2A Girls Pre-Season Cross Country Preview: The Unclassified Section

Make no mistake about it... cross country in the state of Illinois is good. There are a number of quality teams regardless of classification ready to show they are worthy of being ranked, and more importantly being one of the 25 teams that earn a trip to Detweiller Park in November for the state championship (Steven Bugarin photo)

Crystal Lake Central
Last year's finish: 4th- State Championship
Coach: Brett Willhoit
Projected top 7: Katelyn Smith (Sr.), Becca Orvis (Jr.), Maddie Hollander (Sr.), Stephanie Doerr (Sr.), Aislynn Gildea (So.), Alexandra Scarfe (So.), Alyssa Tomlinson (Jr.)
Coach Willhoit's outlook: "With some changes to our lineup because of graduation, I am excited to see some veteran runners take on leadership roles and younger runners step up to the challenges of creating another successful season."

Crystal Lake South
Last year's finish: 11th- Waukegan 3A Sectional
Coaches: Ken Greenfield (Head Coach), Michelle Roberts (Assistant Coach)
Top returners: Mackenzie Aldridge (So.), Emma Heuck (Jr.), Megan Lyons (Sr.), Olivia Beckwith (Jr.), Kayla Ehrenhaft (Sr.)
Coach Greenfield's outlook: "We'll miss Caitlin Bruzzini up front, but we return a solid core of varsity runners from last year. A couple keys to the season are 1) how much of a jump our returning runners make (I've been really happy with the off-season work they've put in), and 2) contributions from a couple of freshmen that have some talent."

Last year's finish: 10th- Metamora sectional
Coach: John Beatty
Projected top 7: Rachel Hickey (Sr.), Gabby Swain (Sr.), Jessica Riggs (Jr.), Janelle Bernardoni (Jr.), Brea Sebastian (So.), Michela Ossola (So.), Maryn Ellis (Jr.)
Coach Beatty's Outlook: "This will be a building year for us but I am optimistic. We had the best track season in the school's history and some of those athletes are coming out for cross country. Our goal remains to qualify the team for state."

Troy (Triad)
Last year's finish: 12th at Decatur sectional
Coach: Andy Brendel
Projected top 7: Maddie Keller (Sr.), Madi Walter (Sr.), Alyssa Postma (So.), Sydney Hartoin (Fr.), Alyssa Kowalski (Fr.) and a couple more newcomers that could make an impact.
Coach Brendel's outlook: "We are excited about this group. We'll have a nice mix of senior leadership with some talented underclassman."

Coach: Troy Haacke
Last year's finish: 6th at Decatur sectional
Projected top 7: Quincy Collings (Sr.), Caley Lane (Sr.), Anna Prior (So.), Mickenzie Schofield (So.), Kylie Haacke (Fr.), Delaney Kimberling (Sr.), Chaslyn Himes (So.)
Coach Haacke's outlook: "I am very excited about the upcoming season with some very good talent returning on the girls' side. We are hoping for a great season."

Coaches: Doug Bradley (Head Coach) Bob Vance (Assistant Coach)
Last year's finish: 8th in Decatur Sectional
Projected top 7: Sam Hengehold (So.), Brittney Nigh (Sr.), Lily Becker (Jr.), Lexy Gilliam (Jr.), Kate Marti (Jr.), Breann Wernle (Sr.). Four of these girls have state experience. Jessica Borror (Fr.) will definitely be in the mix for a top five spot.
Newcomers: Jessica Borror (Fr.), Julia Loeh (Fr.), Grace Meyer (Fr.), and Paige Schaible (Fr.)
Coach Bradley's outlook: "Compared to last year's offseason this summer has been terrific. It started with the return of Kate Marti and Breann Wernle and continued with solid mileage getting turned in by most of the girls in the program. Sam Hengehold will likely be our leader again this season. She got a little worn out late last year and then had some bad luck at the sectional but she looks to be poised for a great season. Kate Marti and Breann Wernle are both running well after missing last year and they've both ran in the 18's at Detweiller so they should play big roles for this team. Brittney Nigh really finished strong last season as our number three and she's already surpassed her previous summer mileage. Lily Becker and Lexy Gilliam have been key contributors the past two seasons and are going to be relied on for their experience early in the season. Leading the way among the incoming freshmen is Jessica Borror. Jessica has a lot of potential and should step right in to the top five. For the other freshmen their development will be the key to determining how far this team makes it in the post season."

West Chicago (Wheaton Academy)
Last year's state finish: 18th
Coaches: Chris Felinski (Head Coach), Daniel Ball and Katie Buell (Asst. Coaches)
Projected top 7: Julia Robleski (Sr.), Stephanie Gregersen (Jr.), Kayla Lotz (Sr.), Mary Frost (So.), TBA for the rest -- so hard to tell at this point.
Coach Felinski's outlook: "The Warriors are returning half of last year's team, including the top 2 scorers in Julia Robleski and Stephanie Gregersen. After finishing 3rd in the sectional last year and 18th in the state, the girls are looking for another trip to state. Julia is shooting for all-state status after finishing 59th last year, as well as setting the school record."

Rockford (Boylan)
Last year's finish: 6th- Belvidere Sectional
Coaches: Linda Schmitt (Head Coach) Ann Marie Coyle (Asst. Coach)
Projected top 7: Grace McLaughlin (Sr.), Lily Johnston (Sr.), Anne Sweeney (So.), Emily Horgan (Sr.), Julianna Mace (So.), Lindsey Zimmerman (Sr.), Lauren Kelly (Jr.)
Coach Schmitt's outlook: "Grace McLaughlin has charged into the #1 spot with great success during the spring and her All American performances in the off season. Her teammates have been more dedicated in the off season and we have had a productive summer. We are looking forward to the challenge of missing graduate Delaney Appino and hopeful that the girls will improve from last year. There is always the challenge of the sectional we compete in, but tough competition is added incentive to work hard."

Arlington Heights (Saint Viator)
Head Coach: Kelli Wosick
Last year's finish: 7th at Bensenville (Fenton) Sectional
Coaches: Kelli Wosick (Head Coach), Chip Curtin (Asst. Coach)
Projected top 7: Payton McDonnell (Jr.), Claire Bottcher (Jr.), Maddie Fitzpatrick (Sr.), Sophie Limberakis (Fr.), Katie Castelli (Fr.). It's too soon to tell who will round out the top 7.
Coach Wosick's outlook: "This season is looking very promising for the team. With some fast incoming freshmen who are sure to make their mark our top runners will constantly be pushing themselves at practice, which will only help them compete stronger when they race. This team has been close to qualifying for state the past two years, and the girls are eager to finally make it to state and show everyone what they can do."

Last year's finish: 22nd at state
Coach: Darren Latham
Projected Top 7: Arianna Climaco (So.), Julia Kapp (So.), Kailee Chau (Jr.), and Elizabeth Byington (Jr.) and others possibly including Naya Busbea (So.) and Madison Krieg (So.). It's too soon to tell how it will shake out.
Coach Latham's outlook: "We graduated our top two runners last year Melanie Cozzi and Mackenzie Dixon. However, we picked up a new sophomore Naya Busbea. She was on the track team last year and had an 800 PR of 2:33.37. She has put in a good solid base this summer, running with my top girls Arianna Climaco, Julia Kapp, Kailee Chau, and Elizabeth Byington. We have several girls that will challenge for top seven spots with one standout Madison Krieg who has really put in some mileage over the summer and I wouldn't be surprised if she broke into the top 5 spots. We will have a young but very talented team this year."

Burlington Central
Last year's finish: 9th at Belvidere Sectional
Coaches: Vince Neil (Head Coach), Dan Palmiter (Asst. Coach)
Projected Top 7: Chloe Bilyk (Sr.), Natalia Rodriguez (Jr.), Annalise Daniels (Fr.), Jocelyn Victoria (Fr.), Brooke Barkocy (Fr.), Jenna Dinges (So.), Emily Stark (So.).
Coach Neil's outlook: "Daniels, Victoria, and Barkocy will challenge at the front of the pack. Dinges, Stark, Mckay, and Leegard will provide a solid second pack for us. Chloe Bilyk and Natalia Rodriguez will be our top returning athletes from last season. Pack running this year will be the key to our success. If we can run together as a group we can be very competitive this fall. We have quality leadership in Chloe Bilyk and the girls joining the team this season are excited to be competitive. I am really looking forward to working with this group of young ladies."

Urbana (University High School)
Last year's finish: 7th at Decatur Sectional
Coaches: Doug Mynatt (Head Coach) and Sarah Walker (Asst. Coach)
Projected top 7: Arielle Summitt (Sr.), Anika Kimme (Jr.), Angie Shaw (Sr.), Anya Kaplan-Hartnett (So.), Erin Minor (So.), Chloe Pollock-Muskin (Sr.), Danbi Choi (Fr.)
Coach Mynatt's outlook: "While we'll still be bumped up to 2A this season, that won't have any effect on our #1 position with Arielle Summitt leading the way. Not only will she be our team leader, she will be poised to be one of the state leaders as she comes off her second consecutive state championship in the 800m run during the track and field season and after making the decision not to compete with a club team this summer. Coming away from the XC state series disappointed last year, I expect her to enter this season with even more focus and in better health. With 4-time xc all-stater Annemarie Michael now graduated, we will need to rely even more on pack running in that void behind Arielle to have team success. Anika Kimme will be the first one in after Arielle. We should still have the team strength needed for a successful run through the season and into the 2A state series once again."

Last year's finish: 7th- Metamora Sectional
Coaches: Joel Zehr (Head Coach), Dave Getz and Joe Zeller (Asst. Coaches)
Projected top 7: Meagan Moreno (Jr.), Aspen Gordon (Jr.), Hannah Johnson (Sr.), Tenley Dowell (Jr.), Abby Dryden (Jr.), Sophia MacLean (Sr.), Sarah Honegger (Jr.)
Coach Zehr's outlook: "I am excited to see these girls race. We dealt with some injury last year that hampered our progress late in the season, but if we can keep all of the girls healthy and they are all motivated, they definitely have the talent to be running in November. Meagan has been our number one runner since she joined the team two years ago. Look for her to continue leading the team this fall. Also, look for Aspen Gordon and Hannah Johnson to show significant improvement during the 2017 season."

Springfield (Sacred Heart-Griffin)
Last year's finish: 11th- Decatur MacArthur Sectional
Coach: Josh Bluhm
Projected top 7: Kaya Decastro (So.), Hannah Vanhouten (Sr.), Grace McDonald (Sr.), Lily Carstens (Sr.), Mikayla Hady (So.), Julia Curry (Jr.), Grace Trello (Sr.)
Nick's thoughts on the season: The top 7 return from the team that finished 11th at the Decatur MacArthur Sectional. While none of these girls has established herself as a clear cut front runner, the Cyclones should have a solid pack of experienced runners that could be knocking on the door for a state birth.

Mt. Vernon
Last year's finish: 9th- Decatur MacArthur Sectional
Coach: Connie Harre-Blair
Projected top 7: Bria Moore (Jr.), Savannah Childers (Sr.), Summer Chelf (So.), Phoebe Ross (So.) and some newcomers will be in the mix for the top 7 spots.
Nick's thoughts on the season: The Rams will miss all state 1600 m runner Kate Bushue who will be running at EIU this fall. The team returns four of its top runners in Moore, Childers, Chelf, and Ross. The Rams always seems to be a competitive team and will have a chance to have a good season if they can add some depth.