Lyons Township senior Danny Kilrea came to his third Nike Cross Nationals on Dec. 2 at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Ore., with plenty of momentum – and experience with the 5,000-meter course.
“It’s one of the most difficult courses I’ve run on. It’s super muddy and super hilly,” Kilrea said. “That last mile is insanely hard because the course is a loop. You pass certain spots three times so it gets pretty torn. It takes a lot of muscle. I made sure to leave enough at the end to have a strong finish.”
Kilrea and Glenbard West sophomore Katelynne Hart came through with top-five finishes as the respective top finishers from the Midwest Region – one of the nation’s nine qualifying regions.
Hart was fourth in the girls race (17:41.6) and Kilrea was fifth in the boys race (15:14.5) and both received top-10 trophies. The boys team with runners from Class 3A state champion Downers Grove North was fourth (187), 24 points from third place, as the top Midwest representative.
On Nov. 4 in Peoria, Hart and Kilrea were the respective Class 3A champions at the cross country state meet, which is 3 miles. Kilrea won the Nike Midwest Regional as a junior and was second Nov. 12 in Terre Haute, Ind., (15:00.0 to 14:57.6) to Lakota East (Liberty Township, Ohio) senior and Indiana University recruit Dustin Horter, who finished sixth (15:21.2) in Oregon.
Kilrea, who will run at Notre Dame, was 1.9 seconds from fourth at Nike Nationals and 6.9 seconds from his goal of a top-three finish. Kilrea improved from 13th in 2016 (15:50.5) and 45th in 2015 (15:48.3).
“I was going up against a lot of the best kids in the nation who have very strong kicks,” Kilrea said. “I was a little disappointed in my finishing speed, but I went out there and competed with heart and that’s all I can ask for.”
Hart’s 17:28.6 won her rainy Nike Cross Midwest Regional by 5.3 seconds. On Dec. 2, Hart finished 4.8 seconds from third as she improved from last year’s 18th-place finish (18:01.5).
The runners from Downers North were the Midwest Regional team champions. Senior Jacob Ridderhoff (55th, 15:59.8) had the highest finish, followed by seniors Nick Chudzik (59th, 16:01.1) and Ryan Birkmeier (74th, 16:12.3), junior Jack Roberts (85th, 16:18.2) and seniors Sam McCool (96th, 16:23.7), Miles Christensen (114th, 16:32.3) and Brendan Lockerby (189th, 17:27.2). Birkmeier, Chudzik, Birkmeier and McCool were part of last year’s national lineup that finished 12th.
Next comes Foot Locker Nationals Dec. 9 in San Diego.
At the Midwest Regional Nov. 25 in Kenosha, Wis., Kilrea (14:53.3) won his 5K by 12.1 seconds. Hart (17:17.1) was second to Lansing (Mich.) Catholic senior Olivia Theis (17:13.4), who won her Division 2 state title Nov. 4 in a state-record 16:52.1 for 5,000 meters.