The Fox Valley Conference rarely, if ever, has seen an infusion of young running talent as in 2012.
Huntley’s top two runners were freshmen Keagan Smith and Seth Conroy. McHenry freshman Michael Hahndorf usually ran No. 3 for his team. And by the end of the season, Woodstock’s Luke Beattie was his team’s best runner.
It is conceivable those four could finish in the top 10 at the Fox Valley Conference Cross Country Meet on Saturday at Woodstock’s Emricson Park. The girls varsity race starts at 10 a.m., with the boys at 10:45.
Also, the Big Northern Conference Meet will be hosted by Genoa-Kingston on Saturday at Wal Camp in Kingston, with the girls race starting at 10 a.m. Marian Central will compete in the Suburban Christian Conference Meet at Marmion in Aurora, with the girls race starting at 10 a.m.
“It’s really good running against those guys all the time,” Smith said. “We’ve had our friendly races against each other. We all have fun running against each other. It’s nothing like we hate each other, it’s nice friendly rivalries we want to keep going as long as possible.”
Young girls frequently make an impact in cross country and track right away, but it usually takes boys more time to catch up to older runners. Not with these four. They may not catch McHenry junior Jesse Reiser, the heavy FVC favorite, but the sophomores should have some great races over the next two years.
“It’s pretty cool that a bunch of us will be racing the next two years,” said Beattie, one of the youngest in Woodstock’s famous running family. “I talk with them before and after races. We’ve gotten to know each other more in high school.”
The four knew each other through middle school competition. Smith had the most outstanding accomplishments at that level with four Illinois Elementary School Association state titles (two each in the 800 and 1,600 meters) and a second-place state finish in cross country.
Smith was a Northwest Herald All-Area second-team selection last year, while Conroy and Hahndorf were honorable-mention picks. All four earned All-FVC status.
“I know the Huntley kids better than I know Luke,” Hahndorf said. “In middle school, Keagan and I always raced against each other. It’s good having competition that pushes us all to get better and improve.”
Smith and Conroy have that advantage on a daily basis.
“I see [Conroy] every day and we can push each other,” Smith said.
Conroy finished seventh in the FVC Meet last year, while Smith was ninth.
“We’ve all been running against each other since middle school and it goes back and forth sometimes,” Conroy said. “Luke looked really strong this year in races we’ve had. Keagan’s looked really strong too.”
Beattie got everyone’s attention by taking third in the McHenry County Meet to start the season. Smith was fourth in that race, Hahndorf was seventh and Conroy was 10th.
“After county, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Beattie, whose sister Maura is the girls’ FVC favorite. “I really found out I could race up there and noticed my times getting faster and faster.”