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Boys Cross Country notes: Sandwich's Steve Aguilar returns to running full-time

Steve Aguilar's reaction to the postponement of soccer to the spring likely was a little more nuanced than most athletes.

Sad, sure, but more.

"Partially, it was relief," said Aguilar, a Sandwich senior, who has done both cross country and soccer in different stages of high school. "I wouldn't have to choose between both. Hopefully when the spring comes around, we'll have the excitement of soccer. Now I can focus on cross country."

Aguilar has navigated his share of curves the last few years.

He ran cross country as a freshman at Sandwich High School. He tried only soccer as a sophomore, unaware that doing multiple sports simultaneously was an option. Last year, he started out with both, but stepped away from cross country and cut down on running in soccer after straining his left calf.

Now he's back on track.

"It's definitely been a challenge to get back into it, after a few years of not running such long distances but I'm getting back into the swing of it," Aguilar said. "It's been fun so far."

Aguilar has had a hard time picking one sports the last couple years, and intended to do both soccer and cross country this fall. He's not quite at his freshman running pace, either.

He estimated his best time as a freshman was around 16:50, and this year he's topped at around 17:26. His numbers are just one aspect of the reset to running.

"I have definitely had to have a stronger mental attitude," Aguilar said. "When you are out there and in your run you start faltering and you want to be done, I think what pushes me to finish is just to be relieved at the end of the race."

Soccer requires plenty of running, but Aguilar is certainly taking on a greater workload this year.

During soccer he'd run 2-3 miles a day, but in cross country he may run 8 miles one day, 5 the next or "some days it's a nice easy 3."

In his time away from cross country, Aguilar missed the small, tight-knit community he enjoyed with his fellow runners. Looking back on his freshman year, he also missed the relief and the shot of adrenalin he got at the end of races.

"I feel there's nothing like it in soccer, although soccer does have its ups," Aguilar said. "That's what I missed the most, was that feeling of accomplishment."

His accomplishments this fall will be limited, with the IHSA postseason condensed to geographical regional meets.

But Aguilar still has goals he's identified.

"For cross country, probably my biggest goal is to be able to break 17 minutes this year," Aguilar said. "If possible, I would have liked to run a sectional meet because freshman year I made it just to regionals and hit a wall there. But I think another big goal is to be able to lead a group of guys. This year, I have the opportunity to leave a mark and a legacy."

Oswego's crosstown sweep

With the uncertainty of a condensed season during a pandemic, Oswego is focused on small goals and opportunities to find success.

"Not knowing how much time we have this season, and really if we will have a next week, our goal is to live in the moment and treat each meet as if it is the last one," Oswego coach Dan Whipple said.

The Panthers sure hope there are more meets ahead like Saturday's.

Led by race winner Balin Doud (15 minutes, 48 seconds), Oswego swept the first five spots to take a crosstown dual meet with Oswego East.

Ethan Forsell (15:49) was second, followed by Benjamin Huey (15:54), Brady Nelson (16:01) and Owen Erickson (16:09).

Forsell led almost the entire way, setting Oswego's confident, aggressive pace. Doud came from behind, which Whipple noted is a different place to be in, and came out ahead in the last half-mile.

Huey had the best team finish of his high school career, and Nelson turned in the best race of his high school career for Oswego. Erickson, off the lead group most of the race, persevered in passing Oswego East's top two runners over the last 600 meters.

"I am really proud of how the team across the board showed up on Saturday. From our five in the frosh/soph race to the full varsity roster, it was a great day in some wet and slick conditions," Whipple said.

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