

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Senior Patrick Manglano leads the team in one final prayer before the state meet. Yes, the boys cut their hair crew cut Marine-style for their last race. Photo by Steven Bugarin.

This week the Ignatius athletics department was host for the 2013 fall sports banquet, which gave our fall sports athletes and their parents a great meal catered by DiLeo’s restaurant of Elmhurst.  The program then brings all the teams and parents together for 30-minutes of team by team highlights, followed by a separate celebration for each team.  Our team celebration concluded with a wonderful video produced by Caroline Vickrey, mother of freshman Lyndon Vickrey, which you can watch on Vimeo here.

I have not managed to conclude the cross country blog season with anything thoughtful.  But my head coach remarks at the fall awards assembly, for the entire sports community, should at least sum up the season for the record.

The Wolfpack 2013 boys cross country completed an historic season in November–but it was also a season of near misses.

In September the team opened the season sweeping the varsity, the junior varsity, and the frosh soph races at the ICOPS Invitational.  The team entered the state top 20 rankings for 3A teams with strong performances at two invitationals.  At the First to the Finish Invite on the state championship course at Detweiller Park in Peoria, the Wolfpack finished a best-ever 4th out of 40 teams.  At the Palatine Invite, the Wolfpack finished 5th against another group of the state’s top teams.

Then in October the team traveled to Washington, DC, where the varsity won the Georgetown Prep Classic and the junior varsity and freshman also brought home medals and trophy plaques.

But at the Patrick Savage Invite at Niles West the Wolfpack lost by one point to archrival Loyola.

The toughest near miss was a close second place finish—once again to Loyola–at the Chicago Catholic League Championships.  Winning at the two-mile mark, the Wolfpack could not hold off a strong finish by the Ramblers and lost, 35-38.  (Remember, the low score wins in cross country.)  Sophomore Dan Santino won the invididual championship, running an outstanding time of 15 minutes and 4 seconds on the three-mile course at Turtlehead Lake in Orland Park.   Senior co-captain Chris Korabik earned the Lawless Award as the top CCL senior with his third-place finish in 15:20.  Six Ignatius runners earned All Catholic League Conference honors:  Santino, Korabik, senior co-captain Taylor Dugas (7th), junor Kallin Khan (13th), senior Patrick Manglano (14th), and junior Andy Weber (19th).

In the post season, the team finished third at the IHSA 3A Lake Park Sectional to become just the fourth Ignatius team ever to qualify for the state finals.

At the state championships the Wolfpack finished in 16th place.  The near miss in Peoria:  Korabik finished in 27th place (15:03), just two spots out of the top 25 all-state list.

We should offer a thank you to all of our parents for their support—and for their pasta parties.

The team needs to offer a special thank you to assistant coach Steven Bugarin and to first-year coach Nate McPherson.

And finally, congratulations to team captains Taylor Dugas and Chris Korabik for leading one of the best teams in Ignatius history.

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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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Another Peoria race day is here again

A year ago, plus a few weeks, we were here at the Embassy Suites in the early, early morning waiting for the IHSA 3A state cross country championships to begin later in the afternoon.  I was up early for a run, and then I had time for a blog post before breakfast.

I’m not up as early today, and there was no run.

That visit to Peoria ended with an individual 3A state championship for senior Saint Ignatius runner Jack Keelan.  Our second qualifying runner, junior Chris Korabik, also ran well—15:08 for three miles on the historic Detweiller Course for 57th place overall.  Korabik’s run, we believe, made him the number three runner in our team’s history at Detweiller, behind Keelan and 1981 state champion Mike Patton.

We’re here today for a regular season race—the First to the Finish Invitational, formerly the Woodruff Invitational.  It is the first of three big high school invitationals here in Peoria this fall.

Keelan won this race a year ago, too—and our team finished a surprising fifth overall out of forty or so teams.   Our team race strategy had been one built of necessity.  The lowest number possible for Keelan;  then we had a strong pack of three runners, Korabik, freshman Dan Santino, and sophomore Andy Weber.  The goal was to place them all better than 40th.  And it worked; all three ran under 15:40 and placed 30th, 35th, and 38th.  Finally, our fifth scoring runner for most of our races last season, junior Taylor Dugas, would do what he could.  Last year the FTTF turned out to be his best race of the year and a personal best for three miles, 16:15, good for 164th place.

