Garrett Lee & Tyler Yunk finish 1-2 for Belvidere North; Kelsey Schrader wins Girls Varsity; Normal University place 5 in first 11 for Girls Team Win.
DeKalb, Ill — The atmosphere at the Afton Forest Preserve outside of DeKalb was that of the state meet. Three of the first top 5 teams ranked in the Dyestat ratings for Boys 2A were ready for action as they toed the line and waited for the starter’s instructions.
The thing is was that it was not a state meet. It was the first meet of the year. Coaches Andrew Adelman of Jones Prep and Troy Yunk of Belvidere North knew that.
On this day, #2 Jones College Prep ran a tight pack for the first two miles of the race and then broke loose in the last mile. The Eagles placed 5 in the first twelve which was enough to defeat #1 Belvidere North 36-55.
The first mile went out slow, but considering the temperatures that were in the upper 80’s, it was expected. In the front, Belvidere North had its pack of Tyler Yunk, Garrett Lee, and Paxson Menard close together. In that pack was also Simon Thorpe of Dixon and Marc Dubrick of DeKalb. Three seconds back was the Jones Prep pack led by Jamison Dale and Luke O’Connor. The Eagles 5 runners could touch each other. The pack was so close.
The next mile was away from the crowds. Hilly trails cut out in a prairie field. In the last mile, Yunk and Lee made their move to define the lead in the race with Dubrick holding on for dear life to stay with them. Then ten seconds back came O’Connor and Dale charging passing Thorpe and going after the front three. The Jones duo ran out of course and time to catch the Belvidere North pair. Lee and Yunk comfortably came across the line together with Lee taking the top honors on this day.
“With Chicago Jones here, we knew it would be a tough race. We wanted to kind of ease back for the first mile. It’s kind of hard when you are all jacked up especially with the first meet of the year,” said Lee. “We stuck to our strategy and ran in pairs and see how that went. I do not think we got the win today but it’s the beginning of the season.”
Jones ran to plan according to Adelman. They kept the pack close together which resulted in keeping their 5 runners together. Their 1-5 split for the meet was 40 seconds.
“They followed the strategy with the sense of keeping it packed up. They were a tad fast for the first mile. Giving the circumstances, at least they were packed in,” Adelman said as he analyzed the results. “We did not want to turn everyone loose. At the end, each had their individual strategies that they had to execute from that.”
Here again, it was the first meet of the year. Plenty of time to iron out what is needed to be done by the time the state meet comes around.
“For the top 5, there is plenty of stuff that we still need to work on. There are still things that we saw that we need improving on,” added Adelman. “It is a good starting point. Our sixth through eleven men, we need them closer to the front pack as a security blanket.”
The sentiment was the same for Troy Yunk with the work needed to be done and it being the first competition of the year.
“It was strange that it is so highly competitive and it is just the first meet. Not knowing where we were at or tough to know where everyone else was at, it was tough to have a plan,” the Belvidere North coach said. “We were trying to group up. Match up with a teammate. Trying to run together. We trying to see what kind of shape we were in with the summer mileage. Know we know. Know we know where Chicago Jones is and we can go from there.”
The problem right now for Belvidere North is that there is a huge gap between their first three runners and then their fourth and fifth men. Yunk agreed.
“We don’t have the fourth man this year like we did last year with Will Crocker. So that is the position that we have to work on. So if we can get our fourth man closer to our top three, that will definitely help us.”
Where the help may come is from the Frosh/ Soph level. In that race later in the afternoon, Belvidere North freshman Eryk Yunk won the 2.42 mile race won by almost thirty seconds over sophomore teammate Zack Lyons. We could see both of those runners moved up by the time the state series begins.
~~ The Girls Race ~~
This was Normal University’s race from the start. The plan by Coach Lester Hampton was to keep the pack close together and they did. On this day, all state runner Sydney Billingsley sacrificed individual glory for the glory of the team. She finished seventh to lead her team in the next four out of five places for a 18 second 5 runner split. The #10 Pioneers scored 42 points, 57 better than Woodstock.
The individual race was a battle between last year’s 2A runner up Kelsey Schrader of DeKalb and junior Maura Beattie of Woodstock, who did not run cross country last fall but did place 6th in the 2A 1600 in the spring. Schrader made a move that Beattie could not respond to just before the 2 mile. Schrader went on to win by over 30 seconds.
“I tried to stay really hydrated today. I knew there was going to be good competition here,” Schrader said. “ I was just going to see how everything played out. After the 2 mile is when I made my move. I know the course because I have run it before. After the second mile, it is all downhill so I really used that to my advantage. At the finish line, I heard my teammates telling me to sprint so I thought she was right on my back. I thought she was way closer.”