Cross Country: Led by individual winner Bria Bennis, York wins third straight WSC Silver title

Daniel Watcke, Hinsdale Central repeat in boys race

York senior Bria Bennis

At her first West Suburban Conference Silver girls cross country meet in 2019, York senior Bria Bennis was 17th, one place from individual all-conference honors.

“Freshman year, I missed all-conference, everything, by like one place,” Bennis said. “It’s exciting to see how far I’ve come.”

On Oct. 15, Bennis led one of the best Silver team performances ever.

Bennis won the race by 28.8 seconds and the defending Class 3A state champion Dukes scored 19 points in capturing their third straight Silver title. York, rated No. 1 by and, is among six Silver teams that could reach the 3A state meet.

“This is one of the best conferences in the state and nation, so knowing I could win against some of the best individuals in the state is really exciting,” Bennis said. “My goal was just to stay with [the lead] pack and see what I could do the final mile. I kind of wasn’t expecting to run the whole race alone.”

Bennis (16:56.4) broke 17:00 on the rugged 3.0-mile Katherine Legge Memorial Park course.

“She just went and crushed it,” York coach Lauren DeAngelis said. “She was decisive about what she wanted to do and she’s wanted to break 17:00.”

York junior Michaela Quinn (17:25.2) was second, junior Katherine Klimek (17:46.7) and senior Brooke Berger (17:48.4) were fourth and fifth, freshmen Lily Bianchi and Maggie Quinn were seventh and eighth and senior Lily Beerhalter was 11th.

“I was almost speechless turning around and seeing not even just our five, our whole entire seven,” said Michaela Quinn, also second in 2020. “What really pushed me was I saw Bria pull ahead. In my head the entire time was we’re going 1-2. Right at that 200 [mark], I wasn’t letting anyone in front.”

York’s first five finishers earned all-conference for the third time. At last year’s Silver meet, York put six in the top 11 along with 30th place.

“[Seven all-conference] was their goal all along,” DeAngelis said. “Today was probably the best team race that we’ve had.”

Also all-conference were Lyons Township senior Catherine Sommerfeld (third, 17:27.3), Downers Grove North senior Claire Pyne (ninth), freshman Lily Eddington (10th), sophomore Audrey Casten (13th), junior Karly Harkness (14th) and sophomore Alayna Todnem (15th), Glenbard West junior Maggie Hibbard (12th) and Hinsdale Central seniors Sarah Fischer (6th, 17:58.7) and Sarah Skora (16th).

Sommerfeld earned her third all-conference honors, finishing fifth last year and ninth in 2020.

“It’s a really competitive conference so placing well is exciting,” Sommerfeld said. “I felt pretty comfortable. Coming back [from injury], I’ve kind of had a mental patch my last two races I wanted to get over and I did that.”

The five all-conference performances carried the No. 7/6-ranked Trojans (61) past No. 6/5 Lyons (79) for second place. They were followed by No. 13/18 Glenbard West (127), No. 22/12 Hinsdale Central (132) and No. 14/17 Oak Park-River Forest (147).

Hibbard, 25th in 2021, became the Hilltoppers’ 100th all-conference runner in the school’s 100th year.

Fischer, 16th as a freshman, was the only four-time all-conference finisher in the race.

On the boys side, Hinsdale Central senior and recent Oregon commit Daniel Watcke defended his title and the Red Devils also won again, 49-54 over OPRF.

Watcke (14:34.5) edged OPRF senior Liam Newhart (14:36.3) and Hinsdale Central junior Aden Bandukwala (14:46.1), who led much of the race. Downers North junior Caden Weber (14:56.5) and Lyons junior Cillian Henning (14:59.0) were fourth and fifth.

“Both were really quality fields, so I was really happy [to repeat],” Watcke said. “I was just trying to close hard. Coach [Jim] Westphal wanted us to kind of pick up the pace and I was having some trouble with that. When Aiden did it, that really helped string out the field.”

With seniors Michael Skora (eighth) and Jesse Gamboa (13th) also all-conference, the No. 2/5 Red Devils held off No. 4/4 OPRF. No. 3/2 Downers North (58) was a close third, followed by No. 7/10 Lyons (71), No. 21/24 York (107) and Glenbard West (169).

Also all-conference were Downers North junior Ryan Eddington (9th), last year’s sophomore champion, and seniors Topher Ferris (12th) and Leo Gartlan (16th), Lyons juniors Nick Strayer (10th) and Aidan Collins (12th) and York senior Aidan Hill (14th) and Max Zangan (15th), the only all-conference sophomore.

Henning improved from eighth to top five. Strayer and Collins were 18th and 19th in 2021.

“Time wise no, but place wise it was [strong],” Henning said. “It was what I was going for and in a conference like this, it was a pretty good race.”

“We didn’t perform how I think we’re able to. I think we’ll be fine leading into the next couple of races,” said Weber, ninth in 2021. “Going into this race, I wasn’t honestly expecting top five so I’m very satisfied.”