3A Girls Team Cross Country Pre-Season Preview: #25-#16

This season teams will experience a log jam along the food chain... their will be some traditional mainstays such as Prospect, Lyons Twp., and Sandburg looking to get back to their rightful place in Peoria in November. They are going to have their hands full with emerging teams from the conference level all the way through the sectional round. Only those poised enough to handle the treacherous path will earn a spot on the famed Detweiller Park starting line.

25. Mt Prospect (Prospect)
Head Coach: Pete Wintermute
Last year’s finish: Schaumburg Sectional- 6th
Key returners: Hannah Getschman (Sr.), Brooke Wilson (So.), Aileen White
Projected top 7: Getschman, Wilson, White, Ellen Siefke (Sr.), Molly Leeney (So.), Clare Nolan (So.), Caroline Hempleman (Sr.)
Newcomers: Cassidy Selep (Fr.), Kelsey Pogatetz (Fr.)
Coach Wintermute's Take: After the retirement of Dave Wurster (20 years head coach at Prospect), the Knights look to find their identity and get back to Peoria. This summer we have had many solid workouts but there is still much work to be done as the girls work to find their sense of unity and define what it means to be a Team. This season we are going to be young with an amazingly talented sophomore class which includes Brittany Damerjian, Jessica Schulz, Amanda Page, Elizabeth Galloway, and more. One of keys to our successes this year will be the growth of the sophomores, another key will be the development of the leadership within the program, and a third key is being healthy and doing the little things that challenges each of them to be great. When these three keys get turned on look out as the Knights will be rolling. GO KNIGHTS!!

24. Orland Park (Sandburg)
Head Coach: Jennifer Genslinger
Assistant Coaches: Sarah Pulaski-Wood and Suzanne Hellrung
Last year’s finish: Hinsdale Central Sectional- 9th
Key returners: Grace Foley (Jr.), Casey Jensen (So.), and Renee Letz (Sr.)
Projected top 7: Foley, Jensen, Kelsey Gallagher (Fr.), Letz, Annie Lebert (Sr.), Meghan Mokate (Sr.), and Jade Lukas (So.)
Newcomers: Gallagher and Elizabeth Prisby (Fr.)
Coach Genslinger's Take: I think our team is going to be very strong this year! We have two incoming freshman who are very promising! Our summer was very productive and we stepped up our mileage. I believe a lot of the girls have become more mature runners and are hungry to make it to state this season. The coaches and I have decided to try a few new coaching strategies and hope that will make the difference.

23. LaGrange (Lyons Township)
Head Coach: Stetson Steele
Last year’s finish: Hinsdale Central Sectional- 6th
Key returners: Katie Hamor (Sr.), Hannah Dutler (Jr.), Vanessa Flaherty (Jr.), Diana Kafkes (Jr.), Megan Ng (So.), Claudia Lundgren (Jr.)
Projected top 7: Hamor, Dutler, Flaherty, Kafkes, Ng, Brianna Liddell (So.), Caitlyn Mangini (So.)
Newcomers:  N/A
Coach Steele's Take: Our motto this summer was “Commit” – we took on this motto as our slogan as our core group of girls decided during the track season that if they all committed to a great summer, the season would follow in the same way. This motto proved effective in getting our top group of girls to consistently attend Running Club and then to continue training together once running club was over.  We talked many times this summer about the fact that we missed out on the state meet as a team for the first time in 14 years. The girls are excited to start a new streak this fall.  We are excited for the season and look forward to working together to get back to Peoria in November.

22. St. Charles North
Head Coach: Shari Hayes
Last year’s finish: State-17th Place at IHSA State Meet
Key returners: Nina Olshever (Jr.), Allie Chen (So.)- 92nd, Madison Kaufman (So.)- 158th, Katie Francissen (Jr.)- 132nd,
Projected top 7: Oshever, Chen, Kaufman, Francissen, Audrey Ernst (Fr.), Amanda Czerniak (So.), Caitlyn Campbell (Jr.)
Newcomers: Ernst, Cassidy Joyce (Fr.) and Ally Suyak (Fr.)
Coach Hayes Take: We will be rebuilding this season after losing our top 2 runners from last year. We should be competitive with a strong group of returning runners and some strong incoming freshman. The returning girls from last season will have to improve and other returning runners will need to step up to help fill the gaps left by our graduating seniors. By the end of the season, we are hoping to be competing at the state meet in November.  

