Joe Santillo on move for MinookaMinooka's Joey Santillo (right). | File photo
Updated: October 19, 2011 7:08PM
Minooka’s Joe Santillo isn’t you average Joe.
But he’s another Joe who has taken over the top spot from graduate Joe McAsey for the Minooka boys cross country team.
“With McAsey gone I knew that spot was open,” Santillo said of being the Indians’ No. 1 runner during his junior season. “Nobody’s ever going to fill Joe McAsey’s shoes, but I’m trying.”
“He’s been running on the varsity since his freshman year and things are starting to pan out for him,” Minooka coach Kevin Gummerson said.
The key to the Indians’ success, according to Santillo, is in their junior and senior classes.
“It’s because of the junior and senior leadership every year,” Santillo said of the six-time SPC champions. “Walking into the program as a freshman I met great leaders. They leave and we have other guys step in. They really left a mark on me as a freshman and sophomore.”
“He’s not afraid to put himself in the mix and he’s running with confidence,” Gummerson said. “He likes to be with the lead group, he’s confident in his abilities and he’s put in a lot of hard work in to be where he’s at today.”
Santillo won the Southwest Prairie Conference championship in advance of Saturday’s eight-team Minooka Regional at Community Park in Channahon.
The girls race is at 1 p.m., while the boys will begin at 1:45 p.m. The top five teams and top seven finishers of non-qualifying teams will advance to the sectional Oct. 29 in Quincy.
“That’s going to be interesting,” Santillo said. “Hopefully, we can qualify for Quincy. It’s at our home course, so nobody knows it better than us. I’m going to run my race like I’ve been doing and see what happens.”
Seniors Dan Popek and Kyle Smith and junior Alex Pierce give the Indians a formidable pack, along with senior Evan Slabaugh, who spent the first half of the year on the junior varsity.
“They are more concerned with our team finish than anything else,” Gummerson said. “All that matters is do we have a spot on the line the following week. It’s nice to see it all coming together right now. It’s exciting.”