Veteran Acres Park provided one of the most brutal and demanding tests to cross country runners of any course in the state.
“It’s a gutty race at VA,” McHenry senior Calvin Quarterman said. “It’s not necessarily the best runner who wins, it’s who has the most guts.”
So it might seem that runners at Saturday’s Crystal Lake South Invitational would welcome the nice flat track at Lippold Park over Veteran Acres, but that was not really the case.
“I do miss VA,” Cary-Grove’s Dustin Throw said. “It’s one of my favorite courses. It’s one of the toughest I’ve run, but it’s fun.”
South, Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge all consider VA home for cross country, but because of construction along Walkup Road and the VA parking lot, the park is not available for meets this fall.
VA’s hills and terrain make it one of the most demanding courses anywhere. The layout also makes it one of the most fan-friendly, with spectators able to see the race at several junctures. Lippold Park is a nice crushed-rock track for the runners, but fans cannot see as much of the race because competitors run out for a mile, make a mile loop, then come back.
“I’d say VA’s the toughest I’ve run on,” Quarterman said. “I lost a shoe there last year and it tore up my foot. You have to love it and appreciate how tough it is.”
South boys coach Rich Eschman lauded Crystal Lake Park District for helping the schools with a course on which to run this season. Johnsburg coach Chris Setzler sees some good points with the stark contrast Lippold provides.
“I tell the kids it’s flat, it’s fast and there’s nothing out there that is going to hurt you,” Setzler said. “Go out hard, hang on and go as long as you can. That will pull you through with a good time. The kids get excited to run fast times this early in the season. They did a nice job out here.”
Sargent on Great Lakes: Jacobs sophomore Ryan Sargent was one of four area baseball players in Cary, N.C. last weekend representing the 16U Great Lakes Regional team in the National Team Identification Series Showcase at USA Baseball’s national training complex.
The players chosen played for their respective regional teams with the chance of being selected to play next summer with for their age group’s USA Baseball team. McHenry’s Cody Freund, Johnsburg’s Brandon Krennrich and Crystal Lake South’s Josh Smith also played for Great Lakes.
Sargent was 3 for 9 with two RBIs and two walks in his three games. He also threw out two runners while playing center field.
“It was a blast to get to see the best competition around,” Sargent said. “It was an eye-opener for what I need to work on with strength, speed and the mental aspect of the game.”
Sargent knew Smith and Freund before they went to North Carolina. He played with Jacobs’ high school team that took third place in the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association summer state tournament. He also plays with the Illinois Indians out of Des Plaines.
Sargent plays wide receiver and cornerback for Jacobs varsity football team and missed the season opener, a 35-13 victory at Marmion, for the showcase.
“I explained the situation to coach [Bill] Mitz,” Sargent said. “He loves multi-sport athletes, so he was fine with it.”
• Joe Stevenson is the senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.