3A Girls preseason preview: #1 York Dukes ready to shine

This may be the year we see two super teams in York and Naperville North. Overall, it could be one of the most profound years in girls cross country if you believe the outstanding marks produced during the track season are valid (they are). Never has the talent pool been so rich in this state. 2021 is going to be a year to be remembered. 

*2020 Shazam XC Championship Coverage


14. Lockport

Head Coach/coaches: Regan Cronholm/ Courtney Krieger, Ada Ramirez
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship- 15th place
Key returners: Kayla Shea (Jr), Monica Skibicki (Jr), Morgan Kesteloot (Sr), Sammie Weisner (Sr), Lexie Fontaine (Sr), Hannah Miller (Jr), Kailyn Mitchell (Sr), Alexa Trower (Jr)
Newcomers: Sydney Fontaine (Fr), - Freshman Lexie Shea (Fr)
-Look for another successful campaign for the Porters led by top runners Kayla Shea and Monica Skibicki. Their front running prowess could offset the loss of four starters. Add in newcomer Sydney Fontaine who is ready to make the varsity seven.
"The runners have been working incredibly hard for the season," said a delighted coach Cronholm. "I am excited to see what this new group does with what they have."

Head Coach/coach: Eric Simon/Greg Frandsen
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship- 12th place
Key returners: Abby Deuter (Sr), Sophie Nelson (Sr), Maureen Patrick (Sr), Sophia Thomas (Sr), Abby Farley (Jr), Charlotte Lange (Jr), Scarlett Lestina (Jr), Julianne Melba (So), Roslyn Piagnarelli (So), Catherine Sommerfeld (So)
Newcomers: Leigh Ferrell (Fr)
-There was a bit of concern for the Lions program after Alex Lyons resigned. Fortunately, veteran coach Greg Frandsen was able to keep the ship afloat and now former Oswego coach Eric Simon will take over. The good thing is a proud and successful program is filled with determined and motivated veterans and youth ready for another good run this season.

Coach Frandsen's summer assessment: "Leigh Ferrell is the only freshman that looked like she could help us by the end of the year, but it really is too early to tell. We may get a better idea after the time trial and the first week. I thought the girls did a great job last year staying focused and mentally tough and not letting Covid deter them in their training and competitions."

"The training this summer went well, the thing I noticed was the girls were still so fit from the later track season that they were still running very fast during their workouts. So a lot hasn't changed, just the speed and volumes were able to be a bit higher than normal. I think we will be competitive this season, although our conference is loaded with solid teams. We had quite a few girls that made huge gains during the track season and continued to look good during summer training."

 "Julianne Melba and Roslyn Piagnarelli. Catherine Sommerfeld is very motivated and focused on leading the group and having a great season. Catherine was one of the top runners in the conference last cross country season (17:44) and continued her development by running outstanding times in the 800m (2:21) and 1600m (5:08) during the track season. I am excited to see her continued improvement and how hard and far she can push herself."

Head Coach/coaches: Chad Hillman/Samantha Miller
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championships- 5th place
Key returners: Katrina Schlenker (Sr), Liliana Bednarek (Jr), Brooke Silbernagel (Jr)
Newcomers: Mary Fornelli, Sasha Semanision
-The plan is simple for coach Hillman's team, allow for the summer training to take effect for another good run. It's hard to believe but Katrina Schlenker is finally a senior. She has been a great ambassador for the sport and it will continue one more rotation this fall.

Head Coach/coaches: Mark McCabe  
Last year's finish: Whitney Young Sectional- 8th place
Key returners: Catie McCabe (Jr), Sarah Fischer (Jr), Isabella Terry (Sr), Erin Milligan (Sr), Louisa Brorson (Sr)
Newcomers: Kennedy Boyd (So), Gabby Thanos (Fr)
-It could be an oxymoron in explaining the Red Devilettes this season. Coach McCabe welcomes a nice mix of veterans and youngsters to his program. One veteran in the making is his daughter Catie who made tremendous strides over the past school calendar. McCabe has now supplanted herself into a surging star on the state scene (23rd at Shazam State and 4:52/2:12 in track). Isabella Terry, Erin Milligan, and Louisa Brorson are not only contributors but ready to shine. Also, look for Sarah Fischer to bounce back this season. "With the later track season and some post-season meets, our top girls got a little later start to cross country training but are now back up to speed," said McCabe. "They know the tradition of our program and are working hard to be a part of a team that continues that proud tradition."  

