3A Naperville North Girls Are Pre-Season Numero Uno

There is no classification that is as deep and talented as 3A. Say what you want, but it's the major leagues when it comes to cross country in Illinois. This year's crop of talented teams is as tough as ever. Naperville North and Yorkville will be ahead of the pack, but by no means are they the only squads who will make noise stateside, regionally, and nationally

10. Hinsdale Central

Head Coach: Mark McCabe

Last year's finish: State- 10th place

Key returners: McKenna Revord (Jr), Kayla Byrne (Sr), Bella Pisani (Sr), Taylor Wagner (Jr), Melanie Chafin (Sr), Lucy Fischer (Jr), Caitlin Chval (Sr)

Newcomers: Diana Denemark (So)

Coach's thoughts on the season:

With the graduation of Grace McCabe and Reilly Revord, two of the state's best over the past four years, we enter 2018 as a different team, but also a veteran, talented and highly motivated one. One thing that stood out about Grace and Reilly is that they were true team players, which isn't always the case with your elite athletes. Bella Pisani and Kayla Byrne have stepped right in to fill that leadership void and taken charge of building the team's momentum for the fall.

As is always the case, we have had a great summer of training. We have carefully upped the volume this summer (we are a low volume program) and are fit and completely healthy as of July 30! We are talented, but not at all deep. While we have been consistently strong in cross country in recent years, we view ourselves as a middle-distance program in track. The talent is there (we have 4 girls who run 5:11 or faster for 1600), and if we remain healthy, we'll be tough. 

McKenna Revord looks better than ever and is looking to be top 10 at the least. Kayla and Bella had great summers and are ready to go out with a bang in their final xc season before moving on to compete in college. Melanie Chafin has had an outstanding summer, and Taylor Wagner is back after missing all of 2017-18 due to a viral illness, followed in the spring by Mono, as I said we have many good "pieces" and are potentially a very good team. We are also a very close-knit team.

9. Lisle (Benet Academy)

Head Coach/coaches: Scott Brooks

Last year's finish: State- 11th place

Key returners: all of our top 13 runners from last year return: Kelly Andrews (So), Joy Jackson (So), Mae Tully (Sr), Emily Spellman (So), Meaghan Andrews (So), Karly Keating (So), Elisabeth Camic (So) 

Projected top 7: no idea at this point (see why below)

Newcomers: none expected to be in our top 7 to start the season

Coach's thoughts on the team:

We have a lot of question marks going into the season that I didn't expect to have last November. I expected us to take a huge step forward this season, given the number, quality and youth of our returning top 7. That didn't happen the way I expected. I have 2 athletes who came into the season injured or got injured during our first practice and no firm timetable for their return. Not once did I have even half of my returning top 7 at practice on the same day over the summer and I never saw or heard from several of them all summer, so I don't have a very good feel at all for where we are at right now.

Based on our 1st week of practice, we are certainly behind where we were last year in terms of both health and fitness. We have a lot of talent returning that all have post-season experience, but we have a pretty good hill to climb just to get back to where we were last year at this point. Hopefully, we'll be able to get it together relatively quickly.

Emily Spellman (our #3 runner in the State meet last year) is by far our #1 runner right now. After a very good track season she is building on, she is set up to have a nice season. There were a lot of days this summer when she was the only member of our top 7 at practice, so she's had to practice running alone and setting the pace for herself. We'll just have to see how the rest shakes out as the season goes on. There might be some new faces in our varsity lineup early on for sure and I'd expect quite a bit of variability in our varsity lineup for a while.

Tony's thoughts: If what Coach Brooks asserts is correct, this team may be in trouble down the stretch in primetime. There is no better time to train than in the summer. But I know first hand that Benet Academy is a tough program whose history in cross country has been very positive. The Redwings have talent and it will foster as the season progresses.