21. O’Fallon
Head Coach/coach: Neil James
Last year’s finish: State- 18th
Key returners: Tami Cardenas (Sr.)- 134th, Angela Buch (Sr.)- 96th, Caitlyn Clinton (Jr.), Noelle Gilster (Sr.), Mary Kate Porath (So.)- 153rd,
Projected top 7: Cardenas, Clinton, Buch, Hannah Nabb (Jr.), Sarah Duffy (Jr.), Porath, Gilster
Newcomers: Sam Stutsman (Fr.), Maddie Collins (Fr.), Sierra Workman (Fr.); Rachel Russel (Sr.) – returning from injuries last year.
Coach James’ Take: We lost a great senior group from last season and we will have to work to replace them. Some of those seniors were key parts of our team for all four years and their leadership will be greatly missed.  Last season did not end the way we wanted due to injuries and illness, but this year’s group is ready for the challenge.  We have had a solid summer of training, and Cardenas has stepped up as our leader.  She has great experience as does Buch and Clinton.  We had a great spring in track as our 4x800 set a new school record and we look to carry that momentum into this fall.  We will need some of our younger athletes to step up and they are more than capable of doing that.  Obviously we go into each season with the goals of winning conference, regional, and sectional. We also would like to place in the top 10 at state. Our team is looking forward to the challenge and excited to get the season started.

20. Wilmette (Loyola Academy)
Head coach/coach: ChrisJon Simon/Katie Seeberg
Last year's finish: 16th at State
Key returners: Kathryn House (Jr.)- 26th and Caroline Zaworski (Sr.)- 119th.
Projected Top 7: House, Zaworski, Claire Monticello (Sr.), Monica Kaminski (Sr.), and Mae Wimbiscus (Jr.). Allie Zahn (So.), K.K. Connolly (So.), and Caroline McKinley should also be in the mix. Anna Clark (Sr.) is dealing with an injury, but will hopefully find herself healthy and in this group as well.
Newcomers: Looks like we have a solid group of freshmen who will be looking to compete for a spot in the top 7. Annie Heinen, Laine McKinley, Mary Claire Donnelly, Payton Hoag, and Emily Plodzeen all had a solid summer at camp and have transitioned well to our early season workouts.
Coach Katie Seeberg’s Take: Though we lost some key athletes to graduation, our returners had a good, steady summer of training. House and Zaworski look strong and should be contenders for an All-State distinction. Our 3-7 runners are hungry to close the gap. Though our sectional is always tough, the team is focused and committed to making it downstate.  After a 16th place finish last season, we're hoping to post some low numbers this year and to be competitive there.

19. St. Charles East
Head Coach: Michael Arenberg   
Last year’s finish: Waubonsie Valley Sectional- 6th
Key returners:  Torree Scull (Sr.), Anastasia Honea (Jr.), Hannah Ewald (So.)
Projected top 7: Scull, Honea, Ewald, Lauren Woellfler (So.), Anna Arrick (So.), Jordan Luedtke (Sr.), Lexi Scull, Alison White (So.), Emma Battin (So.).  
Newcomers: TBD
Tony's Take: Among the team goals are to win conference and qualify for state. Also, watch for the Lady Saints to capitalize off of a great track season in which the middle-distance unit went bananas on the competition and won the state 4x800 championship. Scull is coming into her own now after resurrecting her career. She popped out a career year on the track in the 800 and 1600. Those 5:00 and 2:13r marks should translate well on the grass. As well working on the scoring split in the final mile is a must. It was something that doomed the Saints in the past.

