Downers Grove North boys cross country emerges as the 2023 Twilight Invite champions

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The Twilight Invitational is back, and this year 17 different boys varsity  teams, including defending champion Downers Grove North, are geared up at Naperville North to run under the lights. The DVC was once again well represented with Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley, Naperville North, Naperville Central, and Waubonsie Valley all participating. This highlight is sponsored by BMO.

The whistle blows and the sound of the gun marked the start of 148 runners taking on the three-mile course around the Naperville North campus. Lane Tech’s Will Kozlowski has a lead in the early stage of the race.

Zac Close and Aden Bandukwala take the early lead

As runners make the first turn just after the first mile, it’s Neuqua Valley senior Zac Close and Hinsdale Central’s Aden Bandukwala even in stride and leading the pack, followed by Kozlowski.  Naperville North’s Ammar Bhanpuri follows alongside Homewood Flossmoor’s Habtamu Epley. Twilight invite veterans from Downers Grove North Ryan Edding and Grant Schroder stay together in the top 10, so does Robert Glenn from Neuqua and Yorkville’s Owen Horeni. Metea Valley’s Austin Brown is the Mustangs leader. Tyler Browning and Nick Camp from Naperville Central are also in the hunt near the top 15.

Race leaders go back and forth

Approaching mile two its Close who takes the lead over Bandukwala. Oak Park River Forest has Lewis and Liam O’Connor just in between Austin Brown. A heard of Lane Tech runners are just ahead of Neuqua Valley’s Anthony Pastore and Aaron Hamilton. Naperville Central’s Foster Shelbert and Max Henige group in just inside the top 40 along with Patrick Clune a little farther back. Not far behind is Waubonsie Valley’s top runner Austin McInturff. Naperville North’s Jack Robertz, and Neuqua teammates Joshua Nauman and Ryan Adamski look to help their team’s cause.

Out of the track in the stadium for mile two is Bandukwala who has regained the lead over Close.  Glenn trails Kozlowski for third, who has a small lead over Epley and Edding.

Austin Brown stays near the front for Metea Valley

Runners now heading for the third and final mile are giving it their all. Plainfield North’s Thomas Czerwinski and Owen Stahl team up and gain ground on Downers Grove North. Brown is just ahead of OPRF’s Lewis O’Connor and Naperville North’s lead runner Tyler Browning gaining ground in the top 10.

Downers Grove North finishes strong

In the end, Bandukwala crosses the finish line after taking a late lead and a time of 14:51.  Kozlowski finishes just ahead of Close in an intense battle for two and three separated by a time of 14:55.30 while Close is a 10th of a second behind. Glenn is the Wildcats second runner about two seconds back. Plainfield North has their one and two in Czerwinski and Stahl finish five and six. Epley finishes in 7th.12 and Downers Grove North’s Edding and Schroder finish step for step. It’s Brown from Metea who uses the last few strides to finish in the top 10 over Downers Grove South Josh Poeschel. Browing is the first for the Redhawks and his teammate Nick Kamp finishes two seconds behind him.

Downers Grove North takes the 2023 Twilight Invite ahead of Plainfield North and OPRF, Naperville Central takes fourth and Neuqua rounds out the top five.

For more prep sports highlights, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page!