The Lyons Township High School boys cross country team looks ready to continue its strong postseason tradition – and then some.
The Lions are going for their 14th consecutive trip to the IHSA state meet after taking 12th in Class 3A last season.
LTHS returns five runners who ran in the varsity top seven in 2021, including four at state, and the Lions play host to their annual Mike Kuharic Invitational on Sept. 3 at the South Campus with the varsity boys race scheduled for 9:30 a.m.
“We are still working on re-establishing some standards and expectations,” coach Mike Danner said. “Last year’s team showed some signs of getting to the level we want, but we were unable to avoid some mishaps down the stretch. Hopefully, things will be different for this group.”
Junior Nick Strayer (46th, 15:09.47 for 3.0 miles) was the team’s No. 2 state finisher and senior Aidan Collins (104th) the No. 4 finisher. Junior Cillian Henning (133rd) and senior Matt McGovern (182nd) were the No. 6 and 7 finishers. Senior Mike Ferrell also saw considerable varsity action.
“Strayer has upped his training over the last month and should become more of a leader,” Danner said.
Other lineup candidates include juniors Brendan Whelton and Vincent Stobbart; seniors Ed Coyne and Reuben Guevara; sophomores John O’Halloran, Ben Wugazzer, a newcomer to the sport, and Isaac Constas; juniors Max Washchuk, John Barrette, Theo Sullivan and Aidan Fouilard; senior Jack Meyers; sophomore Aaron Obert; and freshman Patrick Collins.
LTHS girls cross country
With several key runners returning, the Lions are optimistic to start a new streak of state trips.
A sixth straight berth did not happen in 2021. Needing a top-seven finish at the IHSA 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional to qualify, LTHS ended up 11th with only senior, Catherine Sommerfeld, advancing as an individual. Sommerfeld went on to finish an all-state 12th (16;58.37 for 3.0 miles).
“The team is past the disappointment of sectionals last year. We know we were a very good team that just had a bad day, on the wrong day,” coach Eric Simon said. “As a distance group, we had a very successful track season, so they are aware of the potential for this season.”
In May, Sommerfeld also earned all-state recognition at the IHSA Class 3A state track meet in the 3,200 meters (7th, 10:35.21) and made the finals in the 1,600 (12th). She’s currently cross-training to return from an offseason injury.
“She has a nice balance of endurance and speed, excellent running form and a great calmness when competing,” Simon said.
Junior Shannon Cranny, senior Scarlett Lestina, juniors Julianne Melby and Anna Bylsma and sophomore Leigh Ferrell also return from the sectional lineup. While the Sommerfeld was among the 10 individual qualifiers at last year’s state cross country meet, Cranny (34th, 19:07.65) missed the last spot by six places.
At state track, Cranny, Lestina, Bylsma and junior Kristina Findley were an all-state eighth with the 3,200 relay. Other promising runners include seniors Charlotte Lange, Molly Hill and Maddie Reepmeyer and juniors Lauren Bohringer, Kelly Makovic and Madison Findley.
It’s also another year of experience for Simon, who became the girls cross country coach late last summer. He met the team on the first official day of practice.
“The girls were unbelievable in respecting and trusting me as their new coach from day one,” Simon said. “The transition evolved and improved all cross country season and I think by March of the track season we really got in the groove and have been on the same page. It is going extremely well now.”
The varsity races at 9 a.m. on Sept. 3 in the annual LTHS Mike Kuharic Invite at the school’s South Campus.