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Weidner takes third at Amboy

AMBOY – Bureau Valley sophomore Regan Weidner would have liked to win the Amboy Columbus Day Invitational on Monday, but she hopes she has bigger fish to fry down the road.
Weidner finished third with a time of 18 minutes, 1 second over the 2.9-mile Shady Oaks Country Club course. It was an improvement of 19 seconds from her time a year ago, which earned her a 13th-place medal.
This time, she finished behind just two runners, winner Maria Brauer of PORTA (17:48) and runner-up Chloe Marshinski of Westmont (17:53).
Weidner held an early lead, but was passed up two-thirds of the way by Brauer and Marshinski.
"It would have been awesome to win," Weidner said. "Once you get into the lead, it puts it in your mind that you can win. I didn't hold on, which is kind of upsetting, but they were really good runners. I'm still working hard in practice, though, and when we get to state, hopefully I can get past these girls."
The win was the first for Brauer, a freshman whose previous best finish in an invitational was second place at Rochester. She didn't know much about her closest pursuers, as this was the first time their teams have crossed paths, but she was relieved to hang on.
"In the last sprint, I was really worried they were going to catch me," Brauer said. "I just sprinted really hard."
Brauer also led PORTA to the team title with 140 points, 22 less than runner-up Winnebago. Bishop McNamara (176), Byron (189) and Elmwood-Brimfield (211) rounded out the top five.
Weidner was the only area runner to earn medals for finishing in the top 25. Princeton's Zoe Mead was close, finishing 30th in 19:14. Other area leaders were Hall's Jacquie Wallaert (65th, 20:09) and Paige Orlandi (94th, 20:41) and Amboy's Jennifer Popovich (80th, 20:26).
• 4-peat: Grant Nykaza uses the Amboy Columbus Day Cross Country Invitational as a springboard for the rest of his season. Consider that springboard fully sprung.
The Beecher senior won his fourth consecutive Amboy race, this time with a Shady Oaks Country Club course-record time of 14:10, one second faster than Winnebago's Jeremy Stevens ran in 2005.
"I always run a good race here," Nykaza said. "This is when I start doing my speed work and start getting ready for the postseason. My confidence seems to be at its highest at this point of the season. Hopefully I can push it into the state series."
Nykaza took second in the Class 1A state cross country race a year ago, behind the graduated Steve Schroeder of Monticello. He'll enter this year's race as a prohibitive favorite, and his performance at Amboy will back that up.
He won the 2.9-mile race in 14:36 as a freshman, 14:17 as a sophomore and 14:25 as a junior. Nykaza blew away all those performances this time around with a dead sprint over the last 100 meters, much to the delight of a crowd that included Stevens, who later competed at Illinois.
"Jeremy was cheering me on," said Nykaza, a Florida State recruit. "We talk a little bit. He's one of those guys that he wants people to beat his record. It was just nice of him to cheer me on throughout this race."
His fellow competitors look at Nykaza with a kind of awe.
"It's crazy," Bureau Valley's Ryan Taylor said. "He works hard, so he deserves every bit of what he's getting."
Champaign St. Thomas More ran away with the team title. The Sabers had just 53 points, less than half of the runner-up team, Wheaton Academy (134). Byron (179), Tremont (180) and Elmwood-Brimfield (185) rounded out the top five.
The top area team was Bureau Valley (10th, 266 points) with Taylor finishing 24th (16:01), Kane Eastwood (48th (16:35) and Logan Hoffert (16:36).
Hall placed 12th (395) in the 34-team field, paced by 19th Joseph Parochetti (15:52) and 29th Al Baldonado (16:15).
Princeton was 28th (734), led by 76th Zach Andersen (17:02).

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