As we kick off the 2A segment, let's acknowledge Lisle Benet Academy who staked its ownership of 2A with their state championship in 2019. Although they did not compete at Shazam as a full team, their dominant sectional victory over Latin in 2020 solidified their position as the best team in the division before departing for 3A due to the success multiplier. But where one contender leaves, a number of others take its place. 2A welcomes ranked teams Cary-Grove, Deerfield, and Lake Forest to the mix of a deep, and wide-open, 2A field in 2021.
2020 Season Finish: 6th at 2A Antioch Regional
Head Coach: Chris Bailey
Key Returners: Sarah Benes (Sr.), Juliana Gonzalez (Sr.), Addison Lane (So.), Hannah Benes (Sr.), Jasmine Ametovski (Sr.), Alexa Phillips (Sr.), Kennedie Tan (So.)
Summary: Antioch missed qualifying for sectionals from their loaded home regional due to the last-second change from 6 to 5 qualifying teams in each regional. They should be in good shape to make it out this year but do not have too much margin for error. The team did finish 3rd at the NLCC championship and perhaps this result is closer to their potential for the season. Most of their scoring team returns, highlighted by Sarah Benes who struggled with a mid-race injury at the regional meet, will look to make a strong ending statement to her career, hoping for at least an individual state berth. Juliana Gonzalez, Addison Lane, and Hannah Benes highlight the rest of the returning pack who have an outside shot at a state berth if there is some chaos ahead of them.
2020 Season Finish: 9th at 2A Lake Villa (Lakes) Sectional)
Head Coach: Vince Neil
Key Returners: Corryn Kester (So.), Michael Kruse (Jr.), Kristiana Brennan (Jr.), Tessa DiDomenico (Sr.), Tia Brennan (Jr.)
New Additions: Morgan Schmidt (So.), Abby Burke (Fr.), Teagan Cathcart (Fr.), Olivia Sutton (Fr.)
Summary: The 2020 Rockets had a great deal of turnover but ran well, as coach Vince Neil explains: "Thankfully we got the 2020 season in and our girls showed some great progress throughout the season. Last fall, we missed our top four girls from the year before but still managed to produce a successful season. The girls' team finished 9th place at the Lakes Sectional and had two girls individually advance to state in a normal season." Corryn Kester and Michael Kruse, who are the top cross country returnees and both members of a state-qualifying 4x800 team, lead the way, but Burlington Central's prospects in the Fox Valley Conference and strong north sectional will depend on their pack after these two.
2020 Season Finish: 9th at 2A Chicago (Latin) Sectional
Head Coach: Jon Hootman
Key Returners: Elia Ton-That (Sr.), Arianna Holbrook (Sr.), Allison Feeney (Sr.), Sofia Weber (So.), Nora Hill (Sr.), Annika Nelson (Jr.)
Newcomers: Lulu Ton-That (Fr.)
Summary: Northside has some ground to make up on the strongest CPL programs, but when you have a runner of Elia Ton-That's caliber at the front of the pack, much is possible. Ton-That took a step forward during the 2020 cross country season, but leaps and bounds forward during the following track season, where she took the 2A 1600m state title and bettered her track bests to 10:49, 4:56, and 2:12.
Arianna Holbrook and Allison Feeney are the varsity fixtures most likely to fill in behind her, but Sofia Weber and Nora Hill returning with shots to break 21:00. A newcomer who can change the course for Northside is Elia's sister Lulu Ton-That, who is an inexperienced runner but talented as she joins the team her first year. Northside will have an outside shot at state depending on the depth of the Chicago sectional.
2020 Season Finish: 21st at Shazam D2 Championships
Head Coach: Doug Bradley
Key Returners: Liv Heinzmann (So.), Faith Brindley (Jr.), Tarryn Keeney (So.), Madalyn McCall (Jr.), Danielle Little (Sr.), Maddie Dortch (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Madison Emig (Fr.), Payton Frey (Fr.), Alyson Pace (Fr.), Lola Schlarmann (Fr.), Emma Warner (Sr.)
Summary: A tumultuous season for an experienced, senior-heavy Highland Bulldog team ended in a bittersweet manner, says coach Doug Bradley. "The small fishbowl of competition meant that the typical confidence-building courses and the yardstick programs that the girls needed to compete against were largely off-limits. The result was bittersweet. In the two postseason races, the girls fell short of their expectations but still qualified for a state meet that never happened."
The pack runners that do return from this Shazam qualifier are Taryn Keeney, Faith Brindley, and Liv Heinzmann. Madalyn McCall and Maddie Dortch have also historically run in the same neighborhood as the first three, so Highland's trademark pack will be tight again this year. There will need to be some bump-ups for this hopeful state qualifier, though. Bradley: "This team has a nice mix of veterans and rookies but the two groups are both going to have to put together really strong late-season performances to create a team that will challenge for a state trip. The returning veterans have the speed and experience necessary to have a good season but they will definitely need some newcomers to develop if they want to be in the mix for a top-seven finish at sectional."
2020 Season Finish: 7th at 2A Peoria (Notre Dame) Sectional
Head Coach: Tim Plotke
Key Returners: Casey Kittridge (So.), Destiny Vargas (Sr.), Lauren Magdziarz (So.), Lydia Stabus (So.), Stephanie Dueschele (So.)
Key Newcomers: Nora Galateo (Fr.), Jordan Bartman (So.)
Summary: Lemont was one of several south suburban schools shuffled down to the Peoria sectional, where they had the privilege of running at Detweiller and finishing 7th in a technical qualifying position for the state meet. There are already some injuries entering the season to Lemont will not be full strength, but do return enough to be favorites for their 17th consecutive Southwest Suburban Conference Blue title as well as another state berth.
Casey Kittridge has a great shot at breaking 19:00 on the Detweiller course. Their pack of remaining runners has yet to break 20 minutes but are in close proximity to each other. Plotke: "Individually we are young with a number of first-time runners. It will be a learning process but, they had a wonderful summer building up their aerobic base so I am excited to see how the season progresses."
2020 Season Finish: 8th at 2A Olney (Richland County) Sectional
Head Coach: Andrew Hite
Summary: The Lincoln Railsplitters are a small team buoyed by the front-running presence of Becca Heitzig, and just finished on the outside of the qualifying range in the Richland County sectional last year. Heitzig's freshman year was punctuated with a 12th place Shazam all-state finish and an 18:03 three-mile best by the end of the season. She was state runner-up in the 2A 800 (2:12) and also ran 5:08 during the track season as well. The sophomore will be a sneaky candidate for a top-5 finish at state. If Heitzig is to be running with her Lincoln teammates at Detweiller, they will need more bodies to join Reese McCuan and Hattie Mourning on the varsity squad.
2020 Season Finish: 8th at 2A Lake Villa (Lakes) Sectional
Head Coach: Doug Ecker
Key Returners: Rose Dallal (Jr.), Lindsey Andrae (Jr.), Maggie Spallaso (So.), Caroline Nosek (Sr.), Jacqueline Nettnin (Jr.), Abby Fits (So.), Allison Gonnella (Jr.)
Summary: The 2020 Knights used a minute split to finish runner-up at their regional and 8th at the Lakes Sectional. Kaneland loses two major scorers, Olivia Franklin and MacKenzie Egert, to graduation. Rose Dallal is the top returner, and Lindsey Andrae could be running close to Dallal. There is a gap back to Maggie Spallaso and Jaqueline Nettnin from cross country times, but Nettnin was head to head to Dallal in 3200 in the spring. Allison Gonnella is a 6-minute miler and could be an impact runner too if she competes this fall.
2020 Season Finish: 12th at 2A Shazam Championships
Head Coach: Darren Latham
Summary: Mascoutah beat Highland for the Highland Regional title thanks to a sixth-runner tiebreaker, and then qualified for the state meet. They took home 12th at Shazam, which was a solid end performance for a good postseason streak for the Indians. Three big losses of their five scorers from all these meets are troublesome, but they return Amelia Martin, last season's top runner slotting under 19:30. Martin focused on the 800 and 300m hurdles in track and competed on the 4x800 and 4x400 for Mascoutah at the state meet.
There may be some transition time back into cross country training for the sophomore. The other varsity returners are Chloe Latour, Jayda Williams, and Addison Heard (the sixth runner who won the regional tiebreaker). Despite not being ranked preseason, Mascoutah is a good candidate to find a couple more runners to round out this group to qualify for the state meet.
2020 Season Finish: 18th at 2A Shazam Meet
Head Coach: Kevin Roche
Key Returners: Bella Daley (Jr.), Mikaela Burns (Sr.), Mia Scharpf (Sr.), Ava Martinez (Jr.), Jillian Pavalon (So.), Maddie Rogowski (So.)
Summary: The 2019 4th-place state finishers struggled with inconsistency and depth problems during the COVID-modified 2020 season, but still finished 7th at the Latin Sectional and qualified for Shazam, finishing 18th. Coach Kevin Roche saw the silver lining of the difficult season: "Although I wish the end, Shazam, went better, the nuance of the year told great stories. If last year taught me anything, it's that we should be enjoying the moments we have together. It was too disjointed with pods, A days, B days, and kids being quarantined. We made the best of it and I am so proud of the team for how they stayed positive and agile through it all. But this year I am looking forward to a deeper connection with each other."
Fenwick's run at a state berth in 2021 begins with junior Bella Daley, both the fastest runner and the cultural leader of the team. Daley is fit to qualify for state as an individual and compete for all-state and returns some of the best accolades in the Girls' Catholic Athletic Conference. Daley turned in a personal best 5:21 1600 at the state track meet despite the heat, just missing her first all-state by three seconds. The Friars hope to get some continuity from the pack behind Daley and look to the experience of Mia Scharpf (#2 runner at Shazam) and Mikaela Burns to lead a younger group that includes Maddie Rogowski and Jill Pavalon. Like Mascoutah, the placement outside the top-25 for Fenwick does not discount that they are in a good position to get themselves up for a run in November.
2020 Season Finish: 6th at 2A Olney (Richland County) Sectional
Head Coach: Larry Huffman
Key Returners: Angelynn Kanyuck (So.), Danielle Mudd (So.), Ali Kloeppel (So.), Chloe Aubuchson (So.), Molly Grohmann (Jr.) Summary: Waterloo came on strong in the middle of a year with a front-running pack of freshmen, and broke into the rankings in September despite not even being on the poll radar prior to the season. The Bulldogs' breakout season, led by Angelynn Kanyuck, ended in a state-qualifying berth in 6th place out of the Richland County Sectional. Most of the varsity team returns, but the small team has little margin for error and likely is looking for another sub-20 type to make another qualification likely. Danielle Mudd is a solid #2 for the Bulldogs, with Ali Kloeppel and Chloe Aubushcon in scoring spots as well.