AURORA – Aurora Central Catholic effectively defended its home course at the Charger Nation Cross Country Classic by finishing second in the boys competition and fourth on the girls side Saturday morning.
The meet, held at Oakhurst Forest Preserve in Aurora, featured 34 teams, including a handful of teams from out of state. The meet was split into two divisions based on an enrollment cutoff of around 800, according to Aurora Central Catholic coach Troy Kerber.
"This is our first year of going divisional because the meet's grown so much that in order to properly facilitate a clean start, we had to go to divisions this year," Kerber said.
In the Blue Division on the boys side, which consisted of schools with a smaller enrollment, Rockford Christian (51) led the way, with ACC (73), St. Francis (77), Rock Falls (109), and Westmont (166) rounding out the top five.
ACC senior Javier Montelongo finished in third place overall with a time of 15:47.9. He attributed his familiarity with the course at Oakhurst to his success.
"It feels like it's familiar so that usually helps," Montelongo said. "It was pretty much the same old. I'm used to running on the course because I run here five days a week."
Kerber was impressed with Montelongo's effort and with the cohesive effort that the team brought to the meet.
"So far their best team race 1-through-5 all year," Kerber said. "We wanted to narrow the split gaps. But Javier's been racing well all year. He's had to shift his mind from being more of a mid-front runner to more of a front-pack runner and he's starting to get there and believe in himself."
In the boys Gold Division, Batavia notched a score of 101 to finish in third place behind Trinity (63) and Linn-Marr (81), and ahead of Normal University High (140) and Oswego East (150). St. Charles East placed six with a tally of 162.
Batavia senior Mitch Zabka finished with a time of 15:08.6 to earn fifth place.
"This course is so flat and it puts the right mindset in your head," Zabka said. "There's not a lot of uphills, it's a lot of downhill, a lot of flat. And I just love running through the woods. I just felt really good today."
Batavia coach Mike DiDomenico called his team's performance the best he's seen out of them this season.
"This was a great team race, a lot of great competition from outside of the state, Kentucky, Iowa, and this was probably one of our finest performances as a team collectively, so I'm excited for them," DiDomenico said. "It bodes well. We just have to stay strong, we have to stay healthy and we gotta believe in each other."
In the girls Blue Division race, St. Francis took first with a score of 63, Westmont finished second with 72, Rock Falls came in third with 102, ACC finished in fourth with 103 and Timothy Christian rounded out the top five with a score of 108.
ACC's Karina Liz came in sixth place overall with a time of 19:06.1 despite having to run with an injured IT band.
"I was really sore in my IT band before the race even started, and then I just ran the first mile really well and in the second one I started to feel it," Liz said.
"Karina just gutted it out," Kerber said of the sophomore. "There was a concern whether she would even race today and she raced for the team. What was really encouraging was the rest of our pack, our 3 through 7. We thought we made great progress today. That's what we wanted to do."
The girls Gold Division was led by Linn-Marr (70), followed by St. Ignatius (82), Normal University High (87), Metea Valley (104) and West Chicago (134).