New Generation of Running at Naperville Central

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As the IHSA cross country season hits the home stretch, the Naperville Central boys are one of those teams looking to surprise everyone in the state. The Redhawks just took a 5th place spot in the recent Twilight Invitational and hope to continue that upward swing down the road. That success is thanks to the hard work and talent from the runners on the roster but a familiar face taking over the program has also played a major role this fall.

“This is my 11th I think, 11th year so it’s a pretty seamless transition, a lot of extra responsibility but really a seamless transition.”

Grant Baganz is the new leader for the Naperville Central cross country team, taking the command from former head coach and now assistant Dave Ashton.

“I tell him many times, Dave if I’m forgetting about deadline bug me about things because he’s been through it all and I haven’t been through some of that so it’s hugely helpful to bounce ideas off him and just to make sure that I’m not missing something that should be obvious but maybe isn’t.”

Baganz has served as an assistant under Ashton for over ten years and coaches the distance group for the Redhawk track and field team. Now with the former leader on his side, Baganz knew that this was a huge benefit going into his first fall.

“He built such a strong culture over a decade and it’s something that he really prides himself on helping to build and it’s great to see the culture we have was built in coach Ashton’s time and like I said I’m really happy he’s still on staff to help keep that going.”

His coaching ability has helped runners like Foster Shelbert take their running to a higher level.

“He’s really good with training and he cares a lot about this team. For example on his docs he’ll always make notes for everything and knows about every person on the team, and he takes a lot of time and effort in this team.”

The transition has been smooth and coaching these Redhawk runners is nothing new to Baganz, who likes their approach to the race once the gun goes off.

“They’re smart runners, they’re dedicated runners, but they’re smart and they race in a smart way. They know they can run controlled and get after it and they know it’s a 3-mile race and nothing is won or lost in the first 800 or the first mile but they’re dedicated, they’re loyal, they’re fun and they’re hardworking. I love those guys.”

And he hopes that this group’s smart and dedicated racing will translate to top times come postseason. The approaching conference meet will be the start of an exciting sprint to the finish line for the Red and White.

“We’ve had some great workouts. We had two very meet-like workouts two of the last three Wednesdays to show us what we can do to help increase our confidence and now we’re ready to put it together in the last month. Championship season.”

For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Patrick Codo.