CLIFTON — Six local cross country teams got together at Central High School on Saturday for the Twin Valley Conference meet in hopes of earning all-conference honors.
The Comets hosted local teams Beecher, Cissna Park, Dwight, Iroquois West and Tri-Point, but it was Paxton-Buckley-Loda that came out on top in the team standings in both races with help from individual wins in both the girls and boys races.
With P-B-L dominating the meet on both sides, it left local squads Beecher, Central and Iroquois West to battle it out for second place.
In the boys race, Beecher edged out Iroquois West, who beat them earlier in the season to take second place. The Bobcats finished with 50 points, six less than the Raiders.
“I was really happy to see we ended up beating Iroquois West as a team,” Beecher boys coach David Smulson said. “It shows me that even though we don’t have that guy running in 15 or 16 minutes, we can compete with teams that do have those guys because it’s about the top five and not the top individual.”
Beecher’s revenge against Iroquois West was thanks to Aidan Ward, Russell Ward and Cody Graniczny, who each finished in the top 10 individually to help claim all-conference selections.
Aidan Ward finished first for the Bobcats, setting a personal record with a time of 17 minutes and 44 seconds to take sixth place overall. Russell Ward followed closely with a seventh-place finish as he concluded the 3-mile race in 17 minutes and 48 seconds for his personal record. Graniczny rounded out Beecher’s all-conference selections with a time of 18 minutes and nine seconds, which was good enough for ninth.
In addition to the top three Bobcat runners, Beecher also had its No. 4 and No. 5 runners set their personal records. Andre Kellum set his personal best time with a time of 18 minutes and 45 seconds, as did Ryan Gayton, who ran in 18 minutes and 50 seconds.
“They are hitting it at the right time; we have three weeks until our peak race,” Smulson said. “So, they are getting better, and I’m not surprised because they have been training well.”
Iroquois West wanted to finish second on the evening but ended up taking third in the boys race with 56 team points.
“Our goal going into today was to shoot for second place,” Iroquois West coach Jim Price said. “That was our goal and mindset coming in. … We almost accomplished it, but we didn’t quite get it. It’s all right, though.”
Connor Price led the Raiders with the best area finish, taking second overall with a time of 16 minutes and 51 seconds. He was followed by Lucas Alvarez, who finished eighth overall with a time of 18 minutes and six seconds to round out Iroquois West’s two all-conference runners.
Finishing third for the Raiders was Jacob Kuiper, who ran his personal best with a time of 18 minutes and 12 seconds. Tony Espinosa ran in 19 minutes and three seconds, and the fifth finisher for the Raiders was Diego Ochoa, who ran in 19 minutes and nine seconds.
“We are not quite where we need to be yet, but we are getting there,” Price said.
Last but not least was the Timberwolves, who finished in fourth as a team with 112 points.
Cissna Park’s top runners were Malaki Verkler (18:43), Ian Rogers (21:48), Gavin Savoreer (23:02), Chase Petry (23:30) and James Yergler (24:52).
“This is the first year we had a full team for the boys,” Cissna Park coach Dan Prieto said. “So, we were pretty excited about it and were hoping to place third, but we took fourth, and I’m happy with that.”
Dwight, Central and Tri-Point also participated in the boys race, but they each failed to field a full team to qualify for team scoring.
The Trojans were led by Michael Michon (21:39), followed by Ethan Mack (21:46) and Shawn Romanetto (23:11).
Central’s Hunter Davis became an all-conference selection after finishing fourth overall with a time of 17 minutes and 12 seconds. Christian Ladehoff finished with a time of 19 minutes and 12 seconds. The last runner for Central was Carter Swanson, who ran in 19 minutes and 28 seconds.
Tri-Point brought two runners to compete in the boys race. Jose Amador led the Chargers with a time of 21 minutes and 20 seconds, and Ayden McNeill ran in 21 minutes and 45 seconds.
On the girls side, P-B-L ran away with the victory much like the boys race, but it was the Comets who got the best of the Bobcats to finish in second place. Central squeaked past Beecher by one point to claim second place with a team score of 56 points.
A lot of Central’s success had to do with the fact all five of the Comets' top runners finished in the top 15, including Laney Bottorf, who claimed all-conference honors after finishing ninth overall in a time of 22 minutes and 18 seconds.
The other top finishers for Central were Alana Gray (22:37), Alexis Ward (PR*, 23:16), Marley Green (23:37) and Sidney Marquie (23:52).
“None of my girls were in the top three for either Beecher or P-B-L, but then once my first girl finished, my second, third, fourth and fifth girl finished right behind,” Central coach David Ladehoff said. “So, they were able to pack things together so close.”
Beecher claimed third place after finishing with 57 team points. Aaralynn Martinez (second, 19:52), Sydney Bonham (fourth, 21:36) and Trinity Bonham (sixth, 22:05) each managed to make the all-conference team after finishing in the top 10.
“Aaralynn is only a freshman, and my other top two are only sophomores,” Bobcats coach Larissa Swanson said. "It’s a really exciting prospect for the future. Hopefully at some point, they are not only all-conference but they can make the top five in the next coming years.”
Beecher’s Nos. 4 and 5 runners finished 22nd and 26th overall. Emilee Huenerberg ran in 25 minutes and 34 seconds, and Aniya Killis rounded out Beecher with a time of 26 minutes and 23 seconds.
“Our top three really held in there, which was good,” Swanson said. “So, it’s really just getting our fourth and fifth in the lower numbers as far as the race goes to get our total lowered.”
Rounding out the girls race was Iroquois West, which finished fourth with 73 team points. Samantha Hartke claimed the only all-conference selection for the Raiders after taking third overall with a time of 19 minutes and 56 seconds.
“Samantha ran really well today, and she set her personal record,” Price said. “She’s really coming along, and I think she wants to be down to 18 minutes before regionals.”
The rest of the Raiders' top finishers were Maggie Thorne (23:25), Tatum Wilms (24:08), Autumn Melgoza (24:57) and Riley Klump (26:01).
“We knew going into it we weren’t going to win anything with the girls,” Price said.
Just like the boys race, Tri-Point failed to field a full squad. Kyra Cathcart ran in 26 minutes and 52 seconds, and Ellenie Dyrby finished in 29 minutes and 21 seconds.