Lyons Township High School seniors Cillian Henning and Nick Strayer were among the top eight after the first mile of the Class 3A boys cross country state meet Saturday.

With hopes of repeating their 2022 top-10 state finishes, the two dropped to 21st and 23rd by two miles. Just getting top-25, all-state honors again became a battle the final mile.

“I did a quick head count and saw we were in 25th, so I knew we had to get a couple of dudes just to get back up there,” Henning said. “We finished strong so happy with that.”

Henning moved up to 15th (14:38.98 for 3.0 miles) and Strayer 18th (14:04.03) to become the program’s eighth and ninth multiple all-staters.

The Lions (207 points) also were fourth, 73 points from third-place Plainfield South and the team’s first trophy since 2015.

Juniors Ben Wuggazer (67th, 15:10.87) and Tate Pavelka (70th, 15:11.75) finished top-70, followed by juniors John O’Halloran (99th, 15:26.52) and Charles Ciesla (151st, 15:45.18) and senior Maksym Washchuk (184th, 16:00.46).

The Lions improved from seventh last year and 12th in 2021.

“We’re clearly trending in the right direction. I can’t wait to see what they do next year,” said Strayer, who will run at Brown.

“It helped having (Henning) with me the whole way. We were pretty much together the last mile. That helped, knowing he was right there with me. I knew we could pick some guys off together.”

At a wet and muddy 2022 state meet, Strayer and Henning were ninth and 10th for the seventh-place Lions. They and 2022 graduate Aidan Collins gave the Lions three all-staters in one meet for the first time.

This season, Henning battled a hamstring issue that limited him to five races.

“I definitely feel I didn’t do my best (Saturday). But all-state in this state is still super impressive,” Henning said. “I had way too much left at the tank coming down the stretch and could have gotten a few more places up.”

“I think we left a little bit on the table today, which hurts a little bit as our last (LTHS)
race,” Strayer said.

The LTHS girls were 12th (363 points) behind a dedicated senior class.

Seniors Julianne Melby (63rd, 18:10.95) and Anna Bylsma (67th, 18:11.73) were top-70, followed by seniors Madison Findley (105th, 18:30.78), Lauren Bohringer (115th, 18:39.41) and Shannon Cranny (118th, 18:41.15), sophomore Jenna Lally (171st, 19:04.24) and senior Kristina Findley (185th, 19:17.95).

“We kept our pack. A lot of us had great races. It wasn’t exactly where we wanted to place as a team but we did what we could,” Melby said. 

“We (seniors) definitely have improved over the four years. Having that many seniors in the top seven, we wanted to have more fun with it.”

LTHS was seventh last season but also graduated three of its top four state finishers. Only Cranny (70th), Melby (122nd), Kristina Findley (136th) and Bylsma (139th) were part of that lineup.

Cranny missed most of this season returning from injury. Kristina Findley did not run at sectionals. Lally joined the postseason lineup after a strong sophomore conference race.

“Last year (at state) I just didn’t feel good. The course was just a mess. It was just a lot more fun this year to run fast,” Bylsma said.