Senior Liam Newhart and his Oak Park and River Forest High School boys cross country teammates showed the results of their offseason training on the state’s biggest stage on Sept. 17.
At Peoria’s Detweiller Park, the annual course of the IHSA state meet, the Huskies (79 points) won the 71-team Richard Spring Invitational over top-ranked Hinsdale Central (186) and Wheaton Warrenville South (211).
Newhart, a 2021 Class 3A individual state qualifier, was third in a lifetime-best 14 minutes, 42.5 seconds. OPRF entered ranked No. 9 in Class 3A by ILXCTF.com
“It’s a huge confidence boost and does validate all of the work we put in. But again, we knew we were a very talented team,” Newhart said. “We’re happy with it and know there’s things we can do to improve upon and there are teams that are going to contend very closely with us.”
Juniors Dan Johnson (10th, 14:59.9) and Michael Michelotti (17th, 15:10.4), seniors Nick Parrell (18th, 15:11.8) and Owen Augustine (32nd, 15:27.5) also earned top-40 individual medals, followed by junior Lewis O’Connor (64th, 15:52.0) and senior Roan Egan (154th, 16:31.8).
“These guys have worked their tails off and it was great to see them put it together in a race,” OPRF coach Chris Baldwin said. “We did a workout this week and you could see the confidence swell in those guys.”
Newhart bested his 2021 state race (45th, 15:09.27) with a kick that missed second-place Oswego East senior Parker Nold by 0.2 seconds. Hinsdale Central competed without top runner Dan Watcke.
Johnson improved significantly from second in last year’s frosh-soph Spring Invite (16:06.5).
“I’m just excited to come out here and have such a great day and excited for the rest of the season, more big things to come,” Johnson said. “Today we made a statement.”
The No. 26 OPRF girls were sixth (308) ahead of several higher-ranked Class 3A teams.
Junior Katie Stabb was sixth (lifetime-best 17:25.6) – a strong improvement from her 2021 state meet (57th, 17:51.08) — followed by seniors Avery Minnis (55th, 19:04.8) and Natalie Quinn (63rd, 19:14.3) and juniors Lenny Sterritt (79th, 19:24.1), Anne Lynch (123rd, 19:51.4), Rachel Prestes (167th, 20:14.2) and Jenna Ahn (176th, 20:24.9).
“I’m not too shocked but I am really excited. It’s been a while since the state meet last year so I feel like I’ve done a lot since then,” Stabb said.
“I’m happy. They’re hungry for more,” OPRF coach Ashley Raymond said. “Katie has great racing instincts. I think she ran really smart.”