Boys varsity cross country team ‘takes their mark’ in coveted California meet


Pictured are the 8 Varsity Cross Country runners that ran at the prestigious meet in California.

Tyler Yakimisky, Co-editor-In-Chief

  On Sep. 15, the boys varsity cross country team made history by being the first team ever from Illinois to participate in the invite-only Woodbridge Cross Country Classic at the SilverLakes Sports Complex outside Los Angeles.

In what is one of the most competitive meets in the country, MHS ran at 10 p.m. PST under the lights versus other ranked high school cross country teams from various states.

“It [was] truly an honor to be invited to this meet. To my knowledge, we [were] the first Illinois cross country team to ever go run in this meet,” said Head Boys Varsity Cross Country Coach Kurt Rutz in a phone interview.

Rutz has been with the school’s cross country program for 10 years and has had many successes, including winning the Lake County Art Campbell Invitational in 2016.

The team frequently cited that 2016 invitational as an important accolade because Art Campbell had been an MHS cross country coach at one time.

“We had MHS alumni reaching out to us and telling us how cool it was to win that in honor of him,” Senior Robert St. Clair said.

However, only eight of the 32 total runners on the boys cross country team were allowed to attend the California invite due to tournament regulations.

This regulation led to some difficulties, particularly when booking the flights.

“One thing is that airlines will only consider you a group if you have 10 or more, and we [were] only taking eight…, so logistically it became a bit of a nightmare,” Rutz said.

Despite the hardships Rutz may have faced, he said the headaches, such as booking all the travel plans, were well worth it to experience something that no other Illinois cross country team has done before.

“One thing I think that’s really cool is just to run under the lights,” Rutz said. “It is a very unique opportunity. It is very rare in cross country that you get the chance to do that.”

The runners were looking forward to it just as much as any other meet they have participated in before.

“It is a great opportunity to run with some of the best teams in the country,” St. Clair said.

Team members said they will use this meet to help them prepare for the postseason and to get more involved with prestigious associations.

“After the season, we are looking to be involved with the Nike National Series, and in order to be involved in that, we need to be able to compete at that high level,” Rutz said.

The Nike National Series is a top-tier cross country event that combines the eight regional winners from the Northwest, Heartland, Midwest, Southwest, South, Southeast, Northeast and New York.

The team was also excited for the chance to enjoy ‘the California lifestyle’ for a day before hopping back on the plane and heading home.

Before the trip, Dillon Blake, junior, said, “I am hoping to get some good food; the guys and I were talking about maybe trying some In-N-Out.”

Whatever the team ended up doing, the common goal among the team remained simple: “I hope to show California out there what Illinois is made of,” St. Clair said.

   The team ended up placing 16 out of 32 teams in the Sweepstakes/top level race.  Five hundred teams ended up competing from over 10 states. The best time came from Blake who finished 27 overall with a time of 14:38.