2016 2A Girls Blue Thunder Strikes First In Pre Season Rankings

Jenna Lutzow (#753) has tremendous range from 400 to 3miles. She may also be tired of second place finishes from last year's 2A xc championship and this past spring in the 800 (Colin Boyle photo)

1. Belvidere North

Head Coach/coaches: Ken Husser/ Drew Pivoras, Erin Foster, Molly Scheidegger
Last year's finish: State Runner Up
Key returners: Jenna Lutzow (Sr.), Sabrina Elder (Jr.), Remy Bice (So.), Mia Rodriguez (Jr.), Chelsey Recendez (So.), Brinley Hefty (So.)
Projected top 7: Same as above
Newcomers: Olivia Zaluckyj, Alexandria Reza, Gianna Sagona, and Madison Diercks.
Coach Husser's outlook: We had a solid summer of training and look to be highly competitive in 2A. With Yorkville moving up to 3A, there will be a number of outstanding teams competing for the state title. If we progress as I hope, we have the ability to be in the mix. We have six of our top seven back from last year, with Jenna Lutzow having a great track season and finishing 2nd (2:11) in the 800 Meter 3A race.There are four talented freshmen that can compete to be in the top seven. We need to continue to improve our times and close the 1 to 5 split. Also, it will be interesting to see the competition between our runners and who will emerge to fill our number four/five slot.

2. Crystal Lake Central

Head Coach: Brett Willhoit
Last year's finish: State Championship- 4th 
Key returners: Janine Orvis (Sr.), Katelyn Smith (Jr.), Avani Flanagan (Sr.), Kelly Doerr (Sr.), Debra Tomlinson (Sr.), Maddie Hollander (Jr.), Becca Orvis (So.), Stephanie Doerr
Projected top 7: same as above
Newcomers: Aislyn Gildea
Tony's Take: Coach Willhoit was being rather modest when he uttered, "we are looking to contend for the conference title again this year. We are also looking to be a competitive team in the state series." The Tigers were easily one of the best teams in the state last year that overachieved. This team around they return the entire freight, the shipment if you will. If those who finished ahead of them slip even an inch, the state title will be Crystal Lake Central's.

3. Dunlap

Head Coach/coaches:  Chris Friedman/Steve Carter, Amanda Young, Chloe Schmidt
Last year's finish: 6th- State Championship
Key returners: Franny Verville (Jr.), Miranda Kruiswyk (Jr.), Abby Johnson (So.), Ayah Aldadah (Jr.), Andrea Copeland (Jr.), Riley Baker (Jr.) all return from the state team (MeMe Shanahan has unfortunately moved to Houston)
Projected top 7: Five returners from the state team along with Kate Piper and Kylie Webb
Newcomers: Dunlap Middle School finished second in IESA class AA last year and six of the seven join our team this year: Sophie Roberts, Abby Banister, Jordan Serrahn, Tori Deters, Tess Davilla, Zoe Davilla.
Coach Friedman's outlook:
The summer has gone incredibly well. The girls have been dedicated to the schedule, laying the base for the work to be done during the season. Our upperclassmen have welcomed the freshmen in with open arms, and we have had more girls running this summer on a more regular basis than ever before. We will need this dedication throughout the season as our local area should be strong for girls.

Within in our conference, Washington and Morton will be pushing us much of the season. Add to that Peoria Notre Dame who will show that they are just as strong without Maryjeanne Gilbert, and we will quality opponents taking shots at us each week. We should be as strong as ever this year. We return six of the seven that toed the line at the state meet, two key reserves from last year's team (Piper and Webb), and six new freshmen along with some others looking to crack the top 12 (Kenna Koehler and Jena Brooks). Sixteen girls for twelve spots means depth should not be a problem. The track team had a breakthrough year with Verville, Kruiswyk, Aldadah, Copeland, and Brooks all making the finals in either individual or relay events (Johnson plays soccer and Baker had mono).

The way the 2015 season ended should be a motivating factor for this team. We tried to be something we were not at the end of the season, and it was my fault. Looking back, I sent five girls to the state line who had no state experience at all. However, I spoke and acted like they all had been there before and could handle the stress and pressure of the moment. We attacked Yorkville instead of running our race, and we paid for it the second half of the race. I have learned from that experience, and we will run our race this year. The goal, as it has been the past few years, is a state trophy. After the joy of a third place trophy in 2014, the disappointment of 2015 made us realize how hard it is to earn a trophy and how bad we want one again.

4. Washington

Head Coach/coaches: Troy Walcott/ Tom Smith
Last year's finish: 11th at State Meet
Key returners: Kassidy Dexheimer (Sr.), Hailey Tranchitella (Sr.), Josie Hermann (Jr.), Kara Jacobs (Jr.), Taylor Widder (Jr.), Claire Meyers (Jr.), Victoria Mc Dougall (So.), Hannah Bennett (So.), Makenna Blackorby (Jr.)
Projected top 7: Dexheimer, Tranchitella, Hermann, Jacobs, Widder, Meyers, Victoria Mc Dougall 
Newcomers: Erin Earl, Emily Biagini
Coach Walcott's outlook: Our summer workouts went well and the team is ready to improve on last year's state performance. They are stronger and in better all-around shape than last year. It should be an exciting season with this team.
Tony's Take: On paper it appears as though the Lady Panthers have their best ever team in the making. Dexheimer and Tranchitella are finally seniors. It seems as though the pair had been smashing the competition for the past three seasons with two 4x800 relay state titles mixed with their cross country success. Now this team is full of veterans who are ready for the next level of success.

5. Vernon Hills

Head Coach/coaches: Suzanne Curry / Chris Wolf
Last year's finish: 3rd - State Championship
Key returners: Lauren Katz (Jr.) (8th in State), Payton Makowskyj (So.), Hannah Ray (So), Ryan Schofield (So.) Katelyn Dohler (So.), Vivian Tsai (So.)
Projected top 7: Katz, Makowskyj, Ray, Carly Sear (Fr), Schofield, Dohler, Tsai
Newcomers: Sear, Abby Kempf
Coach Curry's outlook: Although we lost two of our top five in Vivian Overbeck and Shannon Skeoch; we have a young but experienced group. The majority of the varsity squad is made up of sophomores who all had significant roles in big time races last season. Freshman Carly Sear slid right into training with the top group this summer and should make an immediate impact for us. We have the largest team in school history with many youngsters and newcomers looking to break into that varsity group. We'll be competing in a new conference this season (the CSL North) and are excited about that new challenge. This is a close-knit group of kids who all share the goal of improving on last years' performance. I am looking forward to spending time with the girls again and ready for a fun season.

6. Grayslake Central

Head Coach/coaches: Jimmy Centella / Chris Palmer, Anthony DeStephano, Brenda Zeck.
Last year's finish: 9th - State Meet
Key returners: Megan Girmscheid (Sr.), Elizabeth Aho (Sr.), Riley Achtemeier, Greta Ruhlmann
Projected top 7: Girmscheid, Aho, Achtemeier, Ruhlmann, Leah Minsky, Amy Moore, Mali Chiodi, Abby Tonkery, Lauren Brunk, Vanessa Olmos, Roz Searle, Hannah Groenke; (as many as 12 girls could make the top 7 throughout the season)
Newcomers: Leah Minsky-Freshman and little sis of 2A xc all-state Eli Minsky. She was a middle school state qualifier in both XC and track this past year.
Coach Centella's outlook: Our girls have had an outstanding winter, spring, and fall. Many of our girls made big gains during the track season and continue to improve this summer. We had 13 girls break six minutes during track thanks to the guidance of our xc assistant and girls distance coach Chris Palmer during this past track season. What this means is that we will have more depth on the girls' side than we have had since I started coaching at Central 8 years ago. Girmscheid and Aho should provide a strong 1-2 punch with Achtemeier not too far behind. The depth led by Ruhlmann and Minsky will provide a strong top 7 for our girls. After finishing a school best 9th and seeing the boys take home a trophy last year, it is safe to say that our ladies are thinking of bringing a trophy home themselves this fall.

7. Maple Park (Kaneland) 

Head Coach/coaches: Doug Ecker / Andy Franklin
Last year's finish: 2nd NIB XII Conference 10th place IHSA 2A State Meet
Key returners: Return four of the top seven with Grace Purcell 10th All-Conference, Tessa Brennan 10th All-Conference, Emma Ball 10th (KHS #5 runner @ state), Andrea Wells 11th (KHS #4 runner @ state); Along with much improved seniors Becca Richtman (All-state track), Sarah Daley (All-state track), & Abby Shaw plus sophomore Erin Ball
Projected top 7: At this point it would be is nothing but a wild guess. We have a dozen or more girls who could be in the top 7 by season's end. The eight girls above along with an incoming class of freshman who finished 2nd in the 3A Division of the IESA State Cross Country Meet will all be candidates for the top seven.
Newcomers: Freshman Rachel Richtman: Individual IESA 3A State Cross Country Champion and Lesley Viveros who placed 5th lead the list of newcomers along with freshman Bethany Duffey, Izzy Modatt, Emma Hockey, and Kendall Regnier.
Coach Ecker's outlook: We lost seniors Brianna Bower (Individual Conference Champion/9th place @ IHSA 2A State Meet) and Noelle Espino (29th @ State). The team's strength should be their depth. If all the girls can stay healthy (and so far this summer they have) this will be the largest number of quality runners we have ever had competing for the top 7 in the 30 years I have coached cross country at KHS. It will be mid October before we will have an idea of how good they can be as a team. The other question will be if any of them can develop into top of the pack runners which the team lost in seniors Brianna Bower & Noelle Espino.

8. Lemont 
Head Coach/coaches: Tim Plotke / Stefanie Miller
Last year's finish: 8th- State Championship 
Key returners: Bridget Kunkel (sr) Beata Drozda (jr), Celine Ratulowski (jr), Jacey Schickel (jr) Gianna Lopez (jr) Brianna Carlson (jr)
Projected top 7: Bridget Kunkel (sr) Beata Drozda (jr) Julianne McClatchey (so) Celine Ratulowski (jr), Jacey Schickel (jr) Gianna Lopez (jr) Brianna Carlson (jr)
Newcomers: Julianne McClatchey (so) Cassandra Hamilton (fr)
Coach Plotke's outlook: It is definitely going to be difficult replacing the three seniors (from last years top 7) that graduated. However, we are returning four girls who have state meet experience who are eager to continue improving the team's performances. Summer training has gone real well. The girls have put down a tremendous aerobic base along with the occasional tempo/threshold runs. I think our strength, once again, will be our ability to run together as a pack