3A Girls Cross Country Team Preview: #30 to #16 Countdown

The countdown to the 30 premier teams begins with a bevy of teams fighting for respect

30. Palatine (Fremd)

Head Coach/coaches: Joe Marcin/Jim Guest

Last year’s finish:14th place- State Championship

Key returners: Nora Finegan (Sr.), Clare Oehler-O’Sullivan (So.)

Projected top 7: Nora Finegan, Clare Oehler-O’Sullivan, Hannah Ban, Linda Varela, Monica Zawisza, Megan Benka, Jordyn Iannuzzelli, Nupur Pokarkar, Fiona Jordan, Bell Moroney

Newcomers: Hannah Ban, Jordyn Iannuzelli

Coach Marcin's thoughts on team: "Experience and speed up front with Finegan. The chase pack has some talented depth, but does lack experience; staying healthy and improving each week is our main focus."

29. Orland Park (Sandburg)

Head Coach/coaches: Jennifer Genslinger, Sarah Pulaski, Suzanne Hellrung, Terry Gilman, and Linda Reuther

Last year’s finish: 7th- Chicago (Marist) Sectional

Key returners: Casey Jensen (Jr.), Grace Foley (Sr.), Erica Cerva (Jr.), Jade Lukas (Jr.), Bella Strolia (So.)

Projected top 7: Jensen, Foley,Cerva, Justyna Skowronski (Sr.), Lukas, Kelly Johnson (Fr.), and Tala Abusharif (Sr.)

Newcomers: Freshman Kelly Johnson has been showing some promising things in summer camp.

Coach Genslinger's outlook: "This season will be an improvement from last year for sure. We have logged a lot of miles this summer and have seen some great things. Kelly Johnson has improved by minutes just from the start of summer camp. She is eager and ready to run with the top girls! Justyna Skowronski (senior) and Kate Wille (junior), who have been on the team in the past, have had a breakthrough summer. Both girls are putting in 110% and want to be on top. Grace Foley has had consistent training this summer."

28. O'Fallon

Head Coach: Neil James

Last year’s finish:17th- State Championship

Key returners: Brooke Witzel (So.), Sarah Duffy (Sr.), Caitlyn Clinton (Sr.), Maddie Collins (So.), Hannah Nabb (Sr.)

Projected top 7: Sam Tidwell (Sr.), Witzel, Duffy, Nabb, Collins, Clinton, TBD

Newcomers: Tidwell, Katie Mank (Fr.), Abby George (Fr.)

Coach James' outlook: "We lost a strong group of seniors but we have a few new faces to help ease the burden. We are looking for another solid season as we return 4 of our top 8. We also added Sam Tidwell who did not run cross country last year but had an excellent track season and qualified for state in the 3200m. Our team has worked hard this summer and is looking to improve upon last year’s finish."

27. Edwardsville

Head Coach/coaches: George Patrylak/Dustin Davis, Maggie Dust

Last year's finish: 23rd place- State Championship

Key returners: Rachel Schoenecker (Sr.), Savannah Brennan (Jr.), Julianna Determan (Jr.), Caitlyn Scheibal (Jr.), Victoria Vegher (Jr.), Kennison Adams (So.), Haley Allard (So.), Honor Dimick (So.), Melissa Spencer (So.), Colleen Corkery (Sr.)

Newcomers: Kiara Delgado (Fr.), Payton Flowers (Fr.), Emma Hensley (Fr.), Rachel Kubacek (Fr.), Maddie Miller (Fr.)

Coach Patrylak's outlook:

"We are very excited about the 2015 XC Season on the Girls side! We have seen steady improvement during the past three seasons, including back to back State appearances. This season we are looking to get out of the twenties and into the top fifteen.

We have had a productive season, but our ladies have been more focused on base this summer. We may come out of the gate a little slower than last year, but the plan is to see a better progression throughout the season and peak at the right time. With so many young runners fighting for varsity spots, we want to make sure we are fastest when it counts. We are not planning on making any changes to the girls schedule. Our goals include a Southwestern Conference and Edwardsville Regional Championship, a top two finish at the Normal Sectional and a top fifteen finish at State."

26. Mt. Prospect (Prospect)

Head Coach/coach: Pete Wintermute/Lisa Cottrell/Annette White

Last year’s finish: 11th place- Schaumburg Sectional

Key returners: Brooke Wilson (Jr.), Aileen White (Jr.), Veronica Holloway (Sr.), Cassidy Selep, Molly Leeney (Jr.), Elizabeth Galloway (Jr.), Kaitlyn Rouse (So.), Mikayla Olsen (So.), Molly Heil (Jr.)

Projected top 7 by Coach Wintermute: "TBD, I never like to project the Top 7 as every year is a new year and every runner has an equal shot at the Top 7. We have a handful of incoming freshmen and JV runners from last year that have worked hard this summer and will be pursuing shot on the Varsity."

Newcomers: Sidney Kitzmiller, Shannon Smith, Marissa Valentini, Cori Drew, Julia O’Grady, Jenna Baltes, Kate Permanian, Suzanne Harms, and Aryana Horton

Coach Wintermute's outlook:

"The Knights have been searching for their identity this summer and are ready to earn a trip 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. We return many pieces from last year team (5) and each athlete needs to focus on self-improvement and doing things a little bit better each day.

Brooke Wilson is back for her 3rd season and looks to improve upon last year’s All-State performance. Besides one tough competitor, Brooke is an outstanding leader for our program. She epitomizes hard work, commitment, and trust in the program and I look forward to her continuing to mature and progress this season. Also having an outstanding summer is Mikayla Olsen who looks to break out from last year first go around. She has been consistent all summer and though young is one of the most natural leaders I have seen. GO KNIGHTS!!"

25. LaGrange (Lyons Township)

Head Coach: Stetson Steele

Last year’s finish: 8th place- Chicago (Marist) Sectional

Key returners: Hannah Dutler (Sr.), Vanessa Flaherty (Sr.), Diana Kafkes (Sr.), Megan Ng (Jr.), Claudia Lundgren (Sr.), Brianna Liddell (Jr.), Caitlyn Mangini (Jr.), Colleen O’Connell (Jr.), Lily Kedzuch (So.), Cara Paliakas (So.), Kirsten Meyer (So.)

Projected top 7: Dutler, Flaherty, Kafkes, Ng, Liddell, Mangini, Paliakas

Newcomers: Sara Barcelona, Emily Henkel

Coach Steele's team outlook:

"Our group had a strong summer of training to prepare for the upcoming season. Our seniors have a shared goal of making it back to the state championships in November as a team. They used this goal to help with both their training and team bonding during the summer months. Our team has a strong core of solid runners that look forward to competing in the West Suburban Silver Conference, invitationals, and the state series over the course of the season. The team looks forward to working together to achieve their goals over the next few months."

24. Oswego

Head Coach/coaches: Eric Simon/Colleen Predl, Alicia Rafferty, Tom Kammerer, Craig Weyrich

Last year’s finish: 6th place- Chicago (Marist) Sectional

Key returners: Allyson McLaughlin (Sr.), Maddy Kammerer (Sr.), Kayla Wooten (Sr.), Grace Pagone (Jr.)

Projected top 7: McLaughlin, Kammerer, Wooten, Pagone, Julia Manzano (Sr.), Megan Choi (Jr.)

Newcomers: "We have some solid sophomores that had excellent track season’s and a few freshman that are showing some promise this summer."

Coach Simon's outlook: "Sectionals last year was bittersweet. We ran our best race of the year (top 4 clocked 18:18 to 18:32), but fell one place shy of our goal to advance. Our returnees are very focused on taking our program to the next level. Overall we have had our best summer in the nine years I have been at Oswego.

We should have a balanced line up with strong senior leadership and some youngsters mixing in the pack.

After a strong track season and great summer the team is excited for this season to begin. We are hoping to continue our growth as a program getting our first girls team to state since 1987."

23. Naperville (Neuqua Valley)

Head Coach: Tim McCoskey

Last year's finish: 13th place- State Championship

Key returners: Caitlin Horn (Jr.), Julia Pena (Sr.), Corinna Pena (So.), and Meghna Vijayan (junior, 18:51), Lauren Giurini (Sr.), juniors Isabella Serna (Jr.) (19:05), Erin Sahm (Jr.)19:31), and Caroline Johnson (Jr.), Keara Ginell (So.), Avni Dave (So.)

Newcomer outlook according to Coach McCoskey: "We'll add one freshman that will help us right away, Sophia Medina. She's a soccer player that's in the process of converting to this sport. She'll definitely be top 5 for us, even as she adjusts to the 3 mile distance. She's very raw, but talented. Depending on how quickly she develops and how healthy she can stay, you may see her as part of my front line."

Coach McCoskey's team assessment: "You'll see all the names you'd expect in our early line-up, but a couple of kid from that second group have really grown as well. The ones that stick out are Caroline Johnson and Keara Ginell. Ginell had a great freshman season last fall and was our top freshman most of the season. She had a hip issue that bothered her right at the end last fall, and then Pena continued to grow each week. I'm hoping those two are more of a duo this fall. And, Johnson also had a breakthrough year last fall, but was sidelined. She had a MONSTER race at Detweiller at Dark, running a lifetime PR. Ginell was only 6 seconds off her lifetime PR that night too.

We've got a good, committed group. I expect this team to be one of if not the deepest I've ever coached.

We only had a couple of injuries. Avni Dave has been sidelined, and Serna has dealt with some knee issues, but the others were out of the top 13.

Our schedule this fall stays the same except for the move to the DVC. We know that in the DVC we'll be seeing 3+ top 10 teams every year. It raises the bar for us as a program."

22. Lombard (Glenbard East)

Head Coach: Joe Latala

Last year’s finish: 6th place- Niles West Sectional Meet

Key returners: Cailyn Biegalski, Lexi Weltin, Katie Schaefer

Projected top 7: Biegalski, Weltin, Schaefer, Ali Liljestrand, Yoselin Toledo, Olivia Romas, Jayne Peters

Newcomers: Maeve Brasile, Hayden Dudek, Sam Johnson

Coach Latala's outlook: "We were very pleased last year as a girls took a very significant step forward from 15th at Sectionals two years ago to 6th this past year. The biggest strength on the team comes from the sophomore class of which anywhere from 4-6 of our top-7 should come from. Our team goals this year are to win the Upstate Eight."

21. Downers Grove South

Head Coach/coaches: Doug Plunkett, Kathleen Meeks

Last year’s finish: 21st at State meet

Key returners: Katie Stapleton (Jr), Jill Boyle (Sr), Michaela Hackbarth (Sr)

Projected top 7: We probably have 10-12 girls who could rotate in and out of our top 7 this season. Katie Stapleton (Jr), Jill Boyle (Sr), Michaela Hackbarth (Sr), Lizbeth Alcantara (Sr), Alyssa Taglia (So), Emily Qualizza (Sr), Maggie Seitz (Sr), Kara Petersen (Jr), Natalie Olsen (So), and Becky Versaskas (Fr) are among the top group.

Newcomers: Emily Qualizza (Sr), Becky Versaskas (Fr)

Coach Plunkett's outlook: "The girls have had a solid summer. It will be difficult to replace 2015 graduates Amanda Thate (Kansas State) and Abby Kargol (Minnesota), but we have a group of hard-working girls that will do their best to try. If we can stay healthy and continue to improve, we will be in the mix come sectional time."

