2A Girls Team Cross Country Pre-Season Preview: #1-#10

Yorkville Girls took some time away from their usual serious nature to show up their boys (YMSrunning photo)

The theme of the season could be "The Lady Fox Trot" or how about "Chasing the Lady Foxes?" Regardless of what anyone decides to call Yorkville they are going to need to add the word "Dynasty" next to their name. The Lady Foxes indeed are poised to defend their state championship a fourth time. In fact, Coach Chris Muth and company have finished first or secord every year since 2009. Some people are taking about 2015 when then junior class is expected to be even more lights out. But first thing first, there are a few teams lurking in the weeds waiting for an opportunity to dethrone the 2A queens of cross country.

1. Yorkville
Head Coach/coach: Chris Muth, Ben Draper, Lauren Bales
Last year’s finish: 1st AA State
Key returners: Skyler Bollinger (Jr.)- 10th state placement, Erin Reynolds (Jr.)- 13th, Julia Schultz (Jr.)- 40th, Becca Jasutis (Jr.)- 77th, Julia Megazzini (So.), Olivia Reese (Sr.), Piper Buyanski (So.), Kiley Haug (So), Sydney Beach (Jr.)
Projected top 7: Bollinger, Alexis Grandys, Summer Peirson (Jr.), Reynolds, Schultz, Jasutis, Megazzini
Newcomers: Grandys (Soccer/Track), Peirson (injury out all year), Maggie Klem (Fr.), Kimberly Batdorf (Fr.), Lauren Dauffenburg (Fr.).
Coach Muth's Take: Biggest insight into our team this summer is that we are losing Maddie Dearborn (3rd on our team last year and a 5:14 1600 runner) to Illinois Math and Science Academy next summer.  She was a really good runner for us, but has decided to further her education opportunities with attending IMSA. We had a solid summer of training as a group and go into the end of the summer training session in a good position to have solid team.  Our three freshman will push for varsity spots by the end of the year and this team seems to be meshing well as a unit.  Our goals are to be competitive in every invite that we are involved in and to be at our best during our state series push.  If we can continue to progress and hit the milestones that our in front of each runner, whether it be from injuries, inexperience, or past problems, this team could be very strong.  We are a deeper team than in the past, with our potential current 7th runner having run a 12:08 3200 during this past track season and we will rely on that depth throughout the season.

2. Vernon Hills
Head Coach/coach:  Suzanne Curry (Richert)
Last year’s finish: 3rd in Class 2A State
Key returners: Vivian Overbeck (Jr.)- 6th, Shannon Skeoch (Jr.)- 39th, Samantha Hershman (Sr.)- 51st, Lexi Reich (Jr.)- 71st, Melanie Rogers (Sr.)- 89th, Lauren Kim (Sr.)- 100th
Projected top 7: Overbeck, Skeoch, Hershman, Reich, Rogers, Kim, Lauren Katz (Fr.)
Newcomers: Katz
Tony's Take:  The team is looking to improve on last year’s State finish... it is an understatment as to how good the Cougars can be this season despit coach Curry downplaying things. This team returns six of their top seven (only losing #2 girl Cassie Lira to graduation) including one of the state's best in Overbeck. She is a race cat who is not afraid to run up front and lead. However, her low point will only go so far. The team's 2-5 split will have to improve significantly if the Cougars really want to challenge the mighty Yorkville Lady Foxes.

3. Crystal Lake Central
Head Coach: Anthony DeStephano
Last year’s finish: 7th Place in 2A
Key returners: Mary Fleming (Sr.)- 29th, Janine Orvis (So.)- 59th, Kelly Doerr (So.)- 38th, Brooke Larsen (Sr.)- 99th, Rachel Kautz (Sr.)- 113th
Projected top 7: N/A
Newcomers: Stephanie Doerr (Fr.), Maddie Hollander (Fr.), Natalie DellaMaria (Fr.), Katelyn Smith (Fr.)
Coach DeStephano’s Take:  Summer training has been going well, the numbers participating have been a record high for CLC's girls XC. Season goals are to win Conference (Fox Valley Conference), qualify for state, and compete for a top three place finish. The senior class is strong with this season's team, but we also have an experienced sophomore class that is ready to contribute, which includes a transfer from Crystal Lake South, Debra Tomlinson. The new incoming freshman, Stephanie Doerr, Maddie Hollander, and Katelyn Smith could make a tremendous impact on the team.
Tony’s Take: The Tigers will also welcome back senior Sami Staples who endured a number of health related issues and injuries over the past several seasons. The one-time phenom is excited about having one more opportunity to compete.

