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Hundreds of runners — and a horse —slog through annual cross country race

Bataviresidents AnitWolff (left) Natalie Mueller dressed up for Cross Country Challenge. |  Denise Moran ~ For Sun-Times Media

Batavia residents Anita Wolff (left) and Natalie Mueller dressed up for the Cross Country Challenge. | Denise Moran ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 5, 2013 6:11AM

GILBERTS — More than 1,000 runners slogged through mud, marsh and mild weather Sunday in the 30th annual Cross Country Challenge here.

The approximately 1,200 participants — many dressed in costumes ranging from Santa Claus to super heroes — also dashed up steep hills and across open fields in the 8,000-meter (4.9-mile) European cross country-style race at Indian Hills Training Center on Powers Road,

The top three male runners and their times were: Renat Zalov, Buffalo Grove, 30.40; James Noonan, Rockford, 31.03, and Emil Bojanov, Chicago, 31.15.

The top three female runners and their times were: Vidthya Abraham, Chicago, 37:17; Mary Maniscalli, Lake in the Hills, 38:12, and Christina Beaird, Naperville, 39.00.

The six runners will each receive a new pair of shoes compliments of Dick Pond Athletics and Nike, according to Chicago resident Jim Brimm, the race’s director.

“It was a beautiful day today,” Brimm said. “We had great weather and a great turnout.”

Indian Hills is owned by Robert Oury, who is also the president and owner of Rotec Industries Inc. in Hampshire.

Elgin resident Ryan Tripicchio has run the Cross Country Challenge five times and the Chicago Marathon four times. He is a coach at Streamwood High School. He will be running for the first time in the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

“The Indian Hills terrain is intense,” Tripicchio said. “It’s very uneven, but it is pure cross country.”

Marilyn Becker of Hampshire watched her son and his wife, Andy and Leanna Becker of Glenview, compete in the race.

They recalled watching the race two years ago when it was 25 degrees with 6 inches of snow on the ground.

Batavia mom Maria Karkos remembered when her son, Eric, a junior at Batavia High School, competed in last year’s race.

“He was covered in mud from head to toe,” Karkos said. “This race is a final fun run for many high school cross country teams.”

‘Grossest’ race

The team known as the “Dirty South Pole Elves” all work at Fry Elementary School in Naperville. Dave Younce is the school principal. Renay Biehl and Brian Kulak are first-grade teachers. Laurie Schuh is the student services coordinator. It was the first time that all four competed in the race.

Junior and senior students from the cross country teams at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn dressed up as super heroes for the race on Sunday.

Exchange student Anniken Mossefin of Oslo, Norway, ran with her fellow students. Monica Byrne dressed up as Batman.

“It was challenging and amazing,” Byrne said. “At one point, there was a horse running with us. I thought he was going to eat my cape. We came together to the finish line all holding hands.”

Catherine Peters, a school psychologist at School District 89 in Glen Ellyn, ran with her father, Frederick Schwantes, Northern Illinois University Vice Provost and Emeritus Professor of Psychology.

“This was the grossest race I’ve ever been in,” Peters said, “but that’s what makes it fun.”

After the race was over, runners gathered in the barn for a catered buffet that included fried chicken, roast beef, mostaccioli, pasta salad and tossed salad.

Fremd High School students Andrew Marterno, Danny Johnson, Josh Petersen, Anders Dinterman, Jake Winter and Will Smith sat on hay bales while they ate their meal.

“We threw each other in the creek,” Smith said. “The water was freezing. I thought this race was a ton of fun.”

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