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Cross Country: Naperville's Twilight Invitational still on with different format

Eight DuKane Conference schools, Benet among 15-team field Oct. 9-10

Wheaton Warrenville South's Samantha Poglitsch (left) and Batavia's Katrina Schlenker compete in the 1,600-meter run during the 2019 DuKane Conference Meet at Geneva High School on May 3.
Wheaton Warrenville South's Samantha Poglitsch (left) and Batavia's Katrina Schlenker compete in the 1,600-meter run during the 2019 DuKane Conference Meet at Geneva High School on May 3.

Naperville North’s Twilight Invitational will continue to shine this cross country season as one of the state’s highly-touted regular-season events.

On Monday, the event’s sixth annual races were officially announced for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10. It will be held once again on the 3.0-mile school campus course, but with a slightly different format.

This season, 15 schools will bring boys and girls entries – the eight DuKane Conference schools and six DuPage Valley Conference schools plus first-time invitee Benet Academy. No spectators will be allowed, but live streaming is planned.

The Redwings return all seven runners from their 2019 Class 2A girls state championship lineup. They found out Monday from coach Katie Paski.

“We’re all so excited with that level of competition we get to compete against. We’re also super excited because coming into the season with COVID, we didn’t know what chances we were going to get,” said Benet junior Amelia Parisi, 44th at state in 2019.

“It’s mind blowing to think with all of these crazy circumstances we’re still able to get into it for the first time, such a high-level meet, so we’re thrilled for it.”

Besides the high-quality competition, the event climaxes with the latter races under the lights with music blaring. All athletes finish by running approximately two-thirds of the way down the center of the football stadium field.

This year, the 15 varsity teams will be in three five-team races based upon seeding by the participating coaches. The times will be combined into one set of results.

The top-seeded groups are scheduled for 8 p.m. (boys) and 8:30 p.m. (girls) Friday. Only schools from the DVC, Naperville North’s conference, will compete in Friday’s earlier junior varsity and Saturday’s frosh-soph and open races.

Like years past, the event will be the week before conference meets. Other prominent regular-season invites have been canceled at Peoria’s Detweiller Park, the annual state course. Most area teams would have raced at Detweiller this past or coming Saturday.

“(Twilight is) definitely one of the highlights for our season every year,” Wheaton Warrenville South girls coach Rob Harvey said. “I’m glad that it’s there (this season). Without a state meet, it provides that state meet atmosphere for our kids, which we crave. We’re not going to Detweiller, but we’re going to Naperville North.”

Provisions are being made for high-caliber varsity runners to possibly compete in the top-seeded flights apart from their teams, but because of social distancing, no Twilight race will exceeded 42 runners.

The 2019 Twilight had 17 varsity girls and boys teams in one race apiece. Batavia and WW South were fifth and sixth in the girls race. Batavia and Geneva sent both girls and boys teams.

Last year’s Twilight girls field included what turned out to be the top six girls teams at state for 3A – Naperville North, Yorkville, Hinsdale Central, Batavia, Downers Grove South and Glenbard West. The Tigers were 12th at state.

“The atmosphere is incredible. If you’re successful and have a great race there, you set yourself up for a great state series,” Harvey said.

WW South boys coach Chris Kuntz also waited to tell his runners Monday about their Twilight debut after word was official.

“We are very excited about the possibility. It will be an opportunity to see some teams outside our conference,” Kuntz said. “It will be a great meet. However, we are just happy and grateful to be running and competing. We realize there are many athletes in other sports who are not able to. We will make the most out of our opportunities.”

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