Boys Cross Country Qualifies for State for the First Time in School History

By Nate Schapmann

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Some said they were so obscure, so off the radar, so out of it, that after the Niles West Boy’s Cross Country team took fifth at their Regional meet on Saturday, Oct. 22, they weren’t to be considered even as a dark horse going into the Sectional meet.  It was fair to say that, aside from the meet being held on their course, the Wolves would be utterly invisible at the race, falling to other teams such as Maine South and Niles North. However, they beat both the Vikings and the Hawks Saturday, Oct. 29, earning a trip to Peoria on Nov. 5 for the State meet for the first time in school history.
The Wolves had qualified individuals for state  before–such as Alex Zasso in 2008, George Davros in 2009, and senior Neal Omar last season–but had never made it as a team. As senior Marc-Daniel Julien crossed the finish line, garnering a time of 15:21.07 and a ninth place finish in the meet followed closely behind by four other seniors, Omar, Masafumi Hoshi, Blake Helton, and David Iverson, the beginning of a new era was set for Niles West Cross Country.

After immense celebration with his teammates, Julien was still ecstatic about the team’s performance.

“We were just fighting for one more race.  All that hard work and running over the summer finally paid off.  I’m sorry… but this is just so surreal.  I just can’t believe it,” he said.

First-year head coach Mike Grossman was overjoyed, saying, “All I could do was give them advice or tell them what workouts to do, but they were the ones who were so enthusiastic about working hard.  No one deserves this more than these group of guys.”

Almost overshadowing the jubilation, Omar, who was later treated for dizziness, was ruled to have collapsed just feet before the finish line.  Omar rolled over the line, and meet officials, who originally ruled that a Maine South runner had crossed the line before him, took a second look at the finish,  finally settling on the fact that Omar finished the race ahead of the Maine South runner, thus taking away the Hawks’ fifth spot and an automatic team qualification for state.

Despite Omar’s health concerns at Sectionals, Coach Grossman is confident in him at the State meet.

“He didn’t eat or drink anything all day, and it showed, but he’ll be ready for state,” he said.