An enthusiastic Philadelphia Eagles fan, Loyola senior Jack Lynch admired the team’s ethos last season and how the players parlayed that underdog mentality into the organization’s first Super Bowl trophy.
He brought the same message to the cross country team this year as a captain of the Ramblers. It’s hard to argue with the decision after Loyola captured its first Catholic League championship since 2014 on Saturday at Lewis University in Romeoville.
Five Ramblers finished 14th or better, and Loyola totaled 45 points to edge out three-time defending champion Marmion (52). All seven runners in the lineup earned all-conference honors.
“I don’t think we were on a lot of people’s radar,” Lynch said. “I read somewhere that Marmion was the conference favorite, and St. Ignatius was right there behind them. They counted us out.”
Lynch was a longshot to succeed this season.
On the first day of practice Aug. 8, an MRI revealed he would miss the start of the year with a rare stress fracture that extended from the spine to his left hip. Lynch’s first meet at full strength was Palatine’s invitational on Sept. 22.
On Saturday, Lynch took sixth place in 15 minutes, 35.6 seconds and was the second Rambler to cross the finish line.
Loyola head coach Dan Seeberg was impressed by Lynch’s performance.
“He’s a great leader, and he came up big when it mattered,” Seeberg said.
Sophomore Spencer Dzyacky was the team’s top finisher, taking fourth in 15:32.1. Freshman Spencer Werner (9th, 15:46.6), senior Zachary Swanson (12th, 15:51.3) and senior Eli Miller (14th, 15:55.6) all contributed to the total.
Junior Alex Owens (18th, 16:10.4) and senior Ian Gallo (23rd, 16:17.2) were Loyola’s other runners.
“It was definitely a great day for everyone, especially the seniors,” Dzyacky said. “I was happy to be there and help make it happen. It was a lot of fun.”
A three-year varsity runner, Lynch is looking forward to the state series, which starts Saturday. The Ramblers host the Class 3A Loyola Regional at Munz Campus in Glenview. Although Lynch has run at sectionals the past two seasons, he never has competed at the state meet. Loyola last qualified for the state meet as a team in 2014.
“Our No. 1 goal was to win conference,” he said. “Getting to state is No. 2. We’ve had a lot of great guys on our team over the last few years, but our team has never made it. Winning the Catholic League was a huge for our confidence, and I think it’s going to help us over the next few weeks.
“I’m peaking at the right time, and I think our team is also peaking. It’s exciting.”