SYCAMORE – Kaneland is not used to working this hard to finally win something more than a dual meet or a triangular.
In fact, the last time the Knights did it, they won a state title.
While the Knights won’t be able to defend that title since there won’t be a state competition this year, the team finished their limited regular season schedule on Saturday by winning the Interstate Eight Conference.
Kaneland beat runner-up Sycamore, 30-51, while Sandwich was in third place with a 92 points and Morris was fourth with a 116.
“This group has worked hard all season long to go out and earn more than a dual meet victory,” Kaneland coach Chad Clarey said. “I was pleased with how we raced today. It was a good battle between ourselves competing against some of the schools there.”
Kaneland senior Isaiah Dallal (16:53) completed his race almost 10 seconds faster than his nearest opponent, Sycamore senior Jack Cambier (17:02), who also ran well.
“Jack went within nine seconds of (Dallal) and he hasn’t been that close to him all year so I thought Jack ran a heck of a race,” Sycamore coach Mike Lambdin said. “And the kid from L-P (junior Ryan Hartman) had beaten Jack earlier this year.”
Dallal said thoughts of it being the final race of the regular season were strong.
“We knew it was our last race so we tried to make the best of it,” Dallal said. “It was pretty miserable with the weather. I didn’t get the time I wanted to, but I got to do what I wanted.”
Nolan Allen, who raced in the open division, took fourth place overall (17:10) for the Knights who also received strong performances from seniors Parker Malone (17:15) and Aaron Lodwig (17:21), juniors Logan Cunz (17:26) and Christian Phillips (17:33) and seniors Chris Fountain (17:38) and Charlie Fitts (17:40).
“Nolan separated himself from the rest of the pack and was running a little bit faster than the last time we were here in September,” Clarey said. “And that was despite the wind and the temps and everything else.”
Allen and Fitts were among seven Knights separated by just 30 seconds and that doesn’t even account for Dallal’s effort.
“Our seventh finisher Charlie Fitts had probably one of the best races,” Clarey said. “The guys are fighting to cement that last roster spot for the IHSA. (Chris) Fountain was two seconds ahead of our No 6. That’s a huge day.”
Sandwich’s Steve Aguilar and Plano’s Martin Diaz were neck-and-neck as the two seniors really seem to enjoy competing against one another. Diaz (17:15) barely bested Aguilar (17:16) this time, forcing his friendly foe into eighth place.
“I was happy that I was able to keep up with my rival at Plano,” Aguilar said. “I think it was a good race and I wasn’t too far behind anyone today. It wasn’t an ideal race to PR, but it was just about placing and I think I did a good job for my team.”
Aguilar figured third place was a good spot for the Indians based on what they had seen during fall duals. Their pack of sophomores Wyatt Miller (17:56) and Dayton Beatty (17:58), junior Johnny Rizzuto (18:10) and freshman Max Cryer (18:22) delivered.
“We weren’t planning on doing this race at the beginning of the season so conference was just going to be decided by places and points,” Aguilar said. “So today wasn’t a surprise; it was what was projected. I think we showed up today and everyone did a good job.”
On the girls side, Kaneland senior Olivia Franklin was third in 20:37 behind race winner Joy Dudley of Morris and Sycamore junior Lily Baker.
Kaneland beat runner-up Sycamore, 33-47, to win conference. Sandwich was third (89) and followed by Morris (102), Ottawa (150), Plano(163), LaSalle-Peru (164) and Rochelle (172).
Franklin, the top returning conference performer, was hoping that some of her competition would help block the wind for her, but acknowledgedt hat didn’t happen so she just went with it.
“I was expecting to be with the two Sycamore girls and Morris girls and stuck with them the best I could,” Franklin said. “I was happy with it. I felt it was a good race. I was happy with it.”
Sophomores Rose Dallal (21:02) and Lindsey Andrae (21:24), senior Mackenzie Egert (21:30) and junior Caroline Nosek (22:02) joined Franklin in leading the Knights to victory.
“I was really happy with how we did and we’ve been a lot closer the past few meets,” Franklin said. “We’re starting to group-up and I’ve been really happy with that. It hasn’t been the best year, but we’re going to keep doing well if we keep sticking together.”
Sandwich sophomore Alana Stahl (21:43) and senior Claire Roberts (21:53) finished eighth and ninth to lead the Indians.