WAUCONDA – Just how good Crystal Lake Central’s boys cross country team can be remains to be seen, although Saturday’s Wauconda Invitational offered a very favorable review.
The Tigers won the meet by 38 points – without their top runner, Alex Baker, who would have been an individual favorite in the race.
That Baker was out of the lineup to take the ACT exam did not faze the Tigers one bit. Junior Ryan Pitner finished 11th to lead Central to first place in the 22-team meet on the 3-mile course at Lakewood Forest Preserve. Mark Talarico was 17th and Adam Baker, Alex’s twin, was 19th.
McHenry sophomore Jesse Reiser won the boys individual title in 15:35.96. Cary-Grove’s Dustin Throw was seventh, and McHenry’s Calvin Quarterman was 10th. Richmond-Burton, which dropped to Class 1A this season, finished fifth as a team.
“It’s pretty incredible that we won without our best runner,” Pitner said. “That shows if you work as a team you can always pull through.”
That is the message the Tigers receive constantly from coach Bill Eschman.
“We’ve been trying to preach to them that it doesn’t matter who’s here, just run together,” Eschman said. “Our approach is to run together, get it done and do your best. Winning and losing will take care of itself if you do that.”
Central finished with 98 points, while Oak Park-River Forest was second with 136. R-B had 180 for fifth place, the same spot the Rockets had four years ago.
“It was our goal to make top five,” Rockets coach Keith Forth said. “We still have to plug some holes, but it’s a good improvement from earlier in the week.”
James Kaht was 14th and Aaron Spivey was 16th to lead R-B.
Reiser continues to tear it up this season, although he wanted to see Baker again. Reiser was third behind Baker and Prairie Ridge’s Joe Cowlin in the McHenry County Meet two weeks before. He outkicked Warren’s Martin Martinez (15:39.12) in the final 400 meters.
“I tried to go out as best I could,” Reiser said. “My coaches said to stick with the top group and see how I could do.”