20. St. Charles North

Head Coach/coaches: Shari Hayes

Last year’s finish: 6th place- Chicago (Marist) Sectional

Key returners: Audrey Ernst, Madison Kaufmann, Ally Suyak, Allie Chen, Katie Francissen

Projected top 7: Audrey Ernst (So), Madison Kaufmann (Jr), Ally Suyak (So), Allie Chen (So), Nina Olshever (Sr) Cassidy Joyce (So), Katie Francissen (Sr)

Newcomers: Cassidy Joyce (So), Alyssa Forsythe (Fr) Natalie Galvan (Fr), Maddie Wiltrout (Fr)

Coach Hayes' outlook: "I am very optimistic about the upcoming 2015 season with my top 4 runners returning from last season including our All State Runner Audrey Ernst. Audrey had a great 2014 cross country season and an outstanding 2015 track season. She will be returning as one of the strongest runners in the state. Madison, Ally and Allie had a strong season for us last year and they have been working hard this summer. With some new and returning runners participating in the 2015 season, we should be stronger and have a stronger pack from runners 2 to 7."

19. Lake Zurich

Head Coach/coaches: Ian Silverman

Last year’s finish: 15th place- State Championship

Key returners: Caitlyn Shepard, Jessie Houghton, Kelly Ledinsky, Elisa Krause

Projected top 7 according to coach Silverman: "Oh, jeez, I genuinely have no real idea. We have a handful of girls closing in on those remaining spots, but I’m really superstitious about trying not to picture anyone running there."

Newcomers: "Same as above. I’m convinced that putting a name in print will cause a stress fracture or something. I promise I’m not being intentionally evasive."

Coach Silverman's outlook: "We graduated four of our varsity from last year, so we have some big holes to fill. We have a pool of talented, eager competitors but it will take some time to see where everyone shakes out and re-form a cohesive team. Repeating the successes of the past few years is definitely not out of the question, but it feels like it will take more focus and effort than we’ve been accustomed to."

18. Downers Grove North

Head Coach/coaches: Tim McDonald/Elizabeth Tumpach, Matt Maletich, Alex Lyons, Bruce Ritter

Last year’s finish: 22nd place- State Championship

Key returners: Emma Moravec, Grace Maletich, Kaitlyn Bonfield, Angela Budach, Ashley Johnson, Zoe Covey

Projected top 7: Moravec, Maletich, Bonfield, Budach, Covey; other possibilities. Johnson has been dealing with injuries and may not be back in time to start the season.

Newcomers: Too early to tell if any will have an impact according to McDonald.

Coach McDonald's outlook: "I am still recovering from last year's 22nd place, but we are very excited about the upcoming CC season. We are certainly hoping to improve on last year’s state finish. Ultimately, our team goal is to walk away from our last meet of the season (hopefully Detweiller) and feel that we had a race we can feel proud of. We have had a solid summer of training."

17. Elmhurst (York)

Head Coach: Annette Schulte/Lauren DeAngelis, Ashley Tucker

Last year's finish: 19th place- State Championship

Key returners: Elizabeth Hagstrom (Sr.), Erin Muckian (Sr.), Erin Davies (So.), Emily Seigenthaler (So.), Bridget Berger (Jr.)

Projected top 7: Hagstrom, Muckian, Davies, Seigenthaler, Berger; others

Newcomers: N/A

Tony's Take: Last year was the completion of a rebuilt program for the Lady Dukes. Prior it was a down season or two that was not up to Coach Schulte's standards. Although placing 19th in the state meet was not great, but it is better than most established teams in the state did. The transformation of the distance program is still evolving despite a solid track season, and that transformation should continue this fall.

16.Wilmette (Loyola Academy)

Head Coach: ChrisJon Simon

Last year’s finish: 20th place- State Championship

Key returners: Kathryn House (Sr.), Lainey McKinley (So.)

Projected top 7: House, McKinley, Payton Hoag (So.), Margo Dooley (Jr.); others

Newcomers: Dooley from soccer. She joined the team in track and should be the team's third or fourth runner.

Coach Simon's outlook: "[We finished] 20th place last with a injuries to key athletes. Kathryn House is healthy and motivated from a fall in the finals of the 1600m in track. She is front runner and will be joined at some point with Lainey McKinley. Our summer training was outstanding. In a mile time trial , we had four girls under 5:30 and two under 5:20."