Days like the IHSA Hoffman Estates Sectional meet felt like a dream earlier this season.
A sectional meet was not scheduled to happen with everything that’s taken place in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
So when New Trier put together its strongest performance of the season on Saturday, Oct. 31, to win a sectional title, it felt like a dream come true.
“I thought we weren’t even going to make it to this point because of coronavirus,” junior Nick Falk said. “We talked about this, we’re just grateful to be racing, especially so well.”
The Trevians had a complete performance in a sectional meet that was far from normal. Teams competed in five different flights of races to keep social distance during the competition.
This forced some adjustments, but the Trevians responded with some of their strongest runs of the season.
Falk led the way for New Trier, which finished first with 50 points, defeating second-place Barrington’s 72. Lake Zurich finished third with 86 while Hersey and Loyola Academy finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
The junior runner finished third overall and third in the first race of the meet, finishing with a time of 15 minutes, 19.05 seconds. Warren’s Luke Wiley won the individual sectional crown at 15:07.27.
But New Trier flexed its depth once again, placing all of its runners in the top 20. Senior Charlie Siebert finished fourth overall at 15:22.33. Junior George Cahill finished 13th overall at 15:44.05, while senior George Esteve finished 15th (15:45.95) and senior Conor O’Neil finished 19th (15:54.60).
While the winds and the conditions weren’t ideal, New Trier coach Matt Sloan was proud of the total team effort his runners gave at the last official meet of the season.
“What you seek is to run your best meet at the end of the year and they did,” Sloan said. “They did a really nice job across the board.”
Junior Spencer Werner continued to lead the way for the Ramblers, finishing fifth overall at 15:27.85.
Loyola head coach Dan Seeberg knows Werner still has another level to reach, but he was impressed with the way Werner battled against some of the top runners in the state.
Junior Aidan Simon also impressed for the Ramblers, finishing 24th at 16:02.12. Senior Spencer Dzyacky (16:24.49) finished 45th, junior Harry Wood Prince (16:34.38) finished 53rd and senior Michael Somos (16:43.86) finished 60th.
The meet was far from normal with the multiple flights, but that’s not the only reason why Seeberg will remember this meet when he looks back on the season.
He’ll remember how his runners united in the spring after their track season was canceled so they could work together and make sure to be ready for a cross-country season, even when it wasn’t a sure thing.
“The commitment they showed then was really inspiring and I think I’ll always remember that more than the season itself,” Seeberg said.
The sectional marked the official end of the season, as the state championship was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. Despite an abnormal season, there will be plenty of memories.
Not traveling to compete against distant competition and smaller meets will be two of them, but just having the ability to compete will be the first for many runners and coaches.
“This season is going to be remembered for a lot of things, but I’m not going to remember COVID,” Sloan said. “I’m going to remember everything they achieved in the positives.”
They’ll remember a sectional title and the chance to run, a dream come true.
Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He also contributes to The Varsity podcast.