1A Girls State Preview: Back-to-Back for Unity?


Date: 11/5/2022

Location: Detweiller Park; Peoria, IL
Course: 3.0 miles
Race time: 9am
Awards ceremony: 11am at the Detweiller Park venue
Weather forecast: 57F, light rain, windy
MileSplit IL 50 Rankings: Read Here
Outlook: There is no mystery who the team to beat is, the Rockets of Tolono Unity went wire-to-wire in the #1 spot of MileSplit's Flo50 weekly rankings. The team leader junior Erica Woodard has been a stalwart front-runner, but she has been joined recently by IESA state champion Mackenzie Pound in the postseason, and Pound is poised for a major breakthrough at the IHSA state meet. Emily Decker (So.) joins Pound and Woodard at the front, but the supporting cast of Olivia Shike, Camryn Reedy, and Reagen Stringer make Tolono by far the favorite to defend their 2021 title.

This is not unlike how we discussed Winnebago last year, however, so pay attention to the competition who could be ready to strike if Unity falters. Prior to sectionals, Eureka may have been the obvious choice for #2, but the Hornets suffered an upset defeat to Pleasant Plains by a narrow margin at the Elmwood Sectional. Pleasant Plains has been led by frosh Caroline Willenborg all year and is a sneaky trophy contender after their sectional win. Senior Laurel Munson leads Eureka into battle. 

Rosary won the Harvest Christian Academy Sectional on the strength of a fantastic four but had a massive gap back to their fifth runner. Rosary was not at full strength, and their health will be a determinant in where they fall in trophy contention. Their top four were crucial in holding off two other teams to watch at state: DePaul, who is spending their likely final year in 1A due to enrollment increase, and Chicago Christian one of the great stories in 1A with an upstart team that has been consistent and competitive all year long. Chicago Christian is led by Anna Enderle, who was the sectional champion, and DePaul runs on the strength of their pack. It is highly likely that DePaul will be the second team with five runners through, after Unity. 

Where will the Winnebago Indians fall? They have had a tough top three all year but the back of the pack continues to be a project. They snuck out of the Oregon Sectional with a narrow win over Rock Falls. The final team to watch: young, improving Anna-Jonesboro, the winners of the Benton Sectional. They are frosh-heavy and running well at the right time. They are strong candidates to make trophy contention moves.


Two years ago, Mabry Bruhn finished 3rd at the Shazam XC Championship race behind Anna Perry and Lianna Surtz. Since then, Bruhn has been a consistent mainstay in the 1A scene, but it has only been recently in this, her senior year, that all attention is on her. The IPC individual champ also won at the Shelbyville Regional for a cross country 3-mile PR of 17:17 and blitzed the SJO Sectional field for a 16:56 win over 2.95 miles. A win would be the cherry on top of a stellar career for the Monticello Sage.

The biggest challenger for Bruhn will clearly be Marshall freshman Molly Farrell. A case can be made for Farrell to be the favorite of the race, as well. Farrell began her season in lockstep with teammates Isabel Arthur and Brooklyn Bender. But at the Nike XC Town Twilight meet, Farrell made a real name for herself with an unreal 17:49 5k run at LaVern Gibson. Every race since then has also been under 18 minutes and took down Bruhn at the Patriot Invite before Bruhn got revenge at the sectional meet. Will Saturday be another breakout race for a star in the making?

The 1A Girls' individual field is rich with name-brand talent. Louisa Wilson ran 17:31 at the Patriot Invite and won four races in October, including the Petersburg PORTA Regional and the Elmwood Sectional.

Ahry Comer has been relatively unchallenged most of the season, her only loss at the hands of Winnebago's Grace Erb at First to the Finish. Comer is the defending 800m state champion and finished 7th at state in her first full season of cross country in 2021. There is a flush of talented frosh that can make an impact, perhaps none more potent than Shelbyville frosh Tessa Bowers, who finished third at Saint Joseph Ogden. Sundara Weber from Sandwich may have something to say about that, one week after taking the Oregon Sectional title. Pound, Woodard, and Decker will all be present in the front pack.

 A runner to watch is Elena Rybak. Rybak has had a circuitous route to state, similar to a challenging postseason in 2021. Rybak has won five races but has also dropped out of the top 10 in two other races, including the Benton Sectional. Her top-end speed makes her extremely dangerous, and this year has a teammate in Kaitlyn Hatley who has joined her in the front. There is strength in numbers for the Fr. McGivney Griffins.

Also watch for Kate Ahmari, Kaylee WooleryMarissa Roggensack, Savanna Franzen, Eris Nelson, Jolene Cashmore, Molly Robertson, Miah Gilmore, Brodie Denny, Vanessa Teel, Caroline Tepe, Sydney Gertsen, Nora Brady, Arianna Neisen, Madigan Burger, Addie Symonds, Annabelle LaFary, Nellie Melick, Laurel Munson, Emily Downing, Evelyn O'Connor, Trixie Johnson, Olivia Shike, and Kate Foltz to comprise the pack vying for all-state.