Time to run, pass and kick off fall

Hinsdale Central cross country and football teams lead off season preview series

For the first installment in our preview series of Hinsdale Central's fall sports squads, we look at the boys and girls cross country squads and the football teams. Both running programs are relying on younger team members to pick up the pace to continue their state-level success. The Red Devil gridiron gang, meanwhile, eyes a return to the playoffs after missing out last season.

The series will continue in the Sept. 7 and 14 issues.

Here's what each of the head coaches had to say.

Boys cross country

First meet: Aug. 31 vs. OP-RF

Last year: team - 1st at regional, 2nd at sectional, 2nd at state; individual - champion Aden Bandukwala, 3rd place Dan Watcke

Head coach: Jim Westphal

Seasons as head coach: 19

No. of varsity members: 24

Strengths: It's a new season with new personnel. We lost a good amount (to graduation), so it's a much different makeup this year. I hope what is going to develop is a pack of five runners and keep them as close as bunched as possible and work on that pack mentality.

Areas for growth: We're going to need four or five guys to really work together through some difficult workouts and the grind of practice. The irony of distance running is to do well, you've got to have the lowest score, so you need five individuals to run well. We want you to do well as an individual while also cultivating that team culture. You're only as strong as your weakest link. Who to watch: Senior Aden Bandukwala is going to be pretty far ahead of the rest of our top four. Senior Max Lowe was in our top five last year as a junior, so we need him to continue to step up. Junior Nikita Kamenev was in our top seven as a sophomore. We're hoping senior Evan Kurimay and junior Cooper Revord can kind of fill some of the gaps and step up.

Outlook: We'll probably be better in October and November than we are in September. Everything kind of has to come together. We're not focusing on finishing a certain place at the state meet, just taking it meet to meet and trying not to get ahead of ourselves. Our conference is among the toughest in the state. Downers North is loaded and other teams are strong as well.

Girls cross country

First meet: Aug. 29 @ OP-RF

Last year: 1st at regionals, 6th at sectionals, 8th at state

Head coach: Mark McCabe

Seasons as head coach: 23

No. of varsity members: 11

Strengths: This is going to a be a very fun but different season. It's the first year since 2003 that we've entered the season without one sure-fire All-State runner. I'm really happy with the way this team has developed. The consistency and the improvement of all 11 of the girls has been really something. We have a good group of newcomers, both freshmen and newcomer sophomores. They've really stepped up and are going to see the breakthroughs.

Areas for growth: This year more than ever we're going to see bigger improvements from beginning to end. When we put everything together, you're going to see a very different team than in the first couple of weeks when they're split up into different races. There are always younger kids that have learned from the upperclassmen and step up and fill those shoes. I'm looking for continued leadership and consistency with training.

Who to watch: Seniors Pola Dygon and Camden Griffin both of whom ran at the state meet last year. The others are senior Kennedy Boyd, juniors Gabby Thanos and Katie Gilmartin, sophomores Lily Hodneland, Addie Krogstie and Sam Guereca, and freshmen Evelyn Skay, Ella Satre and Ally Furey.

Outlook: The philosophy with a younger group is the same, but the goal times are adjusted. But in terms of the expectations, those don't change. The girls know they need to step up and assume the roles of those who graduated. They know Central is the second most successful program in the state, and they want to keep the ball rolling. Our conference is the toughest in the state, and every week you're facing the top teams in the state. So we're not surprised when it comes time for the postseason.


First game: Aug. 25 vs. Naperville Central (V lost 10-14)

Last year: 4-5 (2-4 in conference)

Head coach: Brian Griffin

Seasons as head coach: 5

No. varsity members: 68

Strengths: This group is a lot of fun. They have a lot of fun together, and they come with a great attitude. That's just made it really enjoyable to be a part of. It always seems to be a mystery as to how the season will unfold, but through working hard and using our talent, it seems to be coming together. Our strength is with our offensive line. They're kids who have a lot of experience, and they're a really close-knit group who trust each other and work well together.

Areas for growth: We have 10 new starters on defense. That whole group will be trying to grow through game experience. Until you get into true game-type situations, it's hard to find out who and what you can be. Getting them that experience is something that we're trying to replicate in practice. We'll be young and have to grow since we have a lot of people doing new things right now.

Who to watch: Senior middle linebacker Magnus Kumksis is our only returning defensive starter from last year. Senior Carter Contreras has been a two-year starter at wide receiver. His younger brother, sophomore Riley Contreras, is going to be our quarterback, and he's shown a lot of promise. We're watching junior Kelan McInernery and how he grows into his role as a wide receiver. Seniors Kellen Tran, safety, and Austin Segers, cornerback, are other ones who are stepping into starting roles this season.

Outlook: We play six top-20 teams this year. Our conference top to bottom is one of the premier conferences in the state and has just gotten really difficult, so it's a challenge when you're trying to string wins together. But we're excited for the challenge and to see how we do. Our first goal is try to get back to the playoffs after not making it last year. Then our goal is competing for the conference championship, and it's always a tough road to get there. This group is all in and believe in who we can be - we've just got to put it all together.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean