Senior Roy Llewellyn already owns one aspect of his expanded leadership role for this season’s Downers Grove North boys cross country team.
“Vocality and me, I’m not going to have any trouble with that. I’m definitely making that attempt, talking to some of the new guys, trying to lead warmups and such,” Llewellyn said. “The guys who just graduated were an incredibly great group. I would not be who I am in the world of running, at least, without them. I’ve got big shoes to fill but I’m going to try my best.”
A third-year varsity runner, Llewellyn helped the Trojans win the 2020 West Suburban Conference Silver title. Now they’re trying to win the state’s premier conference in back-to-back seasons for only the second time and return to the Class 3A IHSA-sanctioned state meet, which was canceled last season.
Downers North won IHSA regional and sectional titles and was consistently ranked among the top 10 in the fall. At the non-sanctioned ShaZam Division III Championships, the Trojans were eighth among most of the state’s top-rated Class 3A teams.
“I definitely got to some places I thought I would never be [last season as a runner],” said Llewellyn, who hopes to extend the program’s streak of having at least one top-25 all-stater; Downers North has accomplished that feat at the last seven IHSA state meets. “It could be a bit of an interesting year because there’s a couple of guys that definitely have what it takes. I definitely think we have what it takes to be top five [at state].”
In 2020, Llewellyn was ninth at sectionals behind five seniors, including graduated teammate Evan Cummins (seventh), who is now running for Illinois. Senior Kyle McNally (17th) and junior Topher Ferris (37th) also return for Downers North. Earning top-16 all-conference Silver finishes were Llewellyn (fifth) and McNally (eighth). Ferris was 20th.
At ShaZam, Llewellyn (28th), McNally (60th) and Ferris (91st) were the Trojans’ Nos. 2, 4 and 6 finishers. Llewellyn had a personal-best 14:46 in a 3.0-mile time trial on the school track after a competition-best 15:12.1 at regionals. In the spring track season, Llewellyn won the 3,200-meter Silver title and qualified for his first state meet in the 1,600, taking 14th.
“Really starting last year, Roy started to step up and be a leader,” Downers North coach John Sipple said. “He’s just really stepping up in a variety of different fashions. He’s kind of having a big growth, too, running wise.”
Sophomore year was his cross country breakthrough. Llewellyn competed at the 2019 state meet and was the Trojans’ No. 2 finisher (75th, 15:18.56). McNally was 84th.
“[Llewellyn] realized he could be good, really good,” Sipple said. “It was absolutely a game changer.”
“There’s competitively a different energy at a postseason meet,” Llewellyn said. “Getting that experience boosted my determination because I was like, ‘Hey, this was really fun. I want to continue to make it to state, sectionals. I’m going to keep putting in the work to do it.’ ‘’
The Silver again should be outstanding with York, Lyons Township and Hinsdale Central. The Trojans hope to again employ their 2020 formula of experienced standouts, peaking seniors and varsity newcomers rising to the occasion. Candidates include seniors Karan Shetty, who ran at state as a freshman (162nd), Jack Benge and Connor Wood, juniors Asa Gaspar, Leo Gartlan and Jonah Sutton and sophomores Zach Bender, Ryan Eddington, Curtis Mysliweic and Caden Weber.
“It’s going to be an interesting and fun year, and to bring some sophomores to the state meet, it’s going to be great,” Llewellyn said. “I hope for them to have the same experience that I did because it will get them even more into the sport.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle