Three years ago, Andrew Adelmann and Ben Mahon started coaching Jones’ boys cross country team with an audacious goal — a state championship — and a talented group of freshmen.
On Saturday at Detweiller Park in Peoria, their journey together ends. The Eagles hope it’ll be a victory lap.
Jones is poised to do what no Public League cross country team has since Lane in 1963: win a state team title.
The Eagles knocked off three-time defending Class 2A champ Belvidere North at an invitational at the beginning of the season and then nearly beat Class 3A favorite York at Palatine. Their focus all year has been on being as prepared as possible for state, even to the point of resting their top five runners for the regional two weeks ago.
“We’re just trying to take this as another meet, keeping everything the same,” Adelmann said. “We spent a lot of time this past week visualizing.”
Earlier, Adelmann had his runners try different strategies in different races in an attempt to anticipate the situations they might face in Peoria, including the logjam of runners at various places around Detweiller.
The Eagles even tried to rearrange their usual practice course in Grant Park to mimic the state-meet layout.
Now it’s time for a veteran group of runners to carry out the game plan on what is forecast to be a perfect day for running: sunny, with temperatures in the 50s.
The Eagles are led by the 1-2 punch of seniors Jamison Dale, a two-time all-stater, and Luke O’Connor. But to win a title, or even a trophy, Jones also will need big days from the rest of its top five: senior Kirby Lawson, junior Peter Schaible and sophomore Kyle Maloney.
Adelmann said his runners know the stakes, including what a title could mean to the Public League.
“They have a good sense of awareness of themselves and the competition,” he said. “They know the meaning of it all.”
Also looking for some hardware in the 2A boys race will be No. 3 Yorkville and No. 4 Crystal Lake Central.
Here’s how some of the other races shape up:
* Class 3A boys: After finishing 2-3-4-5 at the Niles West Sectional, York (ranked No. 1 by the IlPrepHarrier website) seems poised to give iconic coach Joe Newton yet another state title 50 years after his first championship. Others hoping to be in the trophy hunt include No. 2 O’Fallon; No. 3 Neuqua Valley, which has a title and two thirds the past three years; No. 4 Lyons; No. 5 Palatine, the defending champ; and No. 6 Lake Zurich. St. Ignatius senior Jack Keelan, coming off a sectional win at Niles West, looks to be the individual favorite.
* Class 3A girls: No. 1 Naperville North, which tied for third last year, has been on a roll and is seeking its fifth title. No. 2 Lake Park (Kaylee Flanagan) and No. 3 Glenbard West (Madeline Perez) both have strong No. 1 runners. And don’t forget about fourth-ranked defending champ New Trier with twins Courtney and Jessica Ackerman along with Mimi Smith.
* Class 2A girls: No. 1 Yorkville, led by Skyler Bollinger, is looking for its fourth trophy and second title in five seasons. Also watch for Marengo’s Katie Adams in the race for the individual championship.
* Class 1A boys: All signs point to senior Grant Nykaza becoming Beecher’s third individual champ after taking second, fourth and second the past three years. No. 2 Richmond-Burton is seeking its first trophy.