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Cross Country: Austin Popplewell, Yorkville boys and girls teams take SPC West titles

Oswego's Balin Doud, Audra Soderlind second

Yorkville runners finish strong on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, at Community Park in Channahon, Ill. Racers from Joliet and the Southwest Suburbs took part in the SPC West and SPC East conference meet.
Yorkville runners finish strong on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, at Community Park in Channahon, Ill. Racers from Joliet and the Southwest Suburbs took part in the SPC West and SPC East conference meet.

CHANNAHON – Austin Popplewell celebrated his latest race win with the equivalent of an awards show acceptance speech.

"I'd like to thank my teammates for a good race," said Popplewell, a Yorkville senior. "They always push me in practice. We're all working together. I did it for them."

He and the Foxes are doing quite well.

Popplewell continued a stellar senior season by winning the Southwest Prairie Conference West division race on Friday at Community Park in Channahon, leading Yorkville to the team championship. The Foxes earlier also won the SPC West girls title. The SPC divisions ran separate races this year to comply with COVID-19 restrictions on entries.

Popplewell, coming off victories at the Yorkville Invitational on Sept. 23 and Yorkville SPC Top Times Invitational on Oct. 7, shot out to an early lead Friday and won going away in 15 minutes, 11.9 seconds.

"I just went out from the start and pushed it," Popplewell said. "Back in the forest every turn I made 10 steps to surge a little bit in front more. That was my strategy, to get out there and go from there."

It's been quite a year for Popplewell and the Foxes.

Twelfth at conference as a junior, he lost his spring track season when it was canceled. He took second to teammate Ivan Westcott the first three meets this fall and has kept his foot on the gas.

Westcott was fourth Friday in 15:33.8 and Nathan Summers ninth in 15:48.8 for Yorkville, which edged Oswego 48-50 for the team title.

"This season, it goes to [Yorkville] coach [Chris] Muth," Popplewell said. "He put us in training to prepare us for the season. Everything we have done this year is a result of what he put us through. For me personally, this was a good race for me. I haven't won too many races in my career so winning this is good. I'm just happy to have teammates to run with and push me."

Oswego's boys were paced by Balin Doud, who was second in 15:30.9. Ethan Forsell was fifth in 15:33.8. Alexander Das paced Oswego East, taking sixth in 15:39.3.

"I didn't feel that great at the start of the race but I kind of worked into it in the back half when there wasn't a big crowd to distract me," Doud said. "I wanted to give a better shot at first place but [Popplewell] had a great race."

Doud, previously third at the Top Times Invitational, could hardly complain with how the season's transpired.

"We've had the best possible season we could really ask for, all things considered," Doud said. "I couldn't have asked for more."

Yorkville's girls team had six of the top 11 finishers to easily take the team title, 30-59 over runner-up Oswego East. Oswego (73) was third.

Helena Kleronomos, last year's SPC individual champion, was third in 18:15.0, followed by a pack of teammates with Hailey Simmons fourth (18:24.4), Alex Stewart sixth (18:31.0), Sara Klemm seventh (18:40.5), Lucy Anderson 10th (18:53.0) and Makenna Edwards 11th (18:53.2).

"We were strong as a pack today for sure," Simmons said. "We wanted to go out faster the first mile but I'd say we caught up the last two miles."

Kleronomos led after the first mile, but Minooka sophomore Gabby Kics broke ahead to stay in the second mile to finish in 17:56.3.

Oswego sophomore Audra Soderlind was second in 18:04.2. Teammate Becca Corbett was 13th in 18:56.5.

"I think it went pretty well for this course; that was definitely a time I really wanted to get and do better than last year, that was the main goal," said Soderlind, who beat her time from freshman year on the same course by 37 seconds. "The race definitely was a little bit different than I envisioned. I thought we'd be closer together in the second mile but it still played out pretty well in the end."

Oswego East's Naylah Allen continued a strong senior year. Seventeenth at conference last year, she came out strong and took fifth in 18:26.4. Teammate Maddie Zarembski was ninth in 18:48.9 and Maddi Amer 12th in 18:55.3.

"It could have gone better, but I showed a lot of growth," Allen said. "My finish needs work and I can always improve. It's good to get out strong but then you have to work. I felt like I was a little comfortable today. I felt like I put myself in the right spot."

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