Illinois News & Notes: Geneva Gets Stronger, Pawola Looking Strong

This fall will have a weekly column called "Illinois News & Notes."  The weekly feature will have tidbits from around the state on the sport, news pieces worthy of mentioning, but not necessarily seen in the results.  This week we discuss the Geneva girls team getting even strong and Neuqua Valley's Danny Pawola coming into his own.  Check out this weekly feature as the cross country starts to kick off.

Illinois News & Notes

Geneva Gets Even Stronger

Last year Geneva H.S. dominated the girls AAA state cross country championship race, earning the team title by a 119-131 margin over Lyons Township.  What made their feat even more impressive was the fact that the top six runners on their team were all freshmen, while the elder on the team, seventh runner Myra Yelle, was only a sophomore.  With all seven runners raring to go this season, as well as two other top seven potential athletes in Sarah Cable and Kelly Shogren, Geneva has the strength and depth it needs to make another run at the state title.

As if the squad needed any more good fortune, two of the top runners from Minnesota have transfered to the area and will run for the squad this fall.  Sisters Meghan and Sarah Heuer join the squad, both having impressive credentials.  Last fall Meghan finished seventh overall in the AAA state race, while Sarah finished ninth.  Their top finishes helped their squad place fourth overall in the team standing.  Meghan also placed seventh in 2006 as a freshman, while Sarah placed 19th as a sophomore that same yera.

The addition of the Heuer sisters adds another element to the Geneva mix and will make the season even more interesting to follow, as this strong team continues to grow stronger.

Pawola's Stock Rises

About a week ago I talked with Neuqua Valley's boys coach Paul Vandersteen.  Catching up with Coach Vandersteen is something I always enjoy, as we usually discuss the state of the sport, ways to improve it, and the top news in Illinois distance running.  As expected, we also talked about his squad and how they were training.  Coach Vandersteen stated that things were going very well.  His squad had quite a turn-out at their annual summer program, having some fun, while also working hard.  To my surprise, Vandersteen told me that his senior front runner, Danny Pawola, was doing workouts near or at the same times '07 state champion Chris Derrick did last year at this time. 

While this doesn't shock me completely, considering how big a talent Pawola is and how hard he works, to have an athlete running in the same range as one of Illinois' best ever is always a pleasant surprise.  With two years of top tier running behind him, Pawola is also receiving more attention than Derrick did at this point in the year from college coaches.  With the season right around the corner, the success of Pawola has to be one of the most encouraging signs for Neuqua Valley heading into the season. 

On another note, the Chicago Tribune wrote a nice piece on Pawola as well this week.  Click Here

Illinois Coaches Poll Coming Soon

The pre-season Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll will be released by weekends end.  Every week for the rest of the season, the weekly coaches poll will rank the top boys and girls teams in AAA.  This is the only coaches poll in the state, with coaches from all around the state taking part in ranking who they think the best teams in the state are. will post the weekly rankings each week, while providing results and analysis every weekend based off the rankings.

Ex-Illinois Prep Runner Tera Moody Running Strong

Perhaps the biggest surprise earlier this year at the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials was the fifth place performance of ex-Illinois high school standout Tera Moody.  Moody showed her strength and determination by placing an unexpected fifth in the event, propelling  her to the U.S. marathoning elite.  As a multi-time state champion at St. Charles High School, Moody then took her talents to the University of Colorado, where she ran on a few cross country trophy teams.  Throughout her career in high school, and especially college, Moody dealt with annemia (low iron) issues, often times leaving her worn out and needing to recover.  It seems as though Moody has found her stride, placing so well at the Olympic Trials and now being coached by Dathan Ritzenhein's coach, Brad Hudson.  Read more about Moody in an interview with Runner's World.  Click Here