Hindale Central’s Blake Evertsen (1936) leads a pack of runners during the 3A boys cross country state finals. | File
Hinsdale Central flew under the radar for much of last year.
But on the final day of the season, it was the Red Devils hoisting the trophy after winning the Class 3A state title thanks to a tremendous team effort at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
They have a plan to deal with the expected pressure that comes with being defending state champions. They don’t expect it to come as easy as last year, when they beat runner-up Downers Grove North, 99 to 144.
“I think we have the luxury of having seniors who have been through it,” Hinsdale Central coach Jim Westphal said. “We just want to get out there and work hard, work towards the common goal. I think it will be much tighter this year with five or six teams in the mix.”
Sophomore Blake Evertsen, the top returnee for Hinsdale Central, came into high school with an impressive resume. He clocked 4 minutes, 38 seconds in the 1,600 meters while at Hinsdale Middle School. But before entering Hinsdale Central, he had never run a three-mile race, leaving the question of how quickly could he adapt.
The answer was very quickly. Evertsen won his first race, in a sophomore meet, and joined the varsity for a regular-season meet in Peoria. He rose to the occasion and was the third Hinsdale Central runner across the line, in 14:56. At the state meet, he was the team’s No. 4 runner, finishing in 29th place with a time of 15:06.
Now with more endurance and speed thanks to a full year of running with the varsity, Evertsen expects to keep improving throughout this season. During a two-mile time trial last month, he ran 9:44 — a 25-second drop from a year ago.
“Improvement” is the buzzword at Hinsdale Central this fall.
“Saying we want to win state isn’t really useful,” Evertsen said. “We want to be a better team than we had last year, so obviously we want to have a better score at state.”
Evertsen will have plenty of help. The Red Devils also return their Nos. 5 and 6 runners at state in junior Chris Brenk (43rd, 15:13) and senior Matt McBrien (60th, 15:22).
“The obvious goal anyone can make is to repeat as state champions but when it comes down to it, we’ve talked about our goals, and we want to be a better team than last year,” McBrien said. “We want to keep building our program to be better. We did lose some good guys but when you look at the team I feel like we’re pretty confident as the season gets closer.”
McBrien, who projects to be a leader on the team along with seniors Alex Domiano and Josh Feldman, likes the squad’s tremendous depth despite losing its top three runners from last year to graduation.
“Last year, getting into the top 12 runners on the team wasn’t as competitive as it is now,” McBrien said. “And the five who aren’t in the top seven all have a chance to take out anyone in the top seven. If someone gets injured, it’s a loss, but it won’t affect our season because there are so many guys running good times.”
RUNNERS TO WATCH
Vince Arata, Lyons
As a junior last year, he ran 15:39 at state and was the Lions’ No. 6 runner. He missed the track season due to injury but is healthy and ready to go.
Chris Brenk, Hinsdale Central
The junior had an impressive season last year finishing 43rd in the Class 3A state meet at 15:13.
Dante Bruno, Elmwood Park
He was the Tigers’ No. 2 runner at sectionals and ran 16:34 at the Class 2A state meet. A senior, Bruno will try to lead the Tigers to state in 36-year Elmwood Park coach John Kingsmill’s last season.
Salvatore Flight, Fenwick
Flight finished in 15:51 at Peoria and the senior hopes this year to bring along the entire Friars’ team.
LEADERS OF THEIR PACK
Elmwood Park: Lucas Kieffer (Sr.), Dante Bruno (Jr.), Keit Dine (Jr.)
Guerin: Nicholas Gerena (Sr.), Domenic Loconti (Sr.), Juan Reyes IV (Sr.), Brian Guratowski (So.), Brian Schwaba (Sr.)
Hinsdale Central: Matt McBrien (Sr.), Josh Feldman (Sr.), Alex Domiano (Sr.)
Hinsdale South: Charlie Nordus (Jr.), Roman Drabchuk (Jr.), Joe Eilbert (Sr.), Vicente Perez (Sr.)
Leyden: Mati Szelazek (Jr.), Alan Prado (Jr.), Nathan Diazleal (So.), Brad Bach (Sr.), Josh Pitts (Sr.)
Lyons: Connor Madell (Jr.), Keefe Mulligan (Sr.), Jake Langan (Sr.), Vince Arata (Sr.)
Nazareth: Johnny Bareis (Sr.), Austin Brown (Sr.)
Oak Park-River Forest: Irwin Loud (So.)
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