Head Coach/coaches: Ashley Raymond/Laura Turk, Hannah Murphy, Julia Stenger
Last year's finish: Shazam Championship- 4th place
Key returners: Josephine Welin (Sr), Samantha Duwe (Sr), Avery Minnis (Jr), Lenny Sterritt (So), Katie Stabb (So)
Newcomers: Eva Carson (Sr), Tea Dassigner (Fr)
With four of the top seven returning from last year and Josephine Welin ace of shades in a nice card game, the Huskies are ready for another great season. Coach Raymond adds: "[Josie] is coming off a great track season and has been patiently waiting to get back to Detweiller. Look for a strong pack running from the rest of the squad. Avery Minnis, Lenny Sterritt, Samantha Duwe, and Katie Stabb are all returners that will be a part of that chase pack. This is a passionate group that is committed to running well for each other. The goal is to stay healthy, learn from our races week by week, and be brave in the postseason."

Head Coach: ChrisJon Simon
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship- 7th place
Key returners: Morgan Mackie (So.), Maeve Norman (Jr), Ellie Grammas (Jr), Lauren Woodward (So)
Newcomers: Jane Lynch
-It was a banner 2020 season despite all of the precautions that Covid had in place. The talented Morgan Mackie will again lead the charge and Ellie Grammas is poised for a great season. Freshman Jane Lynch comes in with a 5:19 mile and should help out. The question will be the fifth runner to close out big races.

Head Coach/coaches: Lisa Cook, Steve Ideran, Kelly Yunk
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship- 10th place
Key returners: Maddie Zarembski (Sr), Ana Barroso (Sr), Maddi Amer (Sr), Angeles Mendoza (Jr), Sydney Williams (Jr), Morgan Dick (So)
Newcomers: Mckenzie Mann, Mae Robinson, Olivia Van Denend
-Coach Cook has built a great team over the past few years and it is bugging to show. "We are very excited for this group to return to Oswego East for the 2021 season," she said. "We have a great combination of returning members of our IHSA roster, improved runners from last year, as well as some newcomers with a lot of potential."

Maddie Zarembski, Ana Barroso, and Maddi Amer return as four-year varsity athletes, and they have grown and improved vastly over the past four years according to coach Cook. Experience and leadership can not be overrated as all great programs have some type of self-governance. Morgan Dick is a youngster but wise among her years and that will keep the program afloat as things begin to turnover in personnel.

Head Coach/coaches: Doug Plunkett/ Tess Johnson, Mike Farthing, Meagan DeSalvo, Brian Long
Last year's finish: Whitney Young Sectional- 5th place
Key returners: Sophia McNerney (Sr), Kelsey Casella (Sr), Alex Spang (Sr), Madi Sisson (Sr), Nora Joy (Jr), Fence Rodi (So), Renee Kowalski (Sr)
Newcomers: Holly Johnson (Fr), Sophie Ring (So), Elizabeth Culcasi (Jr)
The sometimes pessimistic coach Plunkett made a startling analysis recently. "We should have two front runners in most meets with Sophia McNerney and Holly Johnson, but our team will only go as far as our 3-4-5 runners take us," he said. If the Mustangs can shore up the back end of the scoring, they may be able to challenge for a trophy come November.

Head Coach: Kevin Gummerson
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship- 8th place
Key returners: Audrey Boles (Sr.), Kathryn Cichon (Sr.), Jocelyn Host (Sr.), Sara McLaughlin (Sr.), Emma Wilson (Sr.), Brooke Wlodek (Sr.), Gabby Kics (Jr.), Ella McCollom (Jr.), Cassie Fuhrman (So.), Nia Harrington (So.), Sophia Miller (So.), Kylie Myers (So.), Georgia Sweeney (So.)
-Coach Gummerson welcomes another strong group of newcomers to complement his veterans. This constant influx of quality distance runners is one reason the Indians have enjoyed so much success over the years. Of course, great coaching is the final ingredient. Gabby Kics is the top runner and poised to have another all-star season. Her teammates should compliment her as well. Overall, there are five runners under 19:00 back.

