Many New Faces, Same Old Plan for LT Boys Cross Country
With just Michael Matusiak back from last year's state lineup, the Lyons Township boys cross country team will try for a fourth consecutive state berth and 12th in the past 13 seasons.
LYONS TOWNSHIP BOYS CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW
COACH: Mike Danner (6th season)
2010 RESULTS: Fourth at West Suburban Conference Silver Division Meet (99 points) and tied for third in overall standings with Hinsdale Central; won LT Regional (48 points); second at Lockport Sectional (78 points); ninth at Class 3A state meet (296 points)
RETURNING 2010 STATE COMPETITOR: Junior Michael Matusiak (90th place)
OTHER VARSITY RETURNEES: Seniors Ben Groya, Mark Lefevour, Grant Smith and Gabe Valdes
VARSITY NEWCOMERS: Juniors Mike Accettura, Liam Callahan, Zach Carlson, Jonathan Dombro, Dan Miklosz, Quin Mulligan, Sean Robertson and Ryan Speir; and sophomores Matt Layden, Ed McCarter, James Ryan and Dominic Zona
OUTLOOK: It’s pretty much a whole new look personnel-wise as the Lions graduated everyone but Matusiak from last year’s lineup that gave the Lions their third straight state appeareance and 11th in the last 12 seasons.
The approach and the goals, however, remain unchanged with a lead training group of 18 runners. The season opener is the annual 31st annual Lions Pride Invitational Saturday at LT's south campus in Western Springs.
“We have some sophomores and juniors who have an opportunity to make our lineup and, if they do well, run at the state meet. They basically all understand they have a great opportunity there, an opportunity they may not normally have with a program like ours,” Danner said.
“I think a lot of guys understand they have an opportunity to do something and it shows in practice. They definitely have some incentive. So far, I see a very, very similar effort level and approach as the last few years. We’re just a little bit younger. That’s the only difference.”
Among LT’s graduates are Sam Telfer, the first three-time all-stater in program history, two-time state competitor Mark Holt and 2010 state runners Mike Kokoris, Tim Pollard, Chris Pilipiszyn and Patrick Mohan.
Last year, Matusiak also made the leap to the varsity as a sophomore and was a consistent top-five finisher, including the No. 3 state finisher for LT behind Telfer (8th) and Holt (65th). Matusiak was the Lions’ No. 5 finisher at sectionals (27th), No. 3 finisher at regionals (10th) and No. 2 finisher at the Silver Meet (20th), four places from the last all-conference finish. He was the fifth highest-finishing underclassman and third-highest sophomore in the Silver race.
“He’s stronger, much stronger,” Danner said. “He’s physically matured. A few guys have physically matured and are really able to do the same training load as our varsity kids have over the last few years.”
McCarter was the only underclassman who was among the Lions’ five state alternates and now he’s been up with Matusiak in workouts.
During the track season, McCarter posted freshman school records in the 800 (2:01) and 1,600 (4:35) as well as a freshman two-mile best last cross country season.
“His talent level is up there with some of the good ones we’ve had. And Dominic (Zona) and James (Ryan) are not that far behind,” Danner said. “Dominic beat (McCarter) a few times in cross country (last year). Both of them were faster than (Michalak) was as a freshman.”
At last year’s freshman WSC Meet, which was 2.0 miles, McCarter (2nd), Zona (7th) and Ryan (10th) earned all-conference honors for finishing among the top 16.
Carlson (13th) and Dombro (16th) were the lone all-conference runners on the sophomore level and Smith was 18th in the junior varsity race.
The combination of talent from different classes has been working.
“What I’ve noticed is how well they work together, how cohesive they are,” Danner said. “It’s very enjoyable for me to work with them, too. I’m excited about their potential and how much improvement we’re going to make this year.
"I see our training coming along. I think we have some ability to put ourselves out there in some races, Our training's not going to change much. We're geared pretty much to running well at sectionals and state. I think the coaching staff's experienced enough and the kids understand that first meet if we're not the best team out there, they can understand where we're at in our progression."
In the powerful Silver, the Lions will contend with defending 3A state champion York and Oak Park-River Forest, which finished sixth at state last year. The Dukes and Huskies are No. 3 and 12, respectively, in the DyeStat Illinois pre-season 3A rankings, and Hinsdale Central (14th at state) and Glenbard West are No. 17 and 18.
The Lions are not ranked among the top 25, the number of teams that advance to state. Hinsdale Central beat out the Lions for third at last year’s Silver Meet but LT then edged the Red Devils by a point to secure its third straight regional title.
QUOTABLE: “Really the only goal we’ve put out there is just getting back to state and having that opportunity to compete,” Danner said. “There’s not really as much pressure as we’ve had the last few years as a team people look to as a threat. We’re in the chasing role instead of being chased.”
|31st annual Lions Pride Invitational
Saturday, Sept. 3
LT south campus, 4900 Willow Springs Road, Western Springs
|Participating boys teams: Lyons Township, Nazareth Academy, Brother Rice, Conant, Downers Grove South, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way West, Maine South, Marist, Riverside-Brookfield, Sandburg, Stagg, Willowbrook
Participating girls teams: Lyons Township, Nazareth Academy, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way West, Marist, Mother McAuley, Riverside-Brookfield, Sandburg, Valparaiso (Ind.), Willowbrook
(3.0 miles unless specified)
8 a.m. Junior varsity girls; 8:30 a.m. Junior varsity boys; 9 a.m. Varsity girls; 9:30 a.m. Varsity boys; 10 a.m. Freshman girls (2.0 miles); 10:30 a.m. Freshman boys (2.0 miles); 11 a.m. Sophomore girls; 11:30 a.m. Sophomore boys