PEORIA – Before the season, veteran Batavia boys cross country coach Mike DiDomenico called the 2013 Bulldogs his deepest group to date.
On Saturday, Batavia showed well at the scene where it hopes that claim will resonate the most.
Competing at Detweiller Park, site of the state meet, the Bulldogs finished eighth in the 3A boys race at the First To The Finish Invitational. Seniors Chris Orlow (25th, 15:19.77) and Mitch Zabka (29th, 15:20.58) paced Batavia to a team score of 318 in the 45-team competition.
The race – and the entire event – was well-stocked with Chronicle-area athletes hoping to see Detweiller again in November. Geneva's Blaine Bartel (26th, 15:19.89), St. Charles North's Nathan Klair (33rd, 15:23) and Marmion's Brady Bobbitt (79th, 15:46) led their respective teams.
Scoring an aggregate 249, Geneva placed ninth in the 3A girls race behind McKenzie Altmayer (14th, 18:07) and Emma McSpadden (21st, 18:18).
Kaneland navigated a 2A boys field of 52 teams and more than 750 runners to place 11th. Ryan Bower (40th, 15:55) and Luis Acosta (71st, 16:21) were at the head of a pack of four Knights in the top 100.
"We feel like we have a lot of room for growth, and we realize that we have about five weeks to put our pieces in place ahead of the conference meet," Knights coach Chad Clarey said.
In the 2A girls race, top area runners included Meghan McShea of St. Francis (41st, 19:07) and Katie Bush of Burlington Central (80th, 19:44).
For the 1A girls, ACC's Karina Liz was 19th in 18:48, while Aurora Christian counterpart Becca Wert took 90th in 20:32.
Royal Cadet Invitational: At Aurora, Geneva finished fourth in the boys race and sixth in the girls race at Marmion behind strong runs from Steve Creger (12th, 17:13) and Emma Ehrhardt (10th, 20:02), respectively.
In the girls race, Batavia sophomore Dakota Roman placed second in 18:55 to help the Bulldogs to a fourth-place finish. Rosary finished eighth among 14 teams behind Emily Martin (ninth, 19:58). Wheaton Academy was fourth, with 11th-place Gretchen Pearson (20:03) leading the way.
Wheaton Academy was third in the boys race behind a trio of top-10 individual finishers led by Noah Van Dyke (third, 16:29). Anthony Pullano (26th, 18:08) paced sixth-place Marmion.
Wauconda Invitational: At Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda, Brianna Bower finished ninth individually to help Kaneland take 14th in the 23-team event.
East wins Prairie Ridge Invite: At Crystal Lake, St. Charles East improved to 11-3 by going 4-1 in the tournament, including a 25-20, 25-16 sweep of Crystal Lake Central in the final match. Dana Voltolina (25 kills), Megan Schildmeyer (24) and Mikaela Mosquera (23) paced a balanced attack on the day. Carly Jimenez dished 15 assists in the final.
East defeated Upstate Eight Conference River Division rival Batavia, 25-12, 25-17, earlier in the day. The teams meet in league play on Oct. 15 in St. Charles.
Batavia (7-9) went 2-3 in the tournament overall. The Bulldogs' leaders included: Heather Meyer (38 kills, 43 digs), Maddi Jaudon (46 digs) and Audrey Faulhaber (87 assists).
Aurora Christian 59, Walther Lutheran 7: At Melrose Park, Aurora Christian improved to 3-0 by overwhelming another opponent, this one a Suburban Christian Conference crossover foe.
Legend Smith rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Austin Bray threw for 245 yards and four scores.
The Eagles, who host Wheaton Academy next week, did allow their first touchdown of the season, but still hold a 178-7 scoring edge on opponents this season.
"I think we'll be fine," Eagles coach Don Beebe said. "It is giving us an opportunity with the first three games here to iron things out, but things are going to get faster for us in the next few weeks pretty quickly."