Eagles bounce back

Jones places tenth at Shazam XC Club Championships

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Andy Niser ’21 during the Shazam Cross Country Championships. Photo courtesy of Andy Niser ’21

After a disappointing performance at Sectionals, the Eagles were still given a chance at the Shazam Club Championships and took advantage by finishing 10th. 

The Shazam Championships was a 5K race that was meant to replace the IHSA State Championships that was canceled.

 It featured the top 20 teams in the state, based on the Milesplit Illinois website rankings. Similar to sectionals this was a flighted race with each team’s sixth and seventh runners in flight one, fourth and fifth runners in flight two, second and third runners in flight three, and number one runners and individual qualifiers in flight one. 

To start off the day for the Eagles, Ethan Sterling ‘22, and Matthew Desantis ‘23 finished 12th and 17th in their flight respectively. Overall, they finished 97th and 112th respectively. Both runners started off in the back of the field and progressively moved up during the race. Sterling finished with a time of 17:09.72, and Desantis finished with a time of 17:21.68, according to Shazam Racing. 

In the next flight Luke Benes ‘21 and Ryan San Juan ‘21, executed the same strategy of starting off in the back of the pack and then moving up the field. Benes finished with a time of 16:47.96, in 12th place in his flight and 68th overall. San Juan finished in 20th in his flight and 87th overall with a time of 17:03.08.

Flight three featured some of the top runners in the state. The Eagles ran Andy Niser ‘21 and Michael Sommese ‘21. Sommese had an off race finishing in 38th in his flight and 138th overall with a time of 17:38.35. Niser, however, started off in the middle of the pack and then made a move during the second mile to get into second place in his flight. He ended up dying off a bit in the third mile but still managed to finish seventh in his flight and 18th overall. This was good enough for all Shazam, in a time of 16:04.12. 

Aaron Hou ‘21 ran the last flight of the day for the Eagles. He started off in the very back, and then progressively moved up the field each mile. He ended up passing five runners in the last 200 meters to finish in 15th in his flight and 27th overall, in a time of 16:12.88. Overall, the team finished in tenth place. 

“I was pretty happy with it, I think we went in there with a goal of being top ten, and for the most part we all had really good races, and we all did what we needed to do,” said Sterling. “Going into the meet we knew we did not need any heroic performances; we just needed to run our races.”

  The strategy for the races was to start off in the back of the race and then move up from there. 

“We knew that it was going to be a very quick field, and so we used our endurance to our strength,” said Sterling. “Coach told us to get out in the back half of the race, and I think a lot of us executed that really well.”

Sterling was a key runner for the team in both the Sectional and Shazam meet, to be the number five runner. 

I would be remiss if I did not talk about Ethan Sterling though,” said Head Coach Andrew Adelmann. “Two weeks in a row though, Ethan stepped up as our fifth guy when others had an off day and gave us the performance we needed.”

Both Niser and Hou stepped up again for the Eagles, allowing them to achieve their goal of a top ten finish. 

“At Shazam, Hou had one of the gutsiest finishes I’ve seen to pass five guys in the last 200m, which ended up being the reason we finished in the top-ten,” said Adelmann. “Niser came up huge at Shazam, having the best race of his entire career; he finished ‘All-Shazam’ with an eighteenth place finish, which is an incredible accomplishment.”

Niser said his performance was incredible as his goal coming into the race was only to place in the top 50.

“It’s pretty incredible,” said Niser. Coming into Jones I had not run at all, so to finish off my senior year of cross country as a top 20 runner in the state, is kind of almost in a way a dream come true.

Niser said he was not only proud of his performance, but also the overall team’s finishing top ten in the state of IL. 

“I am super proud of the team for accomplishing our goal of finishing top ten,” said Niser. “Finishing top ten in Illinois especially which is one of the top states for cross country in the entire nation feels incredible.”

Although Adelmann said it was overall a strong performance there were still some weaknesses. 

“We did lose some key points right at the finish by getting passed,” said Adelmann. “We can still do a better job of closing things out.”  

Despite this Adlemann said most of the runners put in all the effort that they could. 

“Nobody finished with anything left in the tank,” said Adelmann. “Matthew DeSantis, who ran his first varsity race of the year, could not stand up for over an hour after the race, while guys like Ryan San Juan and Luke Benes barely staggered off the finish line.”