Friends and family helped decide who the individual champions were in the South West Suburban Red pre-conference cross country meet.
Lincoln-Way Central’s Caden Simone won the boys title Aug. 30 with a time of 15 minutes, 20.8 seconds on the 3-mile course at Lockport High School while Lincoln-Way West’s Gianna Arizzi claimed first in the girls division with an 18:32.2.
Those victories came three days after both competed with their teams in a stacked field at the Normal West Invitational. Simone won that battle for the boys at Maxwell Park in Normal with a 15:37 under hot and humid conditions and Arizzi finished third with a 19:11.
They opened the season as two of the hottest runners in the South Suburbs, thanks to friends and family.
Arizzi, a junior, had other plans with her athletic career until her longtime friend and neighbor, Kady Winans coaxed her to try running in seventh grade.
“I was a softball player and thought ‘oh, this is something I can do to keep me in shape,’ ” Arizzi said. “But I was competing and having such a great time that now I don’t play softball anymore. It’s full-time running.”
The format this year was the SWSC Red and Blue runners competed together. Arizzi was runner-up overall to Homewood-Flossmoor junior Caroline Schoen, who the burned the course in 17:41.4.
“She’s amazing — she’s really good,” Arizzi said. “I tried to keep pace with her but she’s really quick.”
It was the second year in a row Arizzi won the Red meet.
For Simone, a senior, coming from a running family has helped his success.
His father, Joe, was a member of the Stagg High School cross country team that finished second in the Illinois High School Association Class AA state meet in 1989. He went on to run at the University of Illinois.
Amy Simone, whose maiden name is Kuipers, ran for Chicago Christian and finished sixth in the state in Class A in 1989 and fifth in 1990. She was a five-time NCAA Division III track All-American at Calvin College after strong finishes in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter events.
With that bloodline, it’s no wonder Caden led the pack this year.
“My parents were runners, and I am following in their footsteps,” he said. “They got me involved in the sport, and I love it. I love competing.”
Team-wise, in the boys Red division, Central (38 points), in New Lenox, finished second to Stagg (32), in Palos Hills, while Andrew, in Tinley Park, had 83 points for third and Lincoln-Way West, in New Lenox, was fourth with 108.
Lincoln-Way East took third in the Blue Division, and Nolan Rogers won the individual Blue title with a 15:57.8. Orland Park's Sandburg, which was ranked No. 1 in Class 3A in the state, according to the MileSplit Illinois website, did not participate in the meet, which was postponed from Aug. 24 because of excessive heat.
Lincoln-Way Central won the girls Red title with 31 points followed by West with 42. Andrew finished fifth with 103.
Lockport won the Blue with 28 points followed by 31 for Lincoln-Way East, in Frankfort.
Other area top-10 finishers in the boys Red division were Andrew’s Ben Morrey (fourth), Lincoln-Way Central’s Connor LeBeau and Ethan Hoff (fifth and seventh, respectively), Andrew’s Ryan Marynowski (eighth) and Lincoln-Way Central’s Andrew Flais (ninth).
Other area top-10 finishes in the boys Blue were Lockport’s John Kajmowicz (fifth) and Lincoln-Way East’s Gerry Cushing (eighth).
Other area top-10 finishes in the girls Red were Lincoln-Way Central’s Claire Carter and Ella Maldonado (second and third, respectively), Lincoln-Way West’s Vanessa Evans and Annie Pinciak (fourth and fifth, respectively), Andrew’s Krysta Stanko (sixth), Lincoln-Way Central’s Shea Martin, Jaylin Sustr and Emersynn Smith (seventh, ninth and tenth, respectively).
Area Top 10 finishes in girls Blue were Lockport’s Kayla Shea (second), Lincoln-Way East’s Elyse Defrank and Kate Guderjan (third and fourth, respectively), Lockport’s Samantha Weisner (fifth), Lincoln-Way East’s Makayla Kelly (sixth), Lockport’s Sydney Fontaine (seventh) and Lockport’s Monica Skibicki and Lexie Fontaine (eighth and ninth, respectively).