WOODSTOCK – Crystal Lake Central looked at its race Saturday with most discerning eyes.
The Tigers realized repeating as team champion at the Fox Valley Conference cross country meet was a substantial accomplishment.
Yet, as the No. 4-ranked team in Class 2A by the website Illinois Prep Harrier, Central also knows it must improve to reach its ultimate goal and bring home a state trophy.
“I feel like we’re getting there,” said Tigers senior Ryan Pitner, who was runner-up to McHenry’s Jesse Reiser. “But if we keep working hard and everything, we’ll get there. We’re going to take the [training] miles down a little and that should help guys. We did pretty well.”
The Tigers finished with 59 points, which put them comfortably ahead of runner-up Jacobs with 88 at Emricson Park. Prairie Ridge (127) was third. Central’s P.J. McKay was ninth, followed by Zach Gemmel (12th), Nick Amato (13th) and Cole Barkocy (23rd) among the scoring runners.
Jacobs was led by Matt Johnson in fourth and Zach Johnson in 14th. Central won the FVC Fox Division dual meet title; Jacobs was the FVC Valley dual champion.
“We ran well, I don’t think anybody had a bad race,” Tigers coach Bill Eschman said. “What’s nice is none of them quit. Some had high expectations and when that happens, some can give up and none of them did. They all fought, they ran through some adversity.”
Eschman lauded the efforts of McKay, who usually is Central’s No. 4 runner.
“I felt pretty strong,” McKay said. “In the first mile, I got trapped in. I really took it out in the second and third miles, that’s when I started picking off guys. [Woodstock’s Luke] Beattie passed me with a half-mile, he’s a great runner and he outkicked me at the end.”
Reiser, a junior and one of the state’s top Class 3A runners, won in 15:30.5, with Pitner second in 15:34.8. Huntley sophomore Keagan Smith was third in 15:56.4.
“I thought I went out a little fast in the first 800, then in the second 800 we found our own pace,” Reiser said. “I tried to separate as soon as possible.”
Reiser left shortly after the race for Champaign for an unofficial visit to Illinois. He planned to attend the Fighting Illini’s football game against Wisconsin with former Prairie Ridge runner Joe Cowlin.
Pitner was closer to Reiser than their previous races.
“He’s really fast,” Pitner said. “I closed the gap a little, but he still had a big lead on me.”