Head Coach/coaches: Bradley Kaplan/ Heather Szarmach, Brandon Wilkerson
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship- 6th place
-There should not be any early-season surprises from the Lady Saints this year. Coach Kaplan returns virtually everyone (Alice Abbott graduated) from a banner 2020 campaign. The experience gained will help Morgan Sandlund and Marley Andelman transition into team leaders. "We return everyone but one for this upcoming season," said Kaplan. "The girls had a great track season and look forward to a great xc season. Our team is going to build through the season and our goal is to run well when it counts come the post season."

Head Coach/coaches: Chris Muth, Kerry Stillmunkes, Lauren Vriezen, Tori Gatlin
Last year's finish: Shazam Championship- 3rd place
Key returners: Anna Hunter (Sr), Alex Stewart (Jr), Makenna Edwards (Jr), Margaret Hunter (Sr),  Lucy Anderson (Jr), Katie Melzer (Jr)
Newcomer: Ava Galloway (So)
-The Lady Foxes are gearing up for another trophy run. Veteran runners twins Anna Hunter and Margaret Hunter are the top returners, breaking 18:00 last year. While they may not have a true front runner, the team does possess a ton of depth which includes Makenna Edwards and several more who ran under 19:00. Ava Galloway will figure in the mix as well.

Coach Muth's assessment: "At Yorkville, we are very proud of the history we have made over the past decade, which has been filled with an exceptional run of talented individuals and teams. This is a much different group in that we have talent, but it has been earned every step of the way and not always just been a natural gift."

"It's an exciting year, for our coaching staff, to coach this underdog group of hard-working girls. We may not have a top 25 type finishing individual this season, but instead a group that is more concerned about where we finish as a team than where they finish as individuals. We will go as far as our pack running takes us and won't have the same finish order week to week. Currently, we are behind our normal training, but this group has focused back on the basics and trusting the training process over the daily results. Physically, I'm seeing some great progress, but mentally and leadership will be the elements that dictate how successful a season we have."

Head Coach: Pete Wintermute
Last year's finish: Hoffman Estates Sectional- 1st
Key returners: Audrey Ginsberg (Sr), Lily Ginsberg (So), Cam Kalaway (Jr), Hailey Erickson (Jr)
Newcomers: Irish Wildhart, Ava Collins, Sophie Fransen, Mary Laba, Amanda Feinberg, Emma Skelton, Veronica Znajda
-Coach Wintermute welcomes the return of four of the top seven from last year's team. "We have a number of girls that have drastically improved since last year and will challenge for a top spot," said Wintermute. "During these COVID times, we have all had to step back and realize that we should not and cannot take life and sports for granted." With that being said look for a front running pack to frustrate its opponents all season long.

Head Coach/coaches: Dan Iverson/Matt Sniadecki, Anna Kraftson, Jen Weigand, Dan Billish, Kim Castner
Last year's finish: Shazam XC Championship Runner-Up
Newcomers: Emma Berres (fr), Kate Corcoran (fr)
-If you think Naperville North is going to run for cover after losing some major pieces entering this season, you are sadly mistaken. If you believe in reloading then the returning numbers don't lie. Count them: there are three sub 18:00 minute girls back led by the ultimate mountain climber Lucy Westlake. How about a cool dozen under 19:00 and if you are a person who relishes depth, the Huskies have 21 girls back that broke 20 minutes!

Coach Iverson adds: "We have a lot of depth, but we are short on experience, so it will be a process to see how we bring things together over the course of the season. The summer has gone well, and the girls are working very hard together to grow and improve. We are excited for the possibilities the season could hold, but we also know that it will take time, and it could be an uneven process as we continue to find ourselves throughout the season. Overall, our sights will remain high and we will absolutely achieve as much as we are capable of achieving this year."