Wehner Runs 14:40.1 and Team Finishes 5th at First to the Finish Invite in Peoria

Thursday, September 14 2023 - Peoria First to the Finish Invitational

Highland Park competed in their third meet of the season against an extremely tough field at the First to the Finish Invite in Peoria. The varsity 3A race had 45 teams entered that included numerous state ranked teams and some of the top individuals in the state of Illinois. The open race included 3A and 2A schools and a field of over 1,000 runners. The Giants travel to Peoria and stay overnight for the meet run on the historic Detweiller Park cross country course. The trip is used as a positive team building experience for the HP runners and a dress rehearsal for the state meet in November. 

The varsity 3A race (biggest school enrollments) allows each team’s top 10 runners to race. The Giants got out really well in two packs the first 400 despite the large number of runners.  The first pack included seniors Nate Wehner, Barak Goldstein and Robert Oboza along with juniors Brian Hatoum and Dylan Dominguez. The second group consisted of seniors Luke Rhoads and Eli Neiman along with junior Usiel Rodriguez plus sophomores Henry Gamson and Lucas Hoobler. 

By the mile, Wehner was near the lead pack in 4:49 with Goldstein right with him and Hatoum 2 seconds back. Dominguez and Oboza settled in and came through the mile in 5:03. The rest of the team passed the mile mark in 5:20-5:22. The team was doing a great job packing up early in the race. 

At the 2 mile mark, Wehner was with the lead pack in 9:46. Goldstein and Hatoum had fallen back a bit and ran 10:07 and 10:09. Dominguez and Oboza came through the 2 mile together in 10:22. HP’s 6th-10th runners passed the 2 mile mark led by Gamson and Rodriguez in 10:53 up to 11:03. 

Wehner was having the race of his life with 400 to go he was with a pack of 3 Downers Grove North runners (the #1 team in the state). He made a move to pass them with about 200 to go. They were able to come back and pass, resulting in Wehner finishing in a fantastic 6th place with a time of 14:40.1! This was the first time Wehner ran sub 15 for 3 miles. His time is the fastest ever non-state meet time for a Highland Park runner and ties him for 3rd all-time by an HP runner. His race set up the team to have a shot at winning a trophy (top 5). 

Goldstein had a great final 400 to finish in 32nd place and earn a medal (top 50). He ran a personal best 15:22.9 for 3 miles but knows he is capable of even faster races this season. Hatoum had an “off race” and ended up running 15:24.5. This earned him a medal in 35th place. Hatoum knows the team will need his best races when it counts during the championship phase of the season. The coaches have no doubt that he will do just that. 

After the 2 mile, Dominguez ran an awesome last mile (5:14) to run an impressive personal best time of 15:36.5 for his first sub 16 race. This was the kind of race the team needed from him to have an opportunity to win a team trophy. Dominguez ended up finishing in 57th place. Oboza broke 16:00 for the first time as well. He ran 15:52.8 and finished in 93rd place. Oboza will need to continue to work on being able to stay with Dominguez in that final mile. 

The next five finishers for the Giants all broke 17 for the first time this season for 3 miles! Each of them ran a personal best for this distance. Gamson led the way with a strong race to finish in 16:29.2. Right behind him was Rodriguez in 16:30.8. He has been starting to really come on since having a limited summer of training due to injury. Rhoads had another great race to run 16:39.4 in only his 3rd high school cross country race ever. Neiman was the next HP runner to finish. He ran an impressive 16:42.6 that included a really good last 400. Hoobler, like Rhoads, was running in only his 3rd high school cross country race ever and ran extremely well. He finished in 16:45.6 for the 3 mile course. 

The team knew they ran very well, but did not have their best overall team race. Once the results came out, the Giants found out their performance was enough to earn a 5th place finish in the big meet and take home a trophy. This was a huge improvement from 2022 at this meet. The team only had one runner sub 16. This year, HP had 5 runners running under 16:00 for three miles! Also, the entire top 10 was sub 17:00 compared to last year when the team only had 4 runners under that time (the open race ended up adding even more). 

