High mileage over quarantined summer leads to successful fall season for boys’ cross country

Senior Matthew Cull begins the race at Glenbrook North on Thursday, Sept. 15. At this meet, the varsity team beat GBN 14-42. (Photo courtesy Matthew Cull)

By Emma Crosson, Sports Editor

To keep in shape, the boys’ cross country team practiced every day after school, running an average of seven miles a day and up to 50 miles a week. The team dedicated time to practice ever since the start of quarantine. With the boys’ track and field program being shut down in March, the task of maintaining the quality of their runs fell to the boys themselves.

“When we got word the lockdown was getting extended into e-learning, Coach Nordahl wasn’t able to send us stuff to do, so we made things up on our own,” senior Matthew Coyle said. “As time went on and the stay at home order got put in place, our group numbers went down a lot, and we split up into smaller groups so that way everyone could have at least one person to run with. We were pretty much making up our own stuff and running together up until the start of summer and June.”

Over the summer, the team was able to organize times to meet and partake in high mileage training, particularly while running in those small groups.

“Coach Nordahl was able to get in contact with us again, and he set up these running groups for us to take over,” Coyle said. “The rule in Illinois at that time was groups of 10 or less, so among all of the seniors, we got groups to look over. After getting paired up with a group, we sent them workouts and looked after them on runs.”

Towards the end of June, the IHSA guidelines changed, allowing summer camps to start up.

“When Maine South started to allow for ‘conditioning’ days, things slowly started to turn normal for our training again,” Coyle said. “It got better and better throughout the summer, and we met in the mornings like usual over at Maine South for our camp, and Coach Nordahl and the other coaches took over leading. Things weren’t exactly the same–new safety measures were put in place for us and we weren’t allowed inside for weight training or anything–but besides that, it felt like normal.”

With the loss of many key runners, the team was unsure of how this season would play out. Despite originally thinking it may just be a season to rebuild as a team, they were able to pull up multiple sophomores to the varsity level.

“I was really confident about where our team was at while headed into competition this season,” senior Eamon Brady said. “We lost a ton of our top guys from last year and it wasn’t clear if we could come back this year as a competitive team, but everyone has stepped up and seems ready to compete just like last year. We have three seniors returning from last year’s state team, but other than that, we have lost everyone. [The sophomores] have been doing awesome so far and have filled the shoes of the guys that left.” 

At the sectional race at Lyons Township on Saturday, Oct. 31, the varsity team placed fourth, and at the CSL Conference race at New Trier on Saturday, Oct. 17, the team took second place, with New Trier in first. At the previous Loyola Invite on Friday, Oct. 2, the team placed fifth, and on Saturday, Sept. 19, against Sandburg, Lincoln-Way East, and Hersey, Maine South placed second, with Matthew Coyle in first place, Matthew Cull in sixth place, and Eamon Brady in eighth place. 

Brady, Coyle, and Cull have all qualified as All-Conference runners. Brady and Coyle have additionally qualified as All-Sectional runners. Coyle himself was recently rated the 17th-ranked runner in Illinois, as the team won meets against Glenbrook South (21-34), Glenbrook North (14-42), and the Loyola Fight Invite. In addition, Coyle has joined the top-five times leaderboard for the 18-year-old Maine South home course with a time of 15:05.2, which was also Coyle’s own personal record.

Although IHSA did not hold a state meet, the Maine South team was invited to participate in a makeshift state meet by ShaZam. Twenty teams from Illinois competed in three different divisions. The Maine South team placed 20th; however, it does not define the amount of dedication and effort the athletes prepared for the season. Brady additionally qualified as an all-state runner.

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