For the third year in a row now, Morris Community High School will be host to the opening cross country invitational for several area teams. It's called the Morris Early Bird Invite and Redskins coach Joe Blumberg said it was born out of necessity.
"Three years ago, the IHSA moved the beginning of the cross country season up one week and moved up the first date competitions are allowed," he said. "We didn't have many home meets, saw an opportunity to host a 1A and 2A invite."
This year, the teams invited to Morris are Fieldcrest, Gardner-South Wilmington, La Salle-Peru, Ottawa Marquette, Plano, Pontiac, Sandwich, Stretor, Seneca and the Chicago Christian girls.
"Looking forward to seeing how much my returning runners have improved from last year at the Morris Early Bird Invite," Seneca coach Kim Sedlock said. "Its a good meet to see how we are stacking up to our always tough competition."
The meet starts at 4:30 p.m. with the frosh-soph boys, and the J.V. girls will then be running right on their heels at 4:35. The varsity girls will go off at 5:15 p.m. and the boys at 5:45.
"The team has been working hard and we are anxious to test ourselves in a competitive race," GSW coach Larry Lane said. "After two weeks of practice, the team needs and wants a race. We like the Morris meet for a first meet. Joe does a great hosting a quality meet. There is competition for all of our runners."
Competition is part of the plan.
"Our course is not the most exciting, but it's flat and fair and quick times are a definite possibility. We wanted an early season meet that would reward those that have put in the summer miles," Blumberg said. "We've lost a few teams in Ottawa and Spring Valley-Hall, but have picked up Chicago Christian and possibly Herscher and Bishop Mac next year."
Morris senior runner Justin Sjostrom said that his team running on its home course should result in certain goals.
"I like it. It's a good race to start the season with," he said. "Coach mentioned that he wants us to get an individual medal and a plaque in every race."
Blumberg thinks his team has the depth to contend for sure at the lower levels.
"Pontiac, Marquette, Plano and L-P all beat us in the varsity guys race last year and I know Pontiac and Marquette return quite a bit," he said. "Seneca's numbers are up and to be honest, sometimes all it takes is a great summer, a decision to run instead of playing soccer or having a talented freshman class to turn a mediocre team into a contender."
Bloomberg's best advice for his team is then to go out and take care of the things they can.
"We just need to focus on the maroon and gold and we'll be fine," he said. "With injuries and inexperience, the biggest question mark is probably our girls. But that's why we put on the uniforms and toe the line. We'll know a little more Wednesday evening."