Class 2A Girls Pre Season Preview: Lemont Leads Charge To #11

The cross country herd drops down to #11 with some very good squads (Beth Scheid photo)

20. Chicago (Latin)
Last year's state finish: 21st
Coaches: Dan Daly (Head Coach) David Marshall and Amy Merrell (Asst. Coaches)
Key returners: Laura Katunas (Sr.), Clare Hardiman (So.), Paige Hosbein (So.)
Newcomers: Marianne Mihas, Olivia Sytested, Charlotte O'Toole, Josephine Daab (all freshmen)
Projected top 7: Laura Katunas (Sr.), Paige Hosbein (So.), Clare Hardiman (So.), Marianne Mihas (Fr.), Olivia Sytested (Fr.), Liza Kaniewski (Sr.), Olivia Baker (Jr.)
Coach Daly's outlook: "We look to have a very good and deep squad this fall. The ladies are talented, athletic, hard-working, and supportive of one another and looking to make a mark this fall. I'm optimistic we can have nice improvement from last year and be peaking as we often do on the first Saturday in November."

19. Normal Community West
Last year's finish: 6th in the Edwardsville 3a Sectional
Coach: Chad Aubin
Key returners: Mara Smith (Jr.), Mackenzie Piazza (Jr.), Olivia Boyd (So.), Asia Quizon-colquitt (So.), Tess Birlingmaie (Jr.), Mackenzie Allsop (Jr.)
Projected top 7: The girls mentioned above should be in the top 7.
Nick's thoughts on the season: The Wildcats should find the competition slightly less intense as they move down from 3a. No, I didn't say it would be easy! 6 of the top 7 runners return from a team that finished 6th at the Edwardsville Sectional. The team should be paced by Mara Smith who was the first finisher at sectional not from Minooka or Yorkville.

18. Normal (University)
Last year's state finish: 8th
Coaches: Lester Hampton (Head Coach), John Neisler, Stu Shaver, Norris Porter and Jill Burroughs (Asst. Coaches)
Key returners: Riley Madix (Sr.), Emmy Mussey (Jr.), Olivia Shouse (Jr.), Lauren Brown (Jr.), Tasha Schuckman (So.) Newcomers: Mackie Madix (Fr.), Lyndsay Wolters (Fr.), Mya Kaeb (Fr.)
Projected top 7: Expecting Mussey, Schuckman, and Madix to lead the way, with Brown and Shouse leading a group of freshmen or new contributors.
Coach Neisler's outlook: "We lost 3 of our top 5 from last year with Advika Kamatar and Ally Shepherd graduating and Katy Clausen moving to Arizona. By the end of the year, we'd like to have a group of 3 or 4 under 19, with the rest of our scorers under 19:30. We're looking forward to competing in the Central State 8 for the first time, and hope to qualify for the State meet again."

17. Washington
Last year's finish: 6th- Metamora Sectional
Coaches: Troy Walcott (Head Coach), Tom Smith and Ben Page (Asst. Coaches)
Key returners: Josie Hermann, (Sr.) Taylor Widder, (Sr.) Kara Jacobs, (Sr.) Claire Myers, (Sr.), Joy English (So.) Newcomers: Jadyn Jacobs (Fr.)
Projected top 7: Josie Hermann, (Sr.) Taylor Widder, (Sr.) Kara Jacobs, (Sr.) Claire Myers (Sr.), Joy English (So.), Jadyn Jacobs (Fr.), Brooke Evans (So.)
Coach Walcott outlook: "After having a good summer of training, the girls should be competitive in the fall. The order of the top 5 runners will probably change race by race since they are so close in ability."

16. Lake Villa (Lakes Community High School)
Last year's finish: 8th- Belvidere Sectional
Coaches: Keith West (Head Coach), Travis Shepherd (Asst. Coach)
Key returners: Olivia Schmitt (So.), Megan Knuettel (Jr.), Simone Lippmann (Jr.), Hannah Grant (Jr.), Morgan Gillespie (Jr.)
Newcomers: Brooke Stromsland (Fr.), Alex Bryant (Fr.)
Projected top 7: Olivia Schmitt (So.), Megan Knuettel (Jr.), Simone Lippmann (Jr.), Hannah Grant (Jr.), Morgan Gillespie (Jr.), Brooke Stromsland (Fr.), Alex Bryant (Fr.)
Coach West's outlook: "The team is excited about the increase in numbers. We should have over 30 athletes on this year's team. Has the sectional race last year motivated the group this summer? Last year's 7th place finish at sectionals was not in line with our state ranking during the season, so the team is motivated to improve at the sectional championships. On the JV level, we are looking to continue our improvement in both JV races and Open races by moving up into the top 50% for each race."

15. Riverside-Brookfield
Last year's state finish: 12th
Coaches: Blair Jensen (Head Coach), Danielle Delzotti and Armando Venegas (Asst. Coaches)
Key returners: Hailey Jurgens (Sr.), Tara Janney (Jr.), Nadia Kaczmarz (Jr.), Emma Fortman (So.), Melissa Oliveira-Liz (Jr.), Cora Lutes (Jr.), Emma Forberg (Sr.)
Newcomers: Tess Bruno (Fr.)
Projected top 7: Hailey Jurgens (Sr.), Tara Janney (Jr.), Nadia Kaczmarz (Jr.), Emma Fortman (So.), Melissa Oliveira-Liz (Jr.), Cora Lutes (Jr.), Emma Forberg (Sr.)
Coach Jensen's outlook: "The outlook is good for this coming XC season. Our top runners ran well during the track season. At this time none of the runners are suffering from any injuries, have a very positive attitude, good work ethic and they are looking forward to being very competitive this season."