18. Minooka
Head Coach: Kevin Gummerson
Last year’s finish: State- 6th
Key returners: Ashley Tutt (So.)- 18th, Mackenzie Callahan (So.)- 42nd, Morgan Crouch (Jr.)- 53rd, Gaby Gall (Sr.), Caitlin Kurtz (Jr.)
Projected top 7: None at this time
Newcomers: There are alot of girls that are working hard and are going to challenge for the top seven spots according to Coach Gummerson.
Coach Gummerson’s Take: We graduated 4 out of our top 7; however, we do return our top three from last year’s team that produced our best team finish in school history.  This core group of girls had a quality track season and is in the midst of a great summer of training.  Obviously, we are looking forward to see who is going to step up and earn a spot in our seven.  We have a combination of newcomers and returning girls that have been working hard and waiting for their opportunity.  We are always very fortunate to get quality runners from our Junior High Programs and we have another quality crew coming in this year.

As far as team goals go, we are similar to a lot of programs in which our focus is on the process. We need to do things the right way all season, improve through every week, and make sure we are prepared to run our best race in November.  This group understands that concept and they are hungry to be the best possible cross country team we can be. We have a lot of work to do; however, this group has a tremendous amount of potential.   

17. Chicago (St. Ignatius)
Head Coach: Matt Haffner
Last year’s finish: 6th at Lake Park Sectional
Key returners: Alexis Jakubowski (Sr.), Jill Porretta (Sr.), Olivia Meyer (Sr.), Lexi Tiemann (So.), Maddie Kyhl (So.), Maggie Connolly (Sr.), Olivia Coletta (So.), Anastasia Bouchelion (Jr.)
Brigid Bendig (So.), Helen Roach (Sr.)
Projected top 7: TBA
Newcomers: Kyleigh Spearing (Jr.) – a nationally ranked junior triathlete
Coach Haffner’s Take: Summer seemed to go well for the varsity group, especially the seniors.  The group has set some nice individual goals, which should translate to a strong team. Jakubowski followed up a great track season with her best summer of training.  Spearing, Tiemann, Bendig and Bouchelion have been training well with the four seniors.
Specific individual breakdown:

Jakubowski ran 18:09 at state; 5:11 twice and 2:17.9 relay split during the track season.

Porretta - did not compete at sectionals due to injury; she ran 18:07 at Washington Park Regional; she's been 100% all year and played soccer in the spring.

Meyer - 26th at sectionals in 18:25. It was not a great race for her; she ran 18:10 at regionals; busted out with a big PR of 2:19 in track.

Lexi Tiemann (So.) - 35th at Sectionals in 18:46.  Lexi did this last year without doing much specific cross country training before the season.  She's doing enough this summer to make a big jump this year.

Maddie Kyhl (So.) - 69th at Sectionals in 19:33.  Ran 5:33 and 11:58 in track.

Maggie Connolly (Sr.) - 74th in 19:37 at Sectionals.  18:56 PR as a Soph; back in the groove in 2014 track with a 12:14.

Olivia Coletta (So.) - PR of 19:53 last season.  Ran 2:31, 5:33 and 11:56 in track.  

Anastasia Bouchelion (Jr.) - JV conference champ.  PR of 19:40; missed sectionals due to injury.  Solid 2:26 split in track.

Brigid Bendig (So.) - sick during lots of CC season; was training with varsity before that; ran 1:02.1 and 2:25 in track.

Helen Roach (Sr) - 19:53 as a Soph; can be strong if she stays healthy

16. Naperville (Neuqua Valley)
Head Coach: Tim McCoskey
Last year’s finish: State- 10th
Key returners: Julia Pena (Jr.)- 23rd, Caitlin Horn (So.)- 47th, Lauren Penkala (Sr.)- 73rd, Katie Sheehan (Sr.), Meghna Vijayan (So.), Lauren Guirini (Jr.)
Projected top 7: Pena, Horn, Penkala, Sheehan, others
Newcomers: N/A
Tony's Take: 2013 was a big year for the Lady Wildcats in that they matched the boys for the frst time in school history at the state level (both teams finished 10th). The season continued on a solid slope with Claire Costelloe and Sheehan who qualified for state in the 3200m and 800m. Pena is on par to have a big year after running 17:48 last year to finish 32nd. It is uncertain that the 'Cats will have another top 10 type season but they can grow together as a pack running team.