3A Girls Cross Country Team Preview: #15 to #1 Countdown

There is absolutely no girls field as furious as the female 3A state championship. It is "Survival of the fittest" and those who can survive will enjoy the spoils afterwards. (Ilona Koziel photo)

The Illinois girls have stormed on to the national stage in recent years with respect. It was last November that two elite teams qualified for the Nike Cross Country National in Portland, Oregon. Naperville North took 4th place and Palatine, an at-large entry, copped a very respectable 12th after being stiffed a year prior. Without going any further, this could be one of the most memorable years state and national wide for Illinois girls.

15. St. Charles East

Head Coach/coaches: Michael Arenberg/Michael Backer

Last year’s finish: 7th place- St. Charles East Sectional

Key returners: Hannah Ewald (Jr.), Anastasia Honea (Sr.), Anna Arrick (Jr.), Lauren Woellfer (Jr.) Lexi Scull (Jr.)

Projected top 7: Ewald, Honea, Arrick, Woellfer, Scull; it will be a toss up for the final two spots

Newcomers: The Saints have one of the largest group of incoming freshmen in the state with 25. "It is hard to say at this point if any will challenge for top 7-10 spots," said Arenberg.

Coach Arenberg's thoughts on team: The Girls had a great summer; we’re not a deep team, so that’s going to hurt us. Our sectional is SO TOUGH, it’s hard to get out. We may be a top 20 team in the state and not qualify.

Tony's Take: Sometimes you need a little luck to go with skill and talent. The Saints have had tremendous success on the track with the distance and middle-distance program. They have also been on the state medal podium under former coach Denise Heffernan. The Saints may be another season away from the podium talk.

14. Schaumburg

Head Coach/coaches: Courtney Smith/Caitlin Roberts, Denny Lau

Last year’s finish: 6th Place- State Championship

Key returners: Ellie O’Connell (Jr.), Lauren Kubinski (So.), Valarie Schackelton (Jr.), Maddie Marasco (So.), Nadine Pola (Sr.)

Projected top 7: O’Connell, Kubinski, Schackelton, Marasco, Rachael Vaccaro (So.), Maggie Centeno (So.), Pola

Newcomers: N/A

Coach Smith's outlook: "We are a very young team, the ladies definitely put in some mileage during the summer to establish a good base for the season and there is a lot of room for growth. Our focus will be to put our best effort towards every race and focus on us."

Tony's Take: It will be interesting to see how a team that lost Erin Falsey, Ali Gutt, and Caroline Kurdej- all tremendous cross country runners to graduation compete. O'Connell is the veteran who placed 44th at state last year. She will have to lead a group of emerging teammates in the always tough MSL and against some teams who want to get some revenge.

13. Hoffman Estates

Head Coach/coaches: Kirk Macnider, head coach. Matt Ihms, Asst. coach

Last year’s finish: 16th place- State Championship

Key returners: Meagan Biddle (Sr.), Carly Dagen (Sr.), Allison Schrader (So.), Reena Prahbu (Sr.), Misbah Baig (Jr.), Jill Prigge (Jr.)

Projected top 7: (order tbd) Meagan Biddle, Carly Dagen, Allison Schrader, Reena Prabhu, Misbah Baig (Jr.); another 5-7 girls in the mix

Newcomers: Bella Alansari, Crystal Delgado, Giselle Benitez, Argelia Morales, Michaela Palmer

Coach Macnider's outlook: "Biddle is primed for a special season. Dagen and Schrader have had huge summers, off exciting track seasons. Baig and Prahbu have both are capable of sub 18:00. Add in some new talent, and we are excited for the season. The goal is to improve in all regards, run PRs, and enjoy the journey."

12. Barrington

Head Coach: Debbie Revolta

Last year’s finish: 6th place- Schaumburg Sectional

Key returners: Lauren Conroy (Sr.), Jocelyn Long (So.), Samantha Samaryczew (Jr.)

Projected top 7: Conroy, Long, Samaryczew, Sophie Holtgen, Arushi Agarwal (Sr.), Caitlin Feely, Danielle Leyva.

Newcomers: Sophie and Eve Holtgen.

Coach Revolta's outlook: "As always we are striving to get better each week. We would like to finish in the top three in the Mid Suburban League Conference and qualify as a team to the State Meet."

Tony's Take: Barrington was one of the top teams in Illinois last year, but they did not qualify for the state championship. However, they made big strides on the track when their 4x800 relay qualified for the state final. In addition, the emerging sophomore Long placed fourth in the 3200m. If she and Conroy (17th in '14 xc state) can stay healthy and consistent all season long, then the MSL and the state of Illinois better watch out.

11. Lockport

Head Coach: Erin Truesdale

Last year’s finish: 5th place- State Championship

Key returners: Morgan Bollinger (Jr.), Alicia Ary (Sr.), Emily Stoklosa (Sr.), Aubrey Friedrich (So.), Karlee Stortz (Jr.), Jorie Beaumont (Jr.), Zaplatosch (Sr.)

Projected top 7 according to Coach Truesdale: "I am still working on a top 7. We have a lot of returners and some newcomers with potential to break into that line up."

Newcomers: Ashley Canny, Adriana Watson, Kate Wojciniewicz

Coach Truesdale's outlook: "I am very excited to see a lot of potential between the returning athletes and the newcomers. I have many freshmen coming in with prior running experience so I will be looking for them to mix up that top 12. Our goal now is to stay healthy and keep improving!"

10. Geneva

Head Coach/coaches: Bob Thomson/Hilary Hamblock, Rachel Jankiewicz

Last year’s finish: 12th place- State Championship

Key returners: McKenzie Altmayer (Sr) 11th, Emma Ehrhardt (Jr) 39th, Mary Grace Neville (Jr) 114th, Taryn Christy (So) 148th, Sarah Mozden (So) 155th, Emma McSpadden (Sr) 175th.

Projected top 7 according to Coach Thomson: "Too early to tell for most of the team but it will start with McKenzie and Emma E. We expect Mary Grace, Taryn, Sarah, and Emma M. to be back in the thick of things but others will contribute. Others that may help would be Gabi Thomson (Jr) 109th in 2013 state and was our 1st alternate last season, Brittany Caskey (So), Molly McQueeny (Sr),Holly Nusser (So), and Ally Dudman (Jr)."

Newcomers: Sophia McDonnell (Fr), Emily Belanger (Fr), Paige Belzer (Fr)

Coach Thomson's outlook: "I can’t speak for the team but I would think and expect them to earn a spot at the state meet and challenge Batavia and St. Charles East for the Conference title. We will need our top five to seven to pack it up a bit as they are spread out a bit right now."

9. Batavia

Head Coach/coaches: Chad Hillman/Samantha Miller

Last year’s finish: 11th place

Key returners: Emma Stephens (So.), Dakota Roman (Sr.), Daphne Kolody, Marygrace Golden (So.), Anna Malay (So.), Erika Mansfield (So.)

Projected top 7: Stevens, Roman, Kolody, Golden, Malay, Mansfield; others

Newcomers: Alexa Andrews

Coach Hillman's outlook: "Strong returning core group with 6 of the top 7 from the state meet returning. Our goals are to win the conference championship and improve last year’s state meet place and have individual All-Staters."

Tony's Take: The Bulldogs were one of the youngest teams in the state last year and they will remain so again this fall. Coach Hillman and his staff will have a tough task in managing health, distractions, etc. as the girls move toward upperclassmen level. Batavia could use a once dominant Geneva team that created the blue print on winning and competing together as youngsters. Geneva Coach Bob Thomson won a state title with six freshman several years ago.