Nationally ranked Sandburg CC team nearly knocked off by Lyons

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Sandburg’s Max Lehndhardt’s third place finish at Lyons helped the nationally ranked Eagles win by one point on Saturday.



Those are the words – capital letters and all – that appeared at the top of Sandburg’s boys cross country running blog written by Eagles assistant coach Tom Novak in late August. The Eagles were getting some preseason plaudits from the internet and they weren’t small. The coach wanted the team to keep things in perspective.

MileSplit USA ranked the Eagles No. 2 in the country behind Christian Brothers Academy of New Jersey. Another national website,, ranked the Eagles third behind American Fork of Utah and Christian Brothers.

The Eagles were able to open the season taking the top eight spots and dominated in the SouthWest Suburban Conference preseason meet. They looked every bit the national power they were hyped up to be.

However, Saturday, the Eagles were nearly knocked off against a team who was not ranked in either national poll. Sandburg sweated out a one-point victory over host Lyons Township in the 12-team Lions Pride Invitational in Western Springs. The Eagles finished with 36 points to Lyons’ 37.

Lyons’ Vince Zona (14 minutes, 50.28 seconds) and Connor Madell (14:55.14) hogged up the first two spots and that put the pressure on the Eagles.

Sandburg’s Max Lehnhardt (14:59.20) was third. Teammates Sean Torpy (seventh), Tom Brennan (eighth) and Chris Torpy (ninth) and Brandon Lukas (12th) were not far behind and finished just high enough to win the meet.

“Lyons ran incredible today,” Lehnhardt said. “We talked about not taking anybody for granted and we really didn’t.”

Still, having that national ranking is a pretty big target.

“Whether we are ranked the No. 1 team in the nation or the last-place team in the nation, it wasn’t going to mean anything to us,” Lehnhardt said. “I guess, sure, it’s cool to see you are ranked high but we’re not going to categorize ourselves in what other people think we’re ranked. We’re just going to focus on what we have to do. That’s all.

“We love the pressure,” he added. “Obviously we’ve done a lot to get to this point and we welcome the pressure.’’

Other Lyons runner scoring points and nearly pulling off the stunner were Danny Kilrea (ninth), Matthew Begeman (10th) and Alex Pall (15th), son of former Evergreen Park star and major league pitcher Donn Pall.

Lyons coach Mike Danner said some his juniors were a little “gun shy” but was happy with the Lions’ performance. He said his team didn’t get caught up thinking about Sandburg’s national rankings.

 “Let me put it to you this way I have expectations and the boys have expectations,” Danner said.  “Usually mine and theirs are pretty close together. That’s the only thing we concern ourselves with. I was happy with what we did but we have some work to do. And we know it.’’

Other notable performers from the area were Stagg’s Jared Tarantino (36th), Marist’s Kyle O’Farrell, and Brother Rice’s Joe Sweeny (50th).

Lyons’ girls dominated with 30 points while Valparaiso was second with 50 points. Sandburg took fourth with 133 points.

Lyons’ Vanessa Flaherty was fourth with an 18:29.72 followed by teammates Hannah Dutler (fifth) Brianna Liddell (sixth), Natalie Jaramillo (seventh) and Megan Ng (eighth).

Sandburg’s top placer was Grace Foley (15th).