The Oswego East cross country runners will compete this Saturday, October 31st, in the sectional finals, after both teams took part in regionals last weekend.
Only a few months back, due to the pandemic, the likelihood of a season was little to none, let alone the chances to compete for a sectional championship. The schedules were tentative, and the hopes of a season were diminishing among runners.
Junior Charlie McElyea said that he had some worries regarding the state of their season.
“There was just the looming question of: ‘Will we even have a season?’ because back in June there was a lot of uncertainty. We did not even know we were having a season until the season was actually here,” McElyea said.
Despite not knowing how the season would play out, the Wolves still took initiative to prepare during quarantine by themselves.
“It really forced them to grow up and take initiative of their work over the off season,” Boys’ Head Coach James Milner said.
This work seemed to pay off, displayed by early success of these motivated athletes. The Wolves tasted victory early on as the young Pack flourished in the midseason Yorkville invite.
Sophomore Alex Das, who has been running with the Varsity squad, displayed signs of a great young runner in this meet and praised the team success as well.
“In the Yorkville invite, I was able to run against some of the best runners in the conference, as well as some of the best in the state. Everyone went out hard, and I had my [personal record] that race,” Das said.
The young core and upperclassmen leadership is a unique trait of the men’s team that has been highly commended upon.
“Nick Hentz and Charlie McElyea bring a lot of leadership and experience to the team. We all bond well together,” Das added.
McElyea gave credit to the underclassmen runners themselves. He praised them for their high potential and superb performances this season.
“We have a very young pack coming up, and they are all very, very talented. With that said, at the skill that they have at such a young age, they are only going to get better. I’d give it this year and the following year until they become a powerhouse team. Going into state, they will be a force to be reckoned with,” McElyea said.
This past weekend, Das and Henz finished in 9th and 11th place in the regional meet, respectively, and advanced to the sectional final this upcoming Saturday.
The boys’ team is not without company in its recent success. Meanwhile, the Lady Wolves provided a variety of spectacular running performances since their first meet.
The women share a similar confidence as the men, despite the unpredictability of this season.
Senior leader Naylah Allen of the Wolves said that the team has grown in its confidence over the course of the season.
“The one thing [with this team] is that there is no true limitation. Anything can happen if you just work hard and believe in yourself. Running is so much based on the mind,” Allen said.
The girls’ cross country team faced tough competition early and often, taking on Minooka, Yorkville, and Oswego. All three of these opponents ranked in the top 10 of the IHSA preseason rankings.
“Not that we wanted this to happen, but realistically we could lose our first three weeks of the season and we could still be a top 15 team,” Girls’ Head Coach Lisa Cook said.
However, the team took initiative early on, as they beat two out of their first three ranked teams.
“We beat Minooka [week one] which surprised a lot of people. We lost to Yorkville, which is a very good team though, and beat Oswego as well which was a highly touted team based on their returning runners,” Cook added.
The Wolves had a spark of greatness once again last weekend at regionals. Six out of the top 25 placements were from Oswego East, including the 12th, 13th, and 14th spots held by junior Madison Zarembski, senior Naylah Allen, and freshman Morgan Dick, respectively.
This effort pushed the Oswego East girls’ team to second place, only behind Naperville North, allowing them entry into the sectional finals.
The women have sent at least one runner to state since the 2017 season and aspire to continue that streak this year.
Both teams will compete at the sectional meet on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Morgan Park in Chicago.
Charles Jaegle is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl