ELK GROVE VILLAGE – Cary-Grove’s Maxum Caesar figured qualifying from the Class 3A Hoffman Estates Cross Country Sectional was going to be close.
He had no idea close.
Caesar fought with every ounce he had to hold off any charging competitors in the final 200 meters.
“I couldn’t give up in the last 100 and let people pass me,” Caesar said. “I knew it’d be tough. When I had people on me, full-out sprinting, it was very tough.”
Caesar’s effort was rewarded. The Trojans’ senior held on for 11th place, which was good for the final individual qualifying spot Saturday at Busse Woods Forest Preserve. Caesar will finish his career at the state meet next weekend at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
McHenry’s boys took third and also will run at the state meet. The top five teams, and top seven indivduals not on those teams, advance to state. There is a stipulation that all top-10 finishers qualify, but Caesar missed that by one spot, but still got the seventh individual berth.
No local girls runners advanced from the sectional.
“I was pretty nervous at the beginning. I wanted to end my last year of high school cross country on a high note,” Caesar said. “I wanted to take it back to state. I’m really honored that I get to go back and get one last race before my season’s over.”
Hersey’s Josh Methner, the state’s top runner, led the Huskies to the team title with 88 points. Lake Zurich (120) was second and McHenry (153) was third. The Warriors last made it in 2015.
Jessi Garcia led McHenry in 14th place. The Warriors’ next four runners were within eight spots of each other: Carlos Montes (32nd), Caleb Schopen (34th), Ian Knebl (35th) and Dylan Jensen (40th).
“It’s fantastic. They totally executed today,” McHenry coach Kevin Horst said. “They ran a really, really smart race, really paced it very well and came up on everything. I think we outperformed every team, compared to how we were seeded coming in.”
The Fox Valley Conference champion Warriors ran so well they improved one spot from last week’s Palatine Regional.
“It’s unreal. I’m speechless right now,” Knebl said. “I don’t even know what to say. Our team, when it comes to times, is always super-similar. We try to look for each other. The more we look for each other, the harder we push to get up next to them.”
Jensen did not have a great start, but came on strong to finish with the Warriors’ fifth counting score.
“I was not going to give up on my team,” Jensen said. “I saw them up there and said I was going for it. It really worked out for us today. We just showed how great our team can be when we run for each other.”
Class 3A St. Charles East Sectional: At Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve, Huntley’s Ian Geisler finished third in 15:30 and will head back to state to try for another All-State performance next week.
Geisler, the FVC and Hononegah Regional champion, finished 17th in the 3A race last year (the top 25 earn All-State honors).
Class 2A Belvidere Sectional: At Belvidere High School, Marian Central’s Ryan Jones and Peter Walsdorf finished fifth and seventh to qualify for next week’s state meet.
Marengo’s Luke Chaffin was 15th and Hampshire’s Aidan Gonzalez took 19th to qualify. Gonzalez grabbed the last of the seven individual spots.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Class 3A St. Charles East Sectional: At Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve, Huntley’s Bailey Wilk was 22nd and Molly Allen was 24th as the Red Raiders finished fourth to qualify as a team with 157 points.
Breanna Burak (30th), Brittney Burak (37th) and Genevieve Collatz (44th) rounded out the scoring places for the FVC champion Raiders.
Class 2A Belvidere Sectional: At Belvidere High School, Crystal Lake South’s Bella Gonzalez took second and Marian Central’s Siobhan Stoll was third in the race. Gonzalez led the Gators to fourth as a team, while Stoll was the first individual qualifier.
Crystal Lake Central’s Kylie Smith (sixth) and Annette Ferrero (12th) also qualified as individuals.
Prairie Ridge took third (119) as a team, just ahead of South (119). Prairie Ridge was led by Rylee Lydon (12th), Colette Janik (16th) and Rachel Soukup (18th). Alaura Busch (29th) and Sophie Robinson (44th) were the Wolves’ other scoring runners. They finished third in the 2A state race last year, but have a mostly new lineup.
South’s Mackenzie Aldridge took 13th to help the Gators advance. Emma Murphy (32nd), Addie Frisch (39th) and Bianca Garay (41st) were South’s other scoring runners.