Lyons’ Nicholas Strayer (left), Cillian Henning and Riverside-Brookfield’s Cooper Marrs lead early on during the Mike Kuharic Invitational at Lyons Township Saturday, Sept. 2, in Western Springs. | Steve Johnston

Nick Strayer’s second straight individual title at the annual Lyons Township High School Mike Kuharic Invitational was even sweeter Saturday. For Strayer, it’s his senior year and next-to-last home cross country race prior to the Class 3A regionals. 

And this time fellow LTHS senior standout Cillian Henning was a close second.

“The crowd always feels a lot better when you’re home,” Strayer said. “You have a great turnout and it’s great to see teachers or people who don’t normally come to meets. It’s always extra special when it’s a home cross country meet.”

The Lions, ranked No. 9 pre-season in 3A by both and MileSplit IL, edged No. 12/23 West Aurora 76-80 for the team title. 

No. 15/14 and defending 2A state champion Riverside-Brookfield (108 points) was third in its first significant test after moving to 3A this season. The Bulldogs were among the three teams in the field to earn top-20 pre-season rankings.

Strayer (15:24.0) and Henning (15:24.6) were roughly seven seconds ahead of the third-place finisher on the 5-kilometer (3.11 miles) course.

RBHS senior Cooper Marrs was fourth (15:44.7). 

RBHS senior Jack O’Brien (14th, 16:23.2) and junior Brady Norman (15th, 16:29.2) and LTHS juniors Ben Wuggazer (17th, 16:31.6) and Tate Pavelka (19th, 16:32.2) all cracked the top 20.

RBHS junior Diego Lopez-Molina (35th, 17:06.0) and senior Will Kallas (41st, 17:20.1) and LTHS sophomore Patrick Collins (37th, 17:10.8) and senior Mak Washchuk (39th, 17:15.8) placed among the top 50. 

Other finishers were LTHS senior Brendan Whelton (58th, 17:53.8) and RBHS junior Asa Kahle (62nd, 17:55.6) and senior Evan McMullen (73rd, 18:12.2).

In 2022, Strayer (15:32.44) came from behind and edged Marrs (15:34.94) for the title. Henning was fourth (16:03.95). 

On Saturday, the Lions’ returning 3A all-staters were among five frontrunners at two miles before pulling away just before three miles.

“We raced it out. [Henning] passed me with about 400 to go and I got him right at the 3-mile mark,” Strayer said. “It’s always fun racing him to the line.” 

In the girls race, No. 7/9 LTHS girls (55 points) finished second to No. 4/5 Downers Grove North (26) with No. 20/20 Sandburg third (71). RBHS (317) was 12th.

LTHS seniors Julianne Melby (19:09.7) and Anna Bylsma (19:39.9) were fifth and eighth respectively. Seniors Madison Findley (12th, 19:49.4) and Lauren Bohringer (16th, 19:58.2) and junior Leigh Ferrell (19th, 20:12.6) also were top-20, followed by seniors Kristina Findley (33rd, 20:56.1) and Kelly Makovic (47th, 21:42.5).

RBHS junior Gianna Gelb was 39th (21:15.1), followed by seniors Maria Dalton (62nd, 22:27.3), Lily Kocourek (71st, 22:47.0) and Maia Nelson (74th, 23:09.8) and sophomores Rebecca Dosek (80th, 23:24.3) and Abby Ford (90th, 25:08.8) and Elli Barsotti (106th, 26:31.1).

RBHS and LTHS compete Saturday in the First to the Finish Invitational at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, the annual course for the state meet. The boys field includes No. 1-ranked Downers Grove North and defending state champion Plainfield South.