The open race was very crowded, but the HP runners once again got out well led by senior Zach Coren. Despite the amount of people in the race, the Giants did a nice job finding their teammates to race with. Coren went through the mile in a fast 5:13. After that, HP had a group of 7 runners from 5:25-5:31. At the finish, Coren was the first HP runner to come in and he ran a personal best 16:46.1 for 3 miles. He finished in 25th place. Three more teammates came in under 17:00 with personal best times. Senior Lukaas Nales was next with a 16:53.9 for 31st place. Sophomore Josh Brown ran 16:57.6 for a huge personal best time to cross the line in 34th place. The final HP runner to break 17:00 was senior Nolan Schott. He ran his best race ever to take 36th place in 16:59.0. These top 4 runners for the Giants all earned medals for the open race. 

Sophomore Logan Liu led the next pack of runners in for the team. He ran 17:15.0 for 60th place. Another sophomore, Truman Evans, had a huge breakthrough race. He took 63rd place in 17:17.1. Senior Yonatan Garfinkel also ran very well to finish in the top 100 out of 1,023 runners. He came in 69th place running 17:21.1.

Seniors Conner Edelstein and Doug Anderson were the next to HP finishers. Edelstein ran 17:42.6 while Anderson crossed the line in 18:01.1. Junior Quentin Kelley came across the line in 18:37.4 to lead a pack after falling off a bit in the 2nd mile. Sophomore Daniel Doyle was just behind Kelley in 18:37.5. The top HP freshmen finisher was Abel Reese. He had a strong race to finish in 18:40.6. 

Sophomore Lowell Redmond was able to get under 19:00 minutes for the first time with a personal best 18:58.6. The next 4 HP runners all ran under 20 minutes for the 3 mile race. Senior Oliver Baterdene led that group with a 19:18.8. He was followed by sophomore David Miller (19:22.3), senior Andrew Kern (19:42.9), and junior Luke Byrnes (19:57.3). 

The next 4 Giant runners finished in the 20’s. Sophomores Gal Raviv and Spencer Pedraza ran 20:05.4 and 20:14.2. They were followed by freshmen Gabriel Jackson and Madden Cohen. Jackson ran 20:42.7 while Cohen battled to hang on for a 20:56.5. 

Freshmen Makena Duggan and Nate Goldberg raced well together and crossed the line almost stride for stride. Duggan came in at 21:20.0 and Goldberg was 21:20.4. 

Three more freshmen HP runners came through the finish in the 22’s. Addison Courtman-Simanek ran 22:15.3 for the 3 mile race. Joaquin Martinez came through in 22:32.0 and Benny Obradovic crossed the finish line in 22:47.5. 

Freshman Sam Waters ran a 23:31.3 for 3 miles. Sophomore Joey Naftzger ran 24:22.7 while freshman Vasco Leite ran 24:53.4. Freshman Joaquin Rivera worked together with Leite towards the end of the race and finished just over 25 minutes in 25:08.40. Freshman Russell Bleiman ran a gutsy race to go out well under his best mile time for the first mile. He hung on to run 28:38.5. 

The Giants ended up in 6th place for the open race! It was a great way to follow up the very successful varsity race. 


There were so many breakthrough performances, fast times, and team success this year at the First to the Finish Invite. The team had 3 varsity medalists, a 5th place varsity team trophy, 4 open medalists, and a 6th place team finish in the open. This meet showed how much the team has improved since last year due to their commitment to training at a high level and believing in their teammates. In 2022, HP had 1 medalist, finished 19th as a team on varsity, and 17th as a team in the open. Another great example of the incredible improvement this team has had since last season would be how much faster nearly each guy ran from last season at this meet to this year. Below is a list of how much time each of the listed runners improved by on this course:


Wehner, Nate

- :47

Goldstein, Barak

- 1:02

Hatoum, Brian

- 2:02

Oboza, Robert

- 1:40

Gamson, Henry

- 3:22

Rodriguez, Usiel

- :24

Neiman, Eli

- 1:40

Coren, Zach

- :43

Nales, Lukaas

- :23

Brown, Josh

- 2:51

Schott, Nolan

- :50

Liu, Logan

- 4:29

Garfinkel, Yonatan

- :12

Doyle, Daniel

- :31

Redmond, Lowell

- 3:43

Baterdene, Oliver

- :36

Kern, Andrew

- :08

Byrnes, Luke

- 5:33

Raviv, Gal

- 4:54

Pedraza, Spencer

- 5:32


Amazing stuff from a special team.

The focus must continue to stay strong and teammates must believe that WE > ME!