2022 Class 2A Girls Preseason preview: #25 to 21

The scene of the 2A state meet at Detweiller as it enters the ascent of the course for the first time.

 Teams at the bottom of the preseason rankings have high hopes this year. Everyone is intent on gaining traction out of the gate and progressing throughout the season. We break down each team with some interesting sentiments.

Head Coach: Andy Brendel
Last year's finish: 28th place- State Championship 
Key Returners: Blaire Cunningham (Sr.), Kennedy Bowman (So.), Chloe Gough (Sr.), Kailey Peterson (Sr.), Amanda Bagwell (Jr.) Key Newcomers: Sophia Bohnak (Fr.)
Summary: The Knights return from a state qualification appearance as the first team to finish 28th in school history. Last year's scorers Ana Keller, Clare Schaft, and Mattie Noyes graduated, but the top two state finishers Blaire Cunningham and Kennedy Bowman return as 20:00 performers. Chloe Gough and Kailey Peterson were the sixth and seventh runners. Without much of a presence in the longer distances in track for the team, Triad will have some rebuilding to do to reach the state meet again. Help can come from Sophia Bohnak, a freshman coming from Triad middle school.

Head Coach: Jama Grotulueschen
Last year's finish: 24th- State Championship
Key returners: Ava Boyd (Jr.), Callie Jansen (Sr.), Chloe Bundren (So.), Ava Jansen (So.), Lauren Bednar (Jr.)
Key newcomers: Madalyn Marx (Fr.), Hadley Grotelueschen (Fr.)
Summary: The Bulldogs qualified for state last year and finished 24th, to continue a streak of qualifications. The class of 2021 accounted for almost half of the top-14 postseason roster, so there is some turnover, but three of the top four do return for 2022.

Ava Boyd was the Bulldog's lone sub-19:00 runner, finishing 55th at state. Joining her from the varsity squad are Callie Jansen and Chloe Bundren. Bundren was the team's top 3200m performer (12:32) and also ran on the state 4x400m relay qualifying team. After these three, Ava Jansen and Lauren Bednar return and can potentially crack the top five. There are new freshmen that can make an impact, including Madalyn Marx and Hadley Grotelueschen. Marx was the #1 runner for the Mahomet-Seymour middle school team that finished 12th at the IESA 3A state meet, and Grotelueschen was within a minute of Marx. The Bulldogs have been a pack running team in past years and are in the process of reconstructing that pack.

Head Coach: Jon Hootman
Last Years Finish: 11th place- State Championship
Key Returners: Lucia Ton-That (So.), Sofia Weber (Jr.), Zuzana Bielak (Jr.), Annika Nelson (Sr.), Elizabeth Schieleit (So.), Rachel Yosowitz (Sr.), Katelyn Suh (Sr.), Emily Breen (Sr.)
Summary: With the help of the emergence of the Ton-That sisters and a rapidly improving pack, Northside made success happen last season. "The whole 2021-22 year was incredible," says coach Jon Hootman. "We came up against some great competition in the CPL Championships and managed to take home the title in an incredibly close race, I know our girls were so proud of that. And then to get the last qualifying spot out of the ridiculously tough Woodstock North sectional was stressful but I think it was the best thing for us. I told the girls that I wanted them in that sectional because I knew it was the greatest competition around and if they could make it out of that, they could do something special at State."

The qualification at Woodstock North required Northside to place ahead of Lake Forest, which was no simple feat. The Mustangs do need to contend with a fair bit of turnover, especially losing last year's fifth-place finisher Elia Ton-That, but also three other sub-20 scorers at state. "Four of our top seven runners graduated," say captains Annika Nelson and Emily Breen. "So having to build a new team environment this year with new runners is going to be a challenge." Lulu Ton-That, the fifth returner from last year's state meet, returns with a 17:28 personal best and is the team's lone sub-20:00 athlete. Ton-That, also a proficient gymnast should be watched as a potential top three finisher at the state meet.

There is some depth for Northside after her but almost three minutes span the gap to Sofia Weber, Zuzana Bielak, Annika Nelson, and Ella Schieleit. Northside needs another pack jump like last year to replicate their success, but also may be able to dodge the Kaneland sectional depending on assignments this year. Regardless, the Mustangs are intent on succeeding this season. "This season we want to reinforce the team culture that we have, and hopefully continue our successes from last season," said Nelson and Breen."

22. Morris
Head Coach: Joe Blumberg
Last Years Finish: 26th place- State Championship
Key Returners: Makensi Martin (So.), Danica Martin (So.), Joy Dudley (Sr.), Jadyn Bertram (So.), Moriah Mayberry (Sr.), Leah Ortiz (So.), Abby Hougas (Jr.)
Key Newcomers: Paityn Valentine (So.), McKenzie Ragland (So.), Aubrey Bormet (Fr.), Hope Emmerich (Fr.)
Summary: 2021 brought unprecedented success for the Lady Redskins cross country team. "Our girls won the Interstate 8 Conference meet (first team conference title for our program) and finished third at the LaSalle Regional," says coach Joe Blumberg. "We finished seventh at the Metamora Sectional, qualifying as a team for the state finals for the first time in school history.

The great news is that every state runner is back. I told our two seniors at a captain's lunch in June that if we are going to get back to Detweiller, it ought to be with the same gals that got us there last year." Beginning with the Martin sisters, who progressed well in their freshman cross country season before playing soccer in the spring. Makensi was the conference champion but was not at full strength during the postseason when Danica took the reins as the top runner at the state meet in 18:45, good for 56th.

The returning state team is Joy Dudley, Jadyn Bertram, Moriah Mayberry, Leah Ortiz, and Abby Hougas. Only Dudley and Mayberry are seniors on this team that continues to develop. The key for this returning group is to make it to the end of the season with gas still in the tank and legs ready to go when it is important, as Blumberg outlines. "Last year's success was new to us, and I think we raced hard every meet, perhaps trying to build confidence and get buy-in that the training was working and that we "belonged," whatever that means. It's about doing what's most important for our long-term success that particular day. I think the girls are buying in, and if we get better daily and make smart decisions in terms of training, recovery, hydration, diet, and sleep, I believe we can be much faster this postseason than last."

With the frontrunner capability of the Martins, and a growing program culture, there is a high ceiling for the Lady Redskins, and room for growth. Pay attention to this squad as November approaches. Blumberg: "I expect blood, sweat, and tears to be shed on courses all over the state during Saturdays in October as athletes compete for PRs and championships. And I expect Detweiller Park to be an amazing atmosphere for competition on November 5th, whether we are participating or not!"

Head Coach: Chad Aubin
Last Years Finish: 22nd place- State Championship
Key Returners: Ashleigh Horton (Sr.), Madison Schweizer (Sr.), Sammy Lehr (Sr.), Ava Starkey (Sr.), Payton Gaddis (Sr.), Stella Pabst (So.)
Summary: Normal West returns five seniors who all ran on the 22nd finishing team in 2021, one of the most experienced teams in the classification. This year, the Wildcats may be THE most experienced team in the field. Ashleigh Horton leads the way with an 18:51 best from the 2021 state meet as well as a 5:38 1600m showing in the spring. The rest of the class of the 2023 crew includes Madison Schweizer, Sammy Lehr, Ava Starkey, and Payton Gaddis, but sophomore Stella Pabst will be in the top five mix too. West was 3rd behind Normal Community and Peoria Notre Dame in the Big-12 Conference Championships, and will need a good race to crack into that top two.