For much of the cross country season, it looked like a showdown was in the works at the Class 3A boys state finals at Peoria’s Detweiller Park. Hersey’s Josh Methner, the defending state champion, would be challenged by several top runners, including three from Will County schools.
But one of those main contenders, Lincoln-Way East’s Brett Gardner, will not be participating when runners line up at the starting line Saturday afternoon.
Gardner, a senior who placed 14th at finals last season and also took fourth in the 3,200-meter run in track and field to earn all-state honors in both sports, has a stress-related injury in his left fibula and won’t run. This season’s field still will feature 10 of the top 25 runners from last year as well as some of this season’s best.
Methner, who also won the 3,200 state title last spring, was one of five sectional champions in Class 3A last weekend. Two others are local seniors, Bolingbrook’s Tyler Cushing, who placed 10th last season, and Lincoln-Way Central’s Jared Kreis.
The list of Kreis’ 2019 meet titles includes the Southwest Suburban Preseason, Normal West, Peoria’s Fight to the Finish, Minooka, Lockport and the Normal Community Sectional, where his 14:38 was best in the state. The only events he didn’t win were the Southwest Suburban Conference and Andrew Regional, where only Gardner finished ahead of him.
While the Knights had state champions Dave Merrick and Dave Walters from 1969 to 1973, since the start of the two-class state meet in 1976 no one has finished better than sixth place, which was done by Mark Battista (2006) and Kyle Leonard (1993). David Gonzalez is the only other Raider to place at state (1993 to 1995), with his best showing a third place in 1993.
Minooka captured a sectional title, and three other area boys teams advanced in Class 3A. Leaders for coach Kevin Gummerson’s Indians are Hunter Phillips, Vincent Van Eck, Dan Schalk, Jason Hoffman and Emerson Fayman.
Beside Kreis, Knights coach John Taylor will look to leaders such as Caden Simone, Jay Parker, Nolan Sams and Kurt Kreis for their qualifying team. Coach Ross Widinski’s Lincoln-Way East team advanced with Nolan Rogers and Gerry Cushing now up front.
Other 3A individual qualifiers are Joliet Central’s Jay Dworak, Lockport’s Ross Cronholm and Plainfield North’s Matthew Thomas. Lemont’s TJ Polen and Nick Kania qualified in Class 2A, and Joliet Catholic’s Marcus Porchia and Peotone’s Joey Uthe advanced in 1A.
In the girls bracket, Minooka, Lincoln-Way Central and Lockport advanced in Class 3A, while Lemont qualified in 2A. Gummerson’s Indians are led by Audrey Boles, Ella McCollom, Julia Dames, Gabby Kics and Kathryn Cichon. Coach Ryan Stapinski’s Knights are led by Merrigan Allen, Rachel Baumgartner and Lexy Sams.
Leading the way for coach Regan Cronholm’s Lockport team are Josephine Bober, Kayla Shea, Monica Skibicki and Caroline Turner. In 2A, coach Tim Plotke’s Indians are paced by Kaylie Politza, Kailey Wasyliw, Cassie Hamilton and Destiny Vargas.
Individual qualifiers in the girls meet are Joliet West’s Joslyn Prosek, Plainfield North’s Aminah Hussain and Sarah Conley, Lincoln-Way East’s Kate Guderjan and Bolingbrook’s Ellie Defarno in Class 3A; Providence Catholic’s Emma Kulpinski in Class 2A; and Peotone’s Grace Battiato and Seneca’s Audrey Jenkins in Class 1A.