Essay Tolosa missed almost a full month at the start of the cross-country season due to a concussion.

The senior distance standout knows he can’t make up for that lost training and racing time – not entirely. But he showed Saturday that he’s still capable of putting together a strong finish.

Tolosa scored a fourth-place individual finish and paced the Wildkits to their best conference finish since 2007 at the Central Suburban League South division meet. The CSL championships resumed as a combined affair with the North and South divisions Oct. 16 at a windy and chilly Maine East High School course after being held separately last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tolosa, fourth in 15 minutes, 43.75 seconds over the 3-mile course, earned all-conference recognition along with Evanston’s 11th-place finisher, senior Solomon Greene (16:12.90).

Coach Donald Michelin Jr.’s squad also counted a 15th from Henry O’Malley (16:36.19), a 16th from Sam Froum (16:37.30) and a 17th from Dylan Eyler (16:39.11). That overall team effort sparked the Kits to a team total of 63 points, beating out Glenbrook South (92), Niles West (106), Glenbrook North (129) and Maine South (132), and trailing only New Trier (19).

Saturday’s performance enabled the Kits to break a three-way tie for second place based on dual meet records to emerge as the division runnerup overall for the first time since the 2007-08 school year.

Michelin said it was the freshman Froum who boosted the Wildkits after a decade of languishing in the second division most years in the competitive CSL South.

“I’m just so happy we got second,” said the elated ETHS coach. “I was hoping that Sam could close the door for us [on GBS and Niles West] in that No. 5 spot, and instead he ended up our No. 4 runner. He ran a huge PR [personal record] – I don’t think he’s been under 17 minutes before – and he really, really helped us today.

“Other guys had similar times, but I know Sam’s competitive nature and I knew he’d give me everything today. Some of the others have been hit-and-miss with their times, but he’s been very consistent. He’s what we needed in this meet.”

Tolosa wasn’t able to mount a serious challenge to the top three finishers from New Trier, including champion Nick Falk (15:06.42), but was satisfied with his performance overall.

“I tried to run with Falk, but I fell off in that second mile. I was expecting to run in the low 15s but I didn’t get there,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back in shape again. I missed the first couple of weeks of practice [he suffered the concussion at a water park back in August] and that’s the most important part of the year. I fell and got hit in the head, but I didn’t realize at first that I had a concussion, so I didn’t get it treated right away.

“I can definitely feel the difference [lack of training]. I’m just trying to go hard and hope for the best at this point.“