Class A Girls Pre-Season Rankings Preview: The Countdown #25 to #21

So we begin with team subjective rankings. Several teams that were on the verge of making the state finals a year ago are now on the radar right out of the gate (Tracy Burmester photo)

25. Springfield (Lutheran)-
Last year's finish: 6th- Elmwood Sectional
Coach: Doug Reynolds
Key returners: Maddy Eck (Sr.), Brigid Tournoux (Jr.), Bernadette Tournoux (Jr.)
Projected Top 7: Other than the aforementioned runners, it's too soon to tell.
Nick's thoughts on the season: The Crusaders return a solid top three in Eck and the Tournoux sisters. These three made up the nucleus of the team that finished 6th at the Elmwood Sectional. They will need to find some depth in order to make a run to Detweiller.

24. Elmwood-
Last year's finish: 8th- Elmwood Sectional
Coach: Kyle Anderson
Key returners: Emily McCauley (Sr.), Alexa Perrow (Jr.), Julia Bledsoe (Jr.), Greta Inskeep (So.), Katy Meyers (So.), Sydney Hartwig (So.), Trinity Brandt (So.)
Projected top 7: Emily McCauley (Sr.), Alexa Perrow (Jr.), Julia Bledsoe (Jr.), Sydney Hartwig (So.), Greta Inskeep (So.), Katy Meyers (So.), Julia Dunkel (So.) Newcomers: Ali Wagner (Jr.), Julia Dunkel (So.), Christine Karn (Fr.)
Coach Anderson's outlook: "This is my second year as girls coach at Elmwood-Brimfield. Last year was a learning year for us, as the team grew from 3 runners in 2015 to 15 runners in 2016. We showed promise and growth throughout the season and managed an 8th place finish in our sectional. This season, we will have anywhere from 10 to 14 runners. McCauley, Inskeep, Meyers, and Dunkel are coming off of a good track season where they qualified for state in the 4x800. Perrow qualified in the 3200. They carried this momentum through and this group, along with Hartwig and Bledsoe, has had summer in which the mileage quantity and quality has been a great improvement over last year. We haven't officially talked about goals yet, but I think number one will be to be racing in November."

23. Amboy-
Last year's finish: 20th- State Championship
Coach: Bob Halberg
Top Returners: Margaret Vaessen (So.), Kaitlyn Ortgeisen (Jr.), Cassidy Corcoran (Sr.), Kelynn Boyle (Jr.) Projected Top 7: The girls mentioned above are all expected to be in the top 7. It's too soon to tell who will round out the team.
Nick's thoughts on the season: The Clippers had a solid season last year culminating in a 20th place finish at state. Their top two runners (Erin Hosto and Megan Grady) have graduated leaving the team in search of top of the lineup help. Amboy returns a solid pack of four in Vaessen, Ortgeisen, Corcoran, and Boyle. If they can pull along a 5th runner that can stay close, they have a chance to have a very good season.

22. Mackinaw (Dee-Mack)-
Last year's finish: 7th- Elmwood Sectional
Coaches: Sam Ingram (Head Coach), Andy Knowles (Asst. Coach)
Key returners: Mikayla Moore (Sr.), Emily Embry (Sr.), and Jess Carithers (Jr.)
Projected top 7: Mikayla Moore (Sr.), Emily Embry (Sr.), Jess Carithers (Jr.), Paige Witte (So.), Cauri Johnson Jr.), Hailey Johnson (So.), Marley Knowles (Sr.) Newcomers: Sydney Dobyns (Fr.), Kaleigh Everett (Fr.), Hailey Johnson (Fr.), Ryann Drake (Fr.)
Coach Ingram's outlook: "Coming off the 2017 track & field season with 2 of our 4x800m Relay 1A Champions (Moore & Embry) we will attempt to have our school's 1st state qualifying girls team! State 4x800m Alternates Jess Carithers, Cauri Johnson, and Paige Witte will likely round out our varsity top 5, and we are hoping for more depth this season with at least 4 new faces to the girls' team. Last year's placement at sectionals wasn't what we'd hoped for but we finished just 27 points behind El Paso-Gridley who went on to finish 15th in the state at Detweiller. I think our girls' first trip to state is only a matter of these girls running their best at the same time, which we just weren't able to pull off last October."

21. Effingham (St. Anthony)-
Last year's finish: 7th at the Effingham St. Anthony Sectional
Coach: Eric Zeller
Key returners: Sarah Carr (Jr.), Katherine Slaughter (So.), Kendall Fonner (Sr.), Abby Weis (Jr.), Kaitlyn Zeller (Jr.)
Projected top 7: The girls mentioned above will be in the mix. Too soon to tell who will round out the top 7. Nick's thoughts on the season: How do you replace the legendary Anna Sophia-Keller? It's simple. You don't. Anna Sophia has taken her talents to Notre Dame and forever left her mark on Illinois cross-country. This year's team will find its strength in pack running. Sarah Carr flashed some impressive speed last spring with a 2:24 800. Slaughter, Fonner, and Weis formed a nice pack at sectionals. If the three of them can pull Zeller along and get closer to Carr, St. Anthony should have a strong team.