From Staples: "Last season I went through a lot with my health. I had no running related injuries... so it definitely was a rough junior year for me, through all that I have learned you never know what God's gonna give you and you take each day as it comes. I've been working really hard and trying to do all the right things for this year. I'm feeling very good and excited about this season. Mentally I think after everything I've been through I'm a stronger person and I'm just so excited for the opportunity to compete this season and at the state meet."

4. Normal (University)
Head Coach/coach: Lester Hampton and John Neisler
Last year’s finish: 8th in Class 2A
Key returners: Ashley LaFayette (Sr.)- 88th; Shannan Supan (Jr.)- 15th; Madigan Landess (Jr.)- DNR; Advika Kamatar (So.)- 53rd
Projected top 7: LaFayette, Herrman, Supan, Landess, Kamatar.  There should be a lot of competition for the sixth and seventh spots with four other returners from last year’s top 12 and the addition of some new faces.
Newcomers: Riley Madix (Fr.)
Coach Neisler’s take: This summer has been a good summer of training for the team.  We mixed things up a bit this year and used our time with the kids for more than just running and lifting.  The kids were able to get the training we wanted and had a lot of fun playing games and building relationships with everyone on the team.  

As far as the season goes, we could see another top 10 finish in Class 2A.  Supan is a two time Cross Country All-State returner and LaFayette has the potential to join her this year, having been a 3200m All-State finisher in 2013 and a key piece of our All-State 4x800 this past spring.  We’re going to be pretty deep again this year, with potentially 10 or more girls under 20 minutes by the end of the year.    

5. Glen Ellyn (Glenbard South)
Head Coach/coach: Brian Webb (Assistant Coach TBD)
Last year’s finish: 2nd in AA (2nd at Wheaton Academy Sectional, 1st at Wheaton Academy Regional, 1st at Metro Suburban Conference meet)
Key returners: Diane Lipa (Jr.)- 3rd, Rebecca Sippel (Sr.)- 7th, Caroline Arlasky (Sr.)- 24th, Jayme Schlenker (Sr.)- 72nd in 2013, 23rd in 2012, Abby Schlenker (So.)
Projected top 7: Lipa, Sippel, Arlasky, A. Schlenker, J. Schlenker, and then…
Any combination of girls from our top 12 last year and/or some borderline girls from last year, including Becca Everhart (Sr.) Chloe Fry (Sr.), Erica Mote (Jr.) Reganne Schihl (Jr.), Bri Fonseca, (Jr.), Alyssa Flores (So.), Courtney Knight (So.)
Newcomers: Lauren Washington (So.), Ava Childs (Fr.)
Coach Webb’s Take: Our team goal is to have similar success as last year and to be running our best at the end of the season (at our conference meet for all levels and Regionals and beyond for our top group). Hopefully, through healthy and consistent training, we can accomplish that. Our depth will be challenged this year. We have some talented girls up front, but what will our top 5 and top 7 look like – what kind of 1-5 splits will we have? That’s the challenge for our girls and it might take some time to develop over the season. Our summer has been a little bit of a mixed bag – some girls have worked hard and look good while others have not been consistent and have some work to do.
Tony’s Take: The Raiders are going to start the season a little short handed as two-time all-state runner Diane Lipa will be on the shelf. She has had very limited running since July. Stay tuned for this developing story.

The start of last year's 2A state championship (Ilona Koziel photo)

6. Chatham-Glenwood
Head Coach: Michael Garber
Last year’s finish: State- 6th
Key returners: Demi Dixon (So.)- 30th, Kerraline Wurl (Jr.)- 52nd, Cassady Garner (Jr.)- DNR, Erica Rideout (Sr.)- 140th, Taylor Justison (Jr.)- DNR, Ali Smith (So.)- 76th, Marisa Rios (So.)- 126th, Colleen Gleason (So.)- DNR
Projected top 7: Dixon, Wurl, Garner, Rideout, Justison, Smith, ?
Newcomers: Rachel Edmiston, Donna Hansen, Armonty Flynn, Toby Giganti
Coach Garber’s Take: Watch out for this team. With 7 of the top 10 runners from last season returning, they are force to be reckoned with. Many of the girls have put in 400 + miles this summer and are ready to compete at a very high level. It is a talented enough group that the Top 7 could change week to week. Since getting a taste of the high level of competition and success last season, this group has been pushing themselves to be even better. We have talked about bringing home a trophy in November since the end of Track... and they are hungry. It should be a great season to watch racing in Central Illinois.

