Andy Preuss enjoyed quite a triumphant goodbye Saturday after more than 30 seasons as the Glenbard South boys cross country coach.
Or did he?
Preuss says this is his final season when he retires after 34 years at the high school, but his runners still are hopeful he might reconsider.
They certainly made a persuasive argument by finishing a strong second at the Class 2A state meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
The Raiders (128 points) were a convincing runner-up to Belvidere North (110) as sophomores John Wold (4th, 14:40) and Joe Singleton (11th, 14:59) earned individual all-state honors with top-25 finishes. Normal University (173) was third.
“We love (Preuss) as a coach so it was really emotional when we found out we got second because we’re like, ‘Maybe we can keep him with us and stay another year or two,’ ” Wold said. “And everyone just ran great races. It was awesome. Everyone put in the work and it paid off.”
Senior Scott Wurtz was 32nd (15:26), seven places and eight seconds shy of the 25th and final individual all-state spot, followed by sophomore Andrew Kladiva (68th, 15:54), junior Tommy Stoffels (72nd, 15:58), senior Peter Jaeger (116th, 16:22) and junior Erik Greenwell (147th, 16:34).
This is the program’s third trophy and second-highest finish to the 2001 Class AA state championship team, which was followed by a third in 2002. Competing at state last year as freshmen, Wold and Singleton were the lone returnees Saturday from that lineup, which finished 11th.
“It was an awesome performance. For our young guys, to go in there and handle the pressure was terrific. Everybody just did their job. That’s what we talked about: Just have fun and do your job,” Preuss said.
“It is right now (my last season),” he said with his familiar big smile, “(But) they’re working it.”
In Class 3A, perennial power and defending state champion York just missed out on a team trophy, the first time that's happened since 2001. The Dukes (151) were a close fourth to Neuqua Valley (144). Palatine (114) captured its first state championship and second-place O’Fallon (120) its first trophy ever.
St. Charles North (9th, 300) also finished among the top 10, followed by Lyons Township (15th, 374), Hinsdale Central (16th, 378), Wheaton North (17th, 387) and Wheaton Warrenville South (23rd, 473).
Downers Grove South senior Nick Kirk (14th, 14:45) and York junior Scott Milling (15th, 14:45) and sophomore Nathan Mroz (21st, 14:56) earned all-state honors for the first time.
The Tri Cities also had some individual qualifiers run at state, including senior Chris Spadafora. He finished 72nd in 15:26.
DG South's Kirk achieved the program’s highest state finish and is the program’s second all-stater in the schools history. York's Milling was the lone returnee from last year’s state championship lineup who competed Saturday.
Wold became Glenbard South’s second-highest individual state finisher next to Micah VanDenend’s state championship in 2001. That year also began a three-year streak of multiple all-staters that Wold and Singleton joined Saturday.
After the race, the pair still had plenty of energy left in them when the final team results were posted.
“When (Preuss) came back, crying, saying that we got second, everyone else was on the bus so it was just Joe and I that heard it. We went sprinting back and it was crazy. It all just felt like a dream,” Wold said.
Wold finished just behind third-place Charleston junior Riley McInerney (14:40) in a race won by Decatur MacArthur senior Michael Clevenger (14:26) for the second year in a row. Clevenger took the 2010 title in 14:35.
Last year, Wold was 29th, three seconds shy of the last all-state spot. Singleton, 109th and the Raiders’ No. 5 finisher, improved his position Saturday by a remarkable 98 places and 1:18.
“I told myself over the summer, ‘Guys are going to be faster than me, but no one’s going to work harder than me,’ ” Singleton said.
Wurtz, the team’s “secret weapon,” as Preuss called him, also emerged after being hampered by injuries in past years. Singleton said summer running planted the seed for the Raiders’ overall success.
“It was on a run coming back from the woods and everyone was really tired. I told them, ‘The more it sucks now, the less it’ll suck later.’ And they all said, ‘Singleton, that’s really cool,’ ” Singleton said. “Right then, I knew that everyone was going to give 110 percent during the season and we were going to work as hard as we could.”
In Class 3A, York gave another great team effort but fell just seven points shy of another trophy. Since Joe Newton became head coach in 1960, the Dukes have collected 43 trophies, including 27 state championships.
The Dukes’ top-five finishers Saturday were all underclassmen, followed by seniors Carlos Vega and Billy Clink, a transfer student who competed at state with St. Charles North’s team the past two seasons.
Kirk made Downers Grove South history by exceeding the 18th-place state finish by David Mitchell at the 2000 Class AA state meet. In their first state appearances, Kirk ran a personal-best time by 40 seconds while senior teammate Harrison Miles (51st, 15:16) also ran a personal best despite running most of the race with a loose shoe that he later ditched.
“It was probably the one race I’ve actually enjoyed this whole season. Usually, the races are tough,” said Kirk, who achieved his goal of a sub-15:00 race.
“I kind of surprised myself, too. I didn’t know I was going to have such a good race. I came in with allergies, a stuffy head. I was kind of iffy. I was feeling really nervous. But after that first downhill, I just felt great and had a fun race after that.”
“These two guys have run, I would bet, more mileage in their four years of high school than anybody else that’s gone through school here and it paid off,” Downers Grove South coach Brian Caldwell said.
“I can’t say that we saw a 14:45 coming on a day like this, 14th place, but we knew (Kirk) had a shot to do something pretty good. He ran best race of the year last week (in sectionals at Lockport’s treacherous Dellwood Park). He’s never been very confident running on hills so we knew that when we got him on a flat course like this, he was going to be able to let it rip a little bit.”
The final all-stater was Danville sophomore Johnny Leverenz (25th, 15:01). York sophomore Kyle Mattes was 30th (15:05), and St. Charles North seniors Zach Heuer (15:13) and Declan Duggan (15:14) and Geneva junior Michael Bianchina (15:14) finished 41st through 43rd.
St. Francis (518) was 23rd in the Class 2A race. In Class 1A, Timothy Christian (510), making its first team state appearance since 1989, was 22nd.