This would be our basic team strategy as the year went on, but it was really four runners and a shoestring–with little margin for error if any of our top guys faltered.  Dugas suffered a number of freak injuries—two twisted ankles before the season was out for the ex-basketball player—and he was never able to put in the training to improve enough to close the gap with our pack of three.  Junior Patrick Manglano had actually supplanted Dugas as the number five by the end of the season at the sectional race.

Although we won the Chicago Catholic League championship to meet one season  goal, the IHSA sectional race at Niles West last year ended the season badly for us.  We had been ranked as high as second in the sectional, but we placed 6th in the race, in difficult circumstances, and did not qualify as a team for the state meet.  Keelan and Korabik raced as individuals in the 3A state meet.

Dugas, among others, was on a mission this summer, and he has come back this season in the best running shape of his life.  Last week he finished second for us in our opening meet at the ICOPS Invitational, running a personal best time of 16:11 in a low-key meet on what we think was a slightly long course.  Weber, now a junior, also put in a strong summer of training—and he continues to get better, finishing close to Dugas a ICOPS.

Finally, Santino was arguably the best freshman in the state last year in cross country and track, where he ran 9:28 for 3200-meters in June.   He, too, had a good summer of training.

Korabik, unfortunately, suffered a non-running related summer foot injury that has set him back a few weeks as the season begins.  But he is running without pain, now, and his mileage and training is building.

Finally, Manglano, now a more mature and much stronger senior, did some summer running for the first time in his career.  At the ICOPS meet a week ago, Manglano improved his time from the previous year almost two full minutes, running a person best of 16:39.  In addition, the  team has picked up an additional runner, junior Kallin Khan, who left the soccer team to join us–and has been running more or less as an everyday runner since the end of his soccer season in fall of 2012.   He finished a little bit behind Korabik and Manglano, who ran together, in his first three-mile race at ICOPS last week.  Junior Brian Santino, older brother of Dan and young brother of our former captain Patrick Santino, is our number seven; Brian Santino ran 10:18 for 3200-meters last winter.

We are actually a much better team than a year ago.

Perhaps other teams have improved as much we think we have improved.  Losing Keelan seems like it could hurt our chances in big races because we lose his low number.  But early season rankings put us quite a bit below where they ranked us last year.

We go to the First to the Finish today expecting to surprise people.  Santino’s name did not appear in any of the pre-meet speculation for who would run in the front pack.  Two years ago in 2011 a small front running group of four or so pulled away from the race—with then junior Keelan in it—and there was a big gap back to the rest of the runners.   It seems possible that this will happen again today.

Santino will have to make the decision of whether to go with such a group, or whether to race to be the best of the rest.

Korabik thinks he’s ready to return to run with Dugas and Weber.  Manglano and Khan will be tested for the first time to see how fast they can go.

Last year our goal was to place four in the top 40 and hope for the best.  This year our goal is to put six in the top 40—and that would put us high up in the race rankings.  Instead of a two-minute split off of Keelan’s front running, our team will need a 45 second split off of Santino’s still very good front running for us.

We will find out what kind of team we have today!

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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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From the state meet: Our update for the school web pages

It was a big day for the Wolfpack at the IHSA state track 3A championship preliminaries on Friday–and on Saturday the Wolfpack will race for state medals and even a state trophy.  In the 4×800-meter relay senior Elliot Gibson, senior Andrew Reardon, junior Chris Korabik, and senior Sean Kampe were leading their heat with a lap to go and then finished in third with a school record 7:54.50, seventh overall which earned a qualifying spot in tomorrow’s final. Junior Conor Dunham ran 39.11 for the fifth spot in the finals of the 300 hurdles; he will run in lane 3. Senior co-captain Jack Keelan cruised to first place in his heat, running  4:15.34 with a 59 second last 400 to qualify for tomorrow’s final. On Saturday the 4×800 will run at 11:25, Keelan in the 3200 at 12:30, Dunham at 3:30, and then Keelan again in the 1600 at 3:45.  “All our guys still think they can go faster,” said Coach Ed Ernst.  “You have to believe you can do it before you do it.”  

You can watch online at IHSA TV:  http://ihsa.playonsports.com/events/59626.  Coach Ed Ernst will also post updates on twitter @ernsttracksicp.

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