ST. CHARLES – St. Charles North boys cross country coach Kevin Harrington senses a case of reverse senioritis in Kevin Davis.
Defined as routinely exhibiting the mindset of “Holy cow, this is my time,” the positive affliction first gripped Davis at the end of his junior season.
It soon claimed classmate Nathan Klair, too.
Should the North Stars hold off a tough batch of contenders to claim their fourth straight Upstate Eight Conference River Division title, it should be easy to pinpoint the catalyst.
“Just sensing that urgency, me and Nathan really saw that in our team that we needed to pick it up and maybe get motivated and get our team motivated,” Davis said. “We set our team in the right direction, I believe.”
North absorbed more graduation losses than in past seasons, losing four of its top five and five of its top seven from a team that finished as a regional and sectional runner-up en route to the IHSA Class 3A state meet.
Davis, Klair and classmate Austin Kyle took charge of the situation this summer.
The North Stars seniors organized team-building activities that included ultimate frisbee games as well as team breakfasts and dinners – most often at Randall’s Pancake House and Red Robin, respectively.
Once North’s annual team campout at Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin arrived late last month, the North Stars felt their camaraderie was in midseason form.
“As soon as we built up our team as a family, everyone wanted to show up at practice,” Davis said. “That’s what happened and now everyone wants to get going.”
Still, the motivation had to start somewhere, and Davis found it in joining Klair – North’s top returner – in his summer training regimen.
Weary of hanging around the edge of the top seven, Davis increased his summer mileage from 400 to 500, ranging between six and 15 miles a day and running seven days a week.
“It’s not that he wasn’t trying last year, it’s just that he was normal last year. A normal, good St. Charles North runner,” Harrington said. “And then has just taken it up another notch.”
Beyond Davis and Klair, North will need a pack of juniors that includes Hayden Joyce, Steve Lewandowski, Dylan Srocki, Max Markowicz, Justin Delgado and Danny Obernesser to mature quickly.
Harrington stressed not being overambitious in summer training. By next year, the goal will be for that group to make the progression Davis did.
“That’s a natural jump for a kid that’s done the work to get there,” Harrington said. “Usually, you don’t want to go too much, but the summer’s the time to jump. If you can handle it throughout the summer, boom, there you go.”
BOYS RUNNERS TO WATCH
Blaine Bartel, Geneva, Sr.
Coach Bob Thomson says Bartel is running “really, really well” in his bid to move up the top seven with classmate Dan Dudman.
Kyle Carter, Kaneland, Sr.
Also a standout track athlete, Carter overcame illness and injury down the stretch last season to be the Knights’ second runner on their 13th-place 2A state team.
Kevin Davis, St. Charles North, Sr.
North Stars coach Kevin Harrington is looking forward to seeing this longtime contributor “put it all together” as a senior.
John Graft, Marmion, Sr.
Cadets coach Dan Klatt tabs Graft as a possible top-30 state runner as long as he’s able to remain healthy.
Nathan Klair, St. Charles North, Sr.
North’s No. 2 runner in the 3A state meet last fall, Klair continued his climb into a lead role with a diligent summer training regimen.
Nathaniel Kucera, Kaneland, Sr.
Coach Chad Clarey appreciates having Kucera’s seasoning around as the Knights prepare for a postseason run against an ultra-competitive NI Big 12.
Javier Montelongo, Aurora Central Catholic, Sr.
Returning state qualifier paced the Chargers at annual Aurora City Meet this past weekend.
Clay Musial, Burlington Central, Jr.
Rockets are awaiting the latest in Musial’s development. He’s been solid since breaking onto the scene two seasons ago.
Chris Orlow, Batavia, Sr.
Six of Batavia’s top seven athletes return, including Orlow, who built strength and speed as a distance runner during track season.
Max Rowland, St. Charles East, Sr.
Rowland’s focus is rubbing off on others in workouts. “The guys have a great work ethic this year and are hungry to take the next step forward,” Saints coach Chris Bosworth said.
Lucas Werner, St. Charles East, Sr.
Looks to be at the front of a pack behind Rowland that should look familiar. Ten of the Saints’ top 12 athletes from last fall are back in orange and black.
Mitch Zabka, Batavia, Sr.
Veteran Bulldogs coach Mike DiDomenico calls this “the deepest team that we have ever had.” Zabka is one of the starting points.