8. Lagrange (Lyons Township)

Head Coach/coaches: Alex Lyons/Greg Frandsen, Callie Pogge, Joe Pontrelli, Luke Taylor

Last year's finish: State- 5th place

Key returners: Sarah Barcelona (Jr), Emily Henkel (Jr), Cara Paliakas (Sr), Kirsten Meyer (Sr), Lily Kedzuch (Sr), Maddie Cranny (So), Marta Kogucki (So)

Projected top 7:  We have no idea right now. It will be a combination of the returners and newcomers listed. Newcomers: Allison Fischer (Sr), Maeve Rice (So), Kate Dickman (Fr), Leah Paliakas (So), Maggie Vear (So), Ally Sarussi (So), Diane Makovic (So), Nora Whelton (Jr), Maggie Abbs (So), Amanda Kural (Jr), Claire Williams (Fr), Maddie Ohm (Fr), Kate Farrell (Fr), Tara Flaherty (Jr), Elena Stirn (Jr), Mary Grace Lansing (Fr), Olivia McLean (Fr), Colette Smith (Jr)

Coach's thoughts on the team: We've got a great group of kids that are committed to getting better and each other. Our goals are to prepare intelligently and try to run our best toward the end of the season.

7. Glen Ellyn (Glenbard West) 

Head Coach/coach: Paul Hass/Dan Kim
Last year's finish: State- 6th place
Key returners: Katelynne Hart (Jr), Katie Hohe (Sr), Abby Hoffman (Sr), Chloe Connolly (Sr), Lauren Pappas (Sr), Bailey Jackson (Jr), Olivia Cline (So)
Projected top 7: Katelynne Hart, Katie Hohe, Abby Hoffman, Chloe Connolly, Lauren Pappas, Bailey Jackson, Olivia Cline. Newcomers: freshman Audrey Allman, freshman Anna Nickoley, freshman Delaney Engel
Coach's outlook: Overall, the team has had another good summer and logged many miles; most notably, junior Katelynne Hart, and seniors Katie Hohe, Abby Hoffman, Chloe Connolly, and Lauren Pappas. Each girl enjoyed solid summers of training and are in incredible shape. The team will look to this veteran group to lead the team, with KK and Katie providing a powerful one-two punch up front. 

However, the difference between our team making it to state and being competitive at the state meet will ultimately rest upon the shoulders of those who fill the next five spots behind Katelynne and Katie. Fortunately, we have some experienced runners ready to fulfill these key roles and we hope to close the split between them and our front-runners by the end of the season. Seniors Abby Hoffman and Chloe Connolly achieved career bests in track last spring and appear motivated and prepared to achieve their greatest success in their senior fall campaign. Although senior Lauren Pappas missed the entire track season due to injury, she has worked extremely hard to rehab her injury and looks ready to return to last season's form, while junior Bailey Jackson and sophomore Olivia Cline look equally equipped to contribute at a higher level this year. Of course, the possibility exists that a talented freshman or newcomer to the team joins the varsity squad at some point this fall, that scenario will only reveal itself as training progress and remains to be seen.

As always the goal over the summer -- as well as the season -- is to have each girl remain healthy and focused upon improving upon their past season's training and meet performances. The girls completed the fall campaign with a tremendous 5th place finish at NXR and are even more committed to improving upon last season's team performance in the state series and post- season opportunities.

Needless to say, we are looking forward to the 2018 season which we believe holds enormous potential for the Lady Hilltoppers.

Head Coach/coaches: Chad Hillman/Samantha Miller
Last year's finish: State- 9th place
Projected top 7: Above plus Katrina Schlenker (Fr)
Newcomers: Schlenker, Maya Malay, Samantha Edwards, Brooke Nazos, Alexis Wasmund
Coach's thoughts on the team:
Have a great opportunity to improve on last years state finish. Summer training has gone well and the girls are driven to be at their best.