7. Highland
Head Coach/coach: Doug Bradley/ Bob Vance
Last year’s finish: 13th in 2A
Key returners: Abbey Johnson (Sr.)- 171st, Taylor Prusa (Sr.)- 98th, Jayden Shelton (Sr.)- 133rd, Allison Zobrist (Jr.)- 3rd , Courtney Hengehold (So.)- 123rd, Sarah Beth Wiegman (So.)- 67th
Projected top 7: The returning six listed above should be our leaders. Sydney Nyquist (So.) is the frontrunner to take the 7th spot.
Newcomers: none    
Coach Bradley’s Take: Summer mileage on the whole is down from last year as three members of the state qualifying 4x8 team have used the summer to rest some tired legs. Sarah Beth Wiegman has had a productive summer that earned her trip to the USATF Jr. Olympics in Texas where she competed in the 1500 and 3000. Sarah Beth will once again run a limited cross country schedule due to her volleyball commitments. Jayden Shelton is also looking strong headed into the start of the season.

Tony's Take: One cannot be too humble and forget to mention the uber talented Allison Zobrist. Zobrist is one of the state's premier distance runners in the classification. She will help her team in a very big way this season.

The first goal of the team will be to repeat a couple of feats accomplished by last year’s team: conference and regional championships. A trip to state will require a lot of hard work and probably a little luck as lack of depth continues to plague the program.

Despite the vast experience that this team has, the outlook for this season isn’t as bright as it was a year ago. The loss of Emily Holtzclaw as team leader and #2 runner will require a significant improvement from one of the returning team members. Couple this issue with the fact that there are no ‘varsity-ready’ newcomers to the program and there is ample pressure on the top six to stay healthy and consistent.
Tony’s take:

8. Lake Forest
Head Coach/coach: Steve Clegg
Last year’s finish: 10th at State Meet
Key returners: Emma Allen (Sr.)- 46th, Katie Condon (Jr.)- 115th, Nora Burgener (Jr.)- 47th, Kelsey Schmidt (Jr.)- 86th, Haley Click (So.)-136th, Etta Eckerstrom (Sr.)- DNR
Projected top 7: Allen, Blair Bund (Jr.), Burgener, Condon, Schmidt, Emma Milburn (Fr.), Eckerstrom
Newcomers: Hannah Flagstad (Fr.), Mary Gregg (Fr.), Milburn
Coach Clegg's Take: Our goal is to improve upon last season’s 10th place finish.  Our big loss (due to graduation) was our front runner Clair Yandell.  While we don't have a runner to fill her shoes at the level she was at last season, I think we are stronger and deeper throughout our top 10.  We had a number of first year XC runners on the team last season, and a solid summer of training and a year of experience should make a big difference for them.  With great leadership out of our seniors (Allen and Eckerstrom) along with some excellent incoming freshman (Milburn and Gregg) who helped the middle school to a team (Deerpath) XC championship, I think we have a good chance to be as good or better than last season.

9. Maple Park (Kaneland)
Head Coach: Doug Ecker
Last year’s finish: 5th- 2A State Meet
Key returners: Brianna Bower (Jr.)- 24th,  Aislinn Lodwig (Sr.)- 37th, Victoria Clinton (Sr.)-54th,  Abby Shaw (So.)- 63rd
Projected top 7: Key returners are our top four finishers at state meet; remaining three spots up in the air between Noelle Espino (Sr.) Jessica Kucera (Sr.) and a half dozen incoming freshman/ second year sophomores.
Newcomers: Andrea Wells (Fr.), Crystal Durham (Fr.), Becca Richtman (So.).
Coach Ecker’s Take: Goals are individual improvement for ever runner & staying healthy/finish in the top 3 at conference/run our best at the end of the year/qualify for the state meet as a team. We have a solid 1-2 at the top with junior Brianna Bower and senior Victoria Clinton healthy again after an injury plagued junior year. If we can find some depth to go along with our top four returners we should be in the running for a chance to advance to the state meet for a 4th year in a row. We will not know until mid October what type of team we will have.

10. Mattoon
Head Coach/coach: McClain Schaefer
Last year’s finish: State- 14th
Key returners: Megan Shaffer (Sr.)- 12th, Lexi Kremer (Sr.)- 114th, Gillian Card (So.)- 122nd, Annabelle Blanchette (So.)- 168th, Jordan Katz (Jr.), Rendie Hamilton (Sr.)
Projected top 7: TBA
Newcomers: TBA
Tony's Take: Some have said this team overachieved last year despite a lack of fan fare and finished 14th in the state meet. Lightening could strike twice because track and cross country all-state runner Shaffer returns. As well some teams of similar abilities have lost key parts which has put the Green Wave in the spotlight. It will be up to them to justify such a lofty position. But then again they are used to proving their critics wrong. They also did the same during the track season when their 4x8 relay snuck up and placed fourth in the state.