Pre-Season Indoor Girls Preview: A deep 3200m On The Rise

Six girls broke 11:00 in the Illinois Top Times final, led by Grace Schager's 10:33.93 victory


The current senior class produced a bevy of historic, national-caliber performances in the 3200m last year and then in cross country. This has set the stage for another landmark year in the deuce, even during the indoor season when it is of secondary focus for many athletes.

This cross country season was the year of Grace Schager (Sr., Carol Stream (Glenbard North)). Scahger picked up her second overall IL state championship by winning a muddy three-mile race in 16:40. She nearly broke sixteen minutes (16:00.2- in September). She did finish top five in the country individually. This was all to follow up a track season where she made many strides of improvement, improving her 3200 from 10:53 to 10:17, good enough for the 3A individual title. Schager gets better the longer the race, so the 3200 will be Schager's bread and butter in preparation for Notre Dame for the next several years. Certainly, she will work on her speed in the lower distances, but her patented negative-split, aerobic strength style of racing suits the two mile race the best.

The only athlete in Illinois that could sniff Schager in the cross country season was, of course, Tatum David (Sr., Olney (Richland County)), the current IL #1 over 3200/two miles with the second half of her superb double at Misfits (10:22 2-mile, converts to sub-10:20 on a banked track). David has the best 3200m returning time, a 10:04 from a loaded 2A 3200 championship race in 2022, on relatively fresh legs. After having run 4:40 for a mile so early in the season, it seems inevitable that David will make a run at the ten-minute barrier with the right conditions. The match-up to watch in distance is Ince v. David in the Mile, but how about Schager v. David in this two-mile?

Neither David nor Schager was a national two-mile champion, though: that title belongs to Brooke Johnston (Sr., Lake Zurich), the UCLA commit who enters the season on the mend. In 2022, Johnston made her intentions in the event known with a 10:42 solo effort for 3200 in early April at Barrington. In the rain, Johnston finished third at state (as well as fourth in the mile). She has been an all-state staple in whatever events she elects to do. As IL #2 returner, she has to be on the state's radar in the 3200.

Mia Kotler (So., Chicago Latin) is the IL #5 returner with a 10:28 state performance, good for fourth in an unimaginably loaded 2A final (behind David, Elia Ton-That, and Mary Grace Hegberg). Kotler competed only for the three postseason meets in cross country--she was fit enough to finish fourth at the 2A race, but this clearly was behind what a healthy and strong Kotler is capable of showing. Already she has run 11:03, IL #2 behind David's time at Misfits. 

Scout Storms(So., Barrington) had a bit of an enigmatic relationship with this event in 2022. Storms put herself in the state mix with a top-10 3A XC finish in 2021, but was relatively quiet indoors until.... her 10:27 3200 in Raleigh, NC in March was the first national elite performance outdoors for anyone in the state, and a significant marker for Storms as a title contender in the two-mile. Storms only ran the race one more time during the regular season, opting for more 800s and 1600s. She was a pre-race favorite at state in the 1600 and 3200, but a trip and an injury in the 1600 prelim prevented her from contesting the 3200 the following day. She is in the mix for this event, for sure. Will she race it indoors?

An end-of-season breakout runner in cross country was Juliet Frum (So., Northbrook (Glenbrook North)). Frum ran the 1600 at state in 2022 and nearly medaled, but such good performances in cross country project some great times to be run in the 3200 (despite no 3200 performances last year). Frum was runner-up to Schager in 3A in XC and produced a three-mile time only ten seconds slower than David. A similarly strong season in cross country was had by Anna Harden (Sr., Arlington Heights (Hersey)). Harden has a longer track record in the 3200, however, as the IL #8 returner (10:42). Harden was 4th in 3A XC.

Rachel Soukup (Sr., Crystal Lake (Prairie Ridge)) made huge strides forward over three miles in cross country, running 17:05 for 3 miles but most impressively 17:24 in slop for runner-up in 2A. She was able to hold off Becca Heitzig (Jr., Lincoln), defending 2A Top Times 3200 champion, who finished third in 17:50. Both Heitzig and Soukup can be major factors for the 3200 if they decide to run it indoors.

If Bria Bennis (Sr., Elmhurst (York)) aims for the 3200 rather than the 4x800 relay for the Duchesses, then the Vanderbilt signee is a dangerous athlete to watch. She returns a sub-11 3200 time (already dropped 10:47). Plenty of the rest of her York team, including Brooke Berger (Sr.), and Katherine Klimek (Jr.) are all-state contenders in the 3200 based on their dominant performances in cross country. 

Notable others to watch: Kennady Anderson (Jr., Kewanee (Wethersfield)), Sofia Arcuri (So., Park Ridge (Maine South)), Natalie Bierbaum (Fr., Normal (University)), Mabry Bruhn (Sr., Monticello), Breanna Burak (Sr., Huntley), Brittney Burak (Sr., Huntley), Zoe Carter (So., Normal (University)), Paige Caruth (Jr., Lake Villa (Lakes)), Ahry Comer (Jr, Golconda (Pope County)), Louisa Diamond (Sr., Lisle (Benet Academy)), Hailey Erickson (Sr., Mt. Prospect (Prospect)), Molly Farrell (Fr., Marshall), Ava Hendren (Jr., Naperville (Central)), Danielle Jensen (Jr., McHenry), Hannah Meiser (Sr., Bethalto (Civic Memorial)), Mia Pasha (Sr., Gurnee (Warren)), Julie Piot (Naperville (North)), Caroline Schoen (Sr., Flossmoor (Homewood-F.)), Audra Soderlind (Sr., Oswego (H.S.)), Catherine Sommerfeld (Sr., LaGrange (Lyons)), Veronica Znajda (So., Mt. Prospect (Prospect))