Katrina has a chance to be special. She is a great kid and has the work ethic and drive to be great. She has a tremendous combination of strength and speed. She's had a great summer and we're excited to see her be great for our team. She will be able to do a lot individually but what will make her special is her great attitude towards the team. Being a good teammate is one of the characteristics that make her great. That team attitude will make her an even better individual.

Mia has had another great summer of training. She knows how tough it is to improve every year, especially after such a great season last year and she is working hard to make it happen. Running track certainly benefits a distance runner and she is aware of that. By not doing track and not having race data it's hard for me to determine where she is in terms of progress. The best thing I can say is, she is very motivated and is working hard to improve.

Head Coach: Debbie Revolta
Last year's finish: State- 8th place
Projected top 7: Same as above
Newcomers: Unfortunately no newcomers this year.
Coach's thoughts on the team: We will start out a little slow and work on getting better week to week. We have a group of runners that should be able to race together and have a low 1-5 split which, if everyone stays healthy should help us in the big meets.

Head Coach/coaches: Doug Plunkett/Mike Farthing, Tess Johnson, Mike Arenberg
Last year's finish: State- 5th place
Key returners: Brenna Cohoon (Jr), Melissa Weidner (Sr), Kennedy Warden (Jr), Erin Reidy (Jr), Becky Versaskas (Sr), Becca Diddia (So)
Projected top 7: Cohoon, Weidner, Warden, Reidy, Versaskas, Diddia, Duax
Newcomers: Kelsey Casella, Alex Spang, Sophia McNerney, Maya Scheck, Michelle Kurcina, Olivia Meyer Coach's thoughts on the team: We are returning a very experienced team and I expect them to challenge for a top 3 spot at State. All-Stater, Brenna Cohoon, will likely lead this team, but the strength will be our 2-5 pack. How close that pack stays relative to Cohoon will determine how high the team finishes. We have had a really good summer, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Head Coach/coaches: Rob Harvey/Sarah Bikulcius
Last year's finish: State- 4th place
Key returners: We return all 11 of 12 of our state team from last season: Haley Ansiel (Jr), Erica Emmerick (Jr), Becca Hauenstein (So), Sarah Kulkarni (Sr), Sara Michalowski (Sr), Laurel Moneysmith (Sr), Kaitlyn Nenninger (Jr), Samantha Poglitsch (So), Mia Rucoba (Jr), Tess Rucoba (Jr), Jennifer Schaeffer (Sr)
Projected top 7: We never project our top 7. Anytime I have tried to do this, I am wrong. The season takes care of this process.
Newcomers: We have a few newcomers from other sports and a few freshmen. Both of these groups could impact or top 7/14.
Coach's thoughts on the team: We have a long way to go. The season is a process and if we hold to the traditions and the plan, we will be successful at the end of the season.

Head Coach/coaches: Chirs Muth/Lauren Vriezen, Tori Gatlin, Brian Long
Last year's finish: State Runner-Up
Projected top 7: (don't know top 7 yet, but this looks like current top 10) Emily Eberhart, Helena Kleronomos, Kailey Fox, Olivia Borowiak, Nicole Greyer, Sara Klemm, Mady Klebonow, Sam Moreno, Hailey Simmons
Newcomers: Kailey Fox (Jr.) transferred to Yorkville second semester last year from Peotone before the Track season and really progressed well. She has put in an outstanding summer of work and is primed to be in our top 5 this upcoming season.
Coach's thoughts on the team:  I am really excited to see what this group can do this year. We lose a very important runner from last year's team, Alyssa Edwards to graduation, but have a strong returning team that is motivated and has done everything asked of them this summer. Last year's NXN experience was amazing for our program, but the results were humbling. If these young women continue to focus on enjoying the process and the small details daily, they will be very happy with the results in November.

Tony's thoughts: Make no question about it, the Foxes will have every opportunity to gain favor in this state as well as region and nation this fall. For a program that has won multiple state titles as a 2A entrant and several more trophies here, this could be the program's best ever team. We look forward to seeing if that is true or not.