CHANNAHON – Cross country races are scored using each team’s top five runners, but coaches always tell their teams that being the sixth or seventh person is just as important.
That exact scenario played out on Friday at Channahon Community Park, as Minooka hosted the Southwest Prairie Conference meet. Oswego East and Minooka tied with 43 points, but East was declared the champion as their sixth runner finished ahead of the Indians’ sixth man.
Yorkville was third with 97 points, followed by Oswego, Plainfield North, Plainfield South, Joliet Central, West Aurora, Plainfield Central, Joliet West, Romeoville and Plainfield East.
Jackson Morrill from West Aurora was the individual champion, running 15:26 over the 3-mile course. Minooka had four runners in the top nine as Vincent Van Eck beat teammate Hunter Phillips at the line for second and third, with Jason Hoffman seventh and Daniel Schalk in ninth.
“I didn’t think the race was going to go out as fast as it did today,” Van Eck said. “But we were all there in the front group and the adrenaline really gets you going. We were really focused on Oswego East because we know that they are good. It’s difficult and bittersweet knowing that we are just as good and not coming away with the conference title, but we know we are also good and we continue to get better each week and I’m sure we will see them again at the state finals.”
Phillips, who has come on strong the past two races for the Indians, credits his success to three important things when asked about the difference in his running.
“The change in my racing I credit to three things. The first is not wearing socks during the races, the second is I now eat four eggs the morning of a race and the third is that I’m hydrating a lot more than I did before and I’m getting plenty of sleep,” Phillips said. “Today’s race was intense from the start and the longer the race went, the more intense it got. I fell back just a little about halfway through and I heard coach [Kevin Gummerson] tell me to get back up there now and that really helped.”
The top 21 finishes were designated All-Conference and in addition to the top four from Minooka, the Steelmen’s Jay Dworak was fifth, Ryan Wengler from South was 13th, with North teammates Matthew Thomas and Ryan Maseman finishing 16th and 19th, respectively, to round out the local honors.
In the girls race, Yorkville scored 33 points to outdistance Oswego East (49 points), with Minooka third with 79 points. Plainfield North was fifth, with Joliet West seventh, followed by Plainfield Central, Joliet Central Plainfield South, Plainfield East and Romeoville.
Minooka’s Audrey Boles finished second in 18:21, behind champion Helena Kleronomos from Yorkville (18:11), as Indian teammates Gabriella McCollum, 15th, Gabby Kics, 19th, and Kendra Martin, 21st, grabbed All-Conference honors. The Tigers Joslyn Prosek also received All-Conference with an 18th-place finish.
“I got out well and I was determined to try and stay up front,” Boles said. “I feel really good about my race and this sets us up well for the state series starting next week. We went out after it today in the boys race and we really saw that growth as a team today,” Minooka coach Kevin Gummerson said. “We have a saying to really ‘lean into it’ when it matters and these kids did that today and I’m proud of them all. Our top three boys are really running with so much confidence, especially going into the state series run.
“Audrey has really broken through that barrier and is running so well right now. After the Naperville Twilight meet last week, she said that during the race she felt like stopping, but she thought how her team needed her and that was a big breakthrough for her.”