14. Chatham-Glenwood
Last year's state finish: 15th
Coaches: Mike Garber (Head Coach), Caleb Cox & Tracy Dowell (Assistant Coaches)
Key returners: Ali Wynn (Jr.), Katie Curry (Jr.), Allison Dollus (So.), Maggie Toepfer (Jr.), Toby Giganti (Sr.), Jade Anderson (So.), Donna Hansen (Sr.)
Newcomers: Brooklyn Smith (Jr.), Rachael Dickenson (Jr.), Abby Teaman (Fr.), Kirsten Patzia (Fr.), Taylor Shamhart (Fr.)
Projected top 7: Ali Wynn (Jr.), Katie Curry (Jr.), Allison Dollus (So.), Maggie Toepfer (Jr.), Toby Giganti (Sr.), not sure after that.
Coach Garber's outlook: "This should be a fun season! We have lots of girls competing for the Top 7, so each race could consist of different runners than a previous week's race. We have a lot of girls working hard over the summer to step our game up from last year. We are focusing on total body strength, not just leg strength, to push us to new heights. We hope to retain the conference and regional titles we won last year and push to get the sectional title too. Our goal is a top 10 finish in state!"

13. Dixon
Head Coach: Evan Thorpe
Key Returners: Nicqolette Fazekas (So.), Kira Goral (Jr.), Leah Dregenberg (Sr.), Taylor Renkes (So.) Newcomers: Grace Johnson (Fr.), Paige Stees (Fr.), Jade Miller (Fr.), Molly Stitzell (Fr.), Taylor Hills (Fr.), Aleah Baker (Fr.)
Projected Top 7: Nicqolette Fazekas (So.), Kira Goral (Jr.), Leah Dregenberg (Sr.), Taylor Renkes (So.), Grace Johnson (Fr.), Paige Stees (Fr.), Jade Miller (Fr.)
Coach Thorpe's outlook: "We will be very competitive this year. We have a nice mixture of returners from last year's squad with a very talented freshman class. The team should be led by Nicqolette Fazekas. She had an outstanding 8th grade year yet struggled her freshman year. She had a slow start to her freshman campaign due to a nagging injury and simply struggled at sectionals."

"I look for her to make a big comeback and her summer workouts indicate such. Kira Goral, Leah Dregenberg, and Taylor Renkes all ran 12:00 on the track early outdoors. Their main focus was the 4X800 where they along with Fazekas placed 6th in state. The key additions this year will be our freshman class. They have had an outstanding summer and have changed the culture of our team. This incoming class has two IESA state team titles to their credit along with a runner up finish. The freshman class will be led by Grace Johnson and Paige Stees. Both girls leave middle school with multiple state medals and should make an immediate impact on our success. Another key freshman will be Jade Miller. Jade will start as our #7 runner and should run around 19:30 by the First to the Finish Invitational. Molly Stitzell and Taylor Hills were on the IESA state teams last year will add valuable depth."

12. Chicago (Northside Prep)
Coach: Carolyn Adams
Last year's state finish: 6th
Key returners: Sara Mccoy (Sr.), Gwendolyn Casey (So.), Erin Franke (Jr.), Kendra Lachik (Jr.), Erin Goldman (Jr.)
Projected top 7: The girls mentioned above are expected to be in the top 7. Too soon to tell who will complete the pack.
Nick's thoughts on the season:  It will be interesting to see how the talent Mustangs move along after long time coach Jon Gordon parted ways to Chicago (Marist). Nevertheless, Northside Prep return a solid core from last year's 6th place state team. Sara Mccoy is expected to once again set the pace. Last year, she narrowly missed an all-state medal with a 32nd place finish.

11. Lemont
Last year's finish: 14th
Coaches: Tim Plotke (Head Coach) Stefanie Miller and Alex Dauksas (Asst. Coaches)
Key returners: Beata Drozda (Sr.), Jacey Schickel (Sr.), Celine Ratulowski (Sr.), Julianne McClatchy (Jr.), Cassie Hamilton (So.) Brianna Carlson (Sr.), Evie Conway (Sr.) Newcomers: Anna Borzecki (So.) Marin Schiffman (So.)
Projected Top 7: Marin Schiffman (So.), Beata Drozda (Sr.), Julianne McClatchy (Jr.), Jacey Schickel (Sr.), Celine Ratulowski (Sr.), Cassie Hamilton (So.), Anna Borzecki (So.)
Coach Plotke's outlook: "I am looking forward to how this group of seniors progresses through the season. We have had a good run over the last 3 years and they have plenty of state meet experience. We have a few newcomers who will benefit from their leadership. Our goal is always to run as tight of a pack as possible. I feel we have a group of girls that can run fast together which can result in good things come the end of the season."