From the top, it was a fiesty and steadfast group of fast young ladies rolling on Lavern Gibson
Little did we know coming in, the race to first from an individual standpoint would turn out to be more than a qualifying round. For those in attendance, it would be a classic for their eyes and one that would be talked about for years to come.
There has never been a four-time champion on the boys or girls side of the game. However, if there has ever been a superwoman in these affairs, it has been three-time defending champion Katelynne Hart
of Glenbard West HS IL was vying for an unprecedented fourth gold medal. There was doubt from a few pundits that Hart would struggle to be among the top five auto qualifiers. Now that's funny...
This was arguably the best and deepest field in meet history. Hart, Taylor Ewert
of Beavercreek OH, and Zofia Dudek
of Ann Arbor MI are top 10 ranked talents on the national scene. Erin Strzelecki
of Ft. Wayne Bishop Dwenger IN and Tatum David
of Richland County IL added to the depth of the field. All five of these young ladies were undefeated and state champions in their respective states.
The uber-talented freshman David immediately opened things up and got the field out of their comfort zone. The first kilometer albeit with a downhill in a breakneck 3:04. Later, the pack of Ewert, Dudek, Hart, Lianna Surtz
of Aurora Rosary IL, Samantha Poglitsch
of Wheaton South IL, and Ava Parekh
of Chicago Latin joined David at the mile which was clocked in a sizzling 5:15.
The second kilometer is where the course gets tough. The aforementioned pack slowed things down to 3:33. Poglitsch would fall back from the early hot pace. There was a sense that several other NXN candidates were lurking around the corner.
Inside the third kilometer is where the tightly knit pack began to splinter. There was still some uphill climbing as the 3:26-3:30 range proved. Ewert took over leading chores, hitting the second mile in approximately 10:52.
It would be Dudek and Hart separating from Ewert who desperately tried to hold on during the fourth kilometer. It was side by side action for these two titans with less than a half-mile to go. Dudek pulled ahead with a strong burst with a quarter-mile to go and appeared to lock the victory up. However, Hart had too much pride along with strength and speed to allow Dudek to close it out without a tremendous challenge. Hart caught Dudek with about 120m to go and moved even. But there was a near physical contact that could have been looked at under two microscopes: 1) Dudek veered into Hart's line of progress which impeded her momentum; 2) the exchange between Dudek and Hart was incidental contact so no harm, no foul. Dudek would prevail and win- smashing the course record by over 11-seconds. The margin of victory over Hart was as close as it gets 16:49.3-16:49.9. It was the first time that a girl had broken 17:00 on Lavern's course.
Dudek and Hart of course advance on to Portland, OR for the national final on December 7. Ewert placed third in 17:03, David 4th- 17:11, Strzelecki 5th- 17:20, Annalyssa Crain
of Edgewood HS IN 6th- 17:25, and
A unique situation arose shortly after the official results were in. Dudek informed meet officials that she will await her parent's decision on whether she will compete in Portland or travel with her native Poland at the European U20 Cross Country Championships in Lisbon, Portugal, on December 8. Crain moves into the auto qualifying and last official fifth spot because Ewert's team earned a bid. Duffus will await the decision of Dudek before she is able to move forward as a fifth qualifier.
The two nationally ranked titans Beavercreek, OH and Naperville North, IL on paper were supposed to be in another galaxy in terms of anyone else challenging them for the two auto spots to Portland.
As expected Beavercreek got the jump on Naperville North on the strength of their powerful quartet of Ewert, Savannah Roark, Jodie Pierce, and Juliann Williams. The upperclassmen crew has gotten the job done all season long.
The Beavers got out to some fast running as the quartet motored to the front of the 200+ harrier field. Ewert ran in the elite pack virtually all race long before settling for a #2 team place score. Would it be enough to hold off Naperville North? Roark (5), Pierce (15), and Williams (20) ran extremely well and finished inside the top 20.to eventually capitulating to second overall scoring 112 points.
Naperville North had a tall hill to climb because of a slow start with no runner in the top 100 at the 2k. Head Coach Dan Iverson was counting places as a voicy spectator and laminated aloud that his girls had work to do. Led by Maggie Gamboa, that is exactly what the Huskies did. The girls began to pick up steam and attack the final three kilometers as they had all season long. They knew the competition would fade from a hard pace and the unforgiving course.
Yorkville IL and Hinsdale Central IL ran well in third and fourth respectively and will have to await the committee's decision in a few weeks.
Top 4 teams scorecard-
|1 - Naperville North (IL)||Top 5 Avg Times: 18:33||Points: 95|
|2 - Beavercreek OH||Top 5 Avg Times: 18:19||Points: 112|
|3 - Yorkville (IL)||Top 5 Avg Times: 18:53||Points: 158|
|4 - Hinsdale Central (IL)||Top 5 Avg Times: 18:53||Points: 164|