Washington Park; Chicago, IL
It's now one of the most exciting times during cross country: championship season! With only a few meets left, the Chicago Public Schools City kicked off their championship meet. The meet is scheduled for over two days, girls on Saturday and boys on Sunday. Each day has two heats of freshman, freshman/sophomore, and varsity to be cautious of Covid-19. Thankfully, the meet setup helped the races move on quickly, getting competitors and spectators out just around lunchtime.
This wouldn't be a real Chicago championship meet without less than ideal weather and that's just what the athletes and onlookers got today. In the spirit of the city's nickname, the "Windy City," there were 26 mph winds. It was just under 60 degrees but there was no sun in sight so it felt much colder than that. To top it off there were just a few touches of rain every few hours.
The highlighted athletes of the day have had some pretty exciting seasons. Nikki Chopra of Whitney Young raced five times before the meet. She won one, placed top 10 in three, and 13th in another. Her personal best came out of the Mather Invite where she ran 19:11. Chopra, only a sophomore, dropped about two minutes off of her freshman year times just this season. The next athlete is Elia Ton-That, an all-stater from last year. The junior from Northside Prep had significant drops in her times throughout the season. Her progression was 20:30.3, 19:06.1, then 18:51.2. Both of these girls made sure to light up the Washington Park course and snag a few victories for their respective teams.
Chopra raced in heat two of freshman/sophomore. She took out the race hard and that worked in her favor. Through mile one she was all alone and only had her coaches and teammates on the sidelines to keep her going. Coming down the small hill just a few steps before mile two, there was nobody in sight. Hopes of any other athlete closing the gap on her was pretty much out the window. She continued to fight on to the finish and ran 19:12.7, only 1.5 seconds off her PR. In a post-race interview, she mentioned how hard it was to race alone. But with just a few meets left, she hopes she can finally break 19 minutes. Second in her race was Fiona O'Toole, a freshman from Payton. She came through the finish just under a minute behind Chopra at 20:15.6
Ton-That was in heat two of the varsity. Her race differed from Chopra as she had someone on her heels. Evelyn Hett from Jones was stride for stride the majority of the race with Ton-That. They hit the checkmarks in 5:50 and 11:50- clear of the field. At some points in the race, it would go back and forth between Ton-That and Hett but never too much where the other one couldn't easily catch up.
With about a half-mile left, Ton-That could see the finish and took off. She came through all alone, beating her SB by over 60 seconds. The time was 17:48.5, only .1 off her PR that she ran at IHSA State her freshman year. Hett ran 18:04.5 to take second place for Jones.
The top three teams were all within points of each other. Lane Tech repeated as champions, winning by just two points tallying 62 points. The Indians used a strong pack of five led by Fiona Glascott's eighth-place effort (19:34). The scoring split was just 17 seconds. Payton was runner up with 64 points and Jones was third with 67 points.