Class 3A Girls Preseason Previews: Select Unranked Review

The Lake Park "Harvey Braus" Invitational was one of the most intense invites last season


2022 was a very deep year for cross country, especially in the state's deepest classification. Despite some notable losses to graduation and transfers, 2023 is expected to surprise, impress, and move in a status quo fashion. We kick things off detailing unranked squads with assistance from select coaches.

2022 Pre-Season Previews


Head Coach: Neil James
Last year's finish: Normal Sectional- 10th place
Key returners: Ellie Bush (So), Autumn Gavin (So), Ella Peterson (Sr), Ava Thunig (So), Ellen Hettenhausen (Sr), Hannah Lewis (So), Rhyah Hogsett (So)
Newcomers: Ella Andrews (So), Mae Naveira (Fr), Madelyn Lane (Fr)
Outlook: It was a tough ending to last season for the Panthers who placed a distant 10th place at the Normal Sectional. The silver out of a disappointing situation was the emergence of then-freshman Ellie Bush who advanced to the state meet and placed in a respectable 60th place. 

Coach James reports that his coming-of-age youngsters enjoyed a successful off-season. "After last year's disappointment of not qualifying, we have had a great summer of running," he stated. "We have quite a few freshmen and sophomores that have worked to improve this summer to be ready." Although youth will be served, expect excitement and solid performances throughout the season.

Head Coach:/coaches: Kris Roof, Laura McKnight, Jeff Bryant
Last year's finish: Lake Park Sectional- 9th place
Newcomer: Ainsley Carter (Fr)
Outlook: After a solid finish to last year's season which ended with a top 10 finish at the sectional round (the first in school history), there is high optimism for the Champions this autumn. Coach McKnight indicated that most of the core returners produced a good block of running and it is time to see if they can take their racing to the next level.

Head Coach: Eric Anerino
Last year's finish: Waubonsie Valley Sectional- 11th place
Key returners: Maya Hall (Sr), Zoe Kirkman (Sr), Brooke Horning (Sr), Keira Nelson (Sr), Julia Hannon (So), Isabella Sieben (Jr), Kamea Baker (Sr)
Outlook: Expect 2023 vastly improved from the 11th finish that ended the Mustang's run at last year's Waubonsie Valley Sectional. The girls put in a tremendous amount of positive work according to coach Anerino. "This summer was one of the best yet! With consistency, captain-led runs on the weekends, and weekly visits to the cult-classic - Blackwell Forest Preserve - our girls have a strong aerobic base and an enthusiasm to start racing."

Experienced runners  Maya Hall and Zoe Kirkman are expected to lead the charge of a strong senior class. Hall. Kamea Baker, Brooke Horning, and Keira Nelson illustrated their leadership by coordinating practices and improving the process according to Anerino.

"Julia Hannon and Bella Sieben coming off of a strong track season, and we look forward to seeing them round out our front pack," said Anerino. If experience means anything, the next logical step is advancing to Peoria in November and competing in the state championship. 

Head Coach/coaches: Doug Plunkett, Maddie Manganiello, Gail Grant
Last year's finish: Hinsdale Central Regional- 9th place
Key returners: Holly Johnson (Jr), Sophie Ring (Sr)
Newcomers: Claire Posmer (So), Lena Baker (Jr), Greta Paschall (Jr), Grace Grant (Jr)
Outlook: 2022 was not kind to the Mustangs who did not advance out of the regional round. This is perhaps the first (and last) time in Coach Plunkett's tenure. Not to make any excuses but the Mustangs were in the epicenter of the best cross country teams in the state. So when you have a turnover of heavy graduation and injuries, things come to light. Ace Holly Johnson missed most of her sophomore year with a foot injury, but she's healthy according to Plunkett.  "How the rest of the puzzle pieces fit together, remains to be seen," said Plunkett. "We are hopeful for a tight 2-5 pack, but our team success will depend on how close that pack can come to Holly."

Head Coach/coaches: Hailey Baumstein/Larry Dawson 
Last year's finish: Lockport Regional- 6th place
Key returners: Navi McDowell (Sr), Emily Thompson (Sr)
Newcomers: Lilia Abramcyzk (Fr), Heaven Rouse (So)
Outlook: The Caroline Schoen era is over and the foundation that she help build for the Vikings is appreciated. "I'm beyond excited for our season to start," stated a delighted coach Baumstein. "We have a ton of new athletes- be them incoming freshmen or new to the sport- and their energy is awesome. So, it's great to watch the team grow. They all bring something important to the team, and I can't wait to see their hard work pay off."

Head Coach: Matt Johnson
Last year's finish: Hinsdale Central Regional- 7th place
Newcomers: Addison Guskey (Fr), Evalinh Schilling (Fr), Iris Li (Fr)
Outlook: "Stronger Together" will be the theme this year for the Wildcats who were smarting after not advancing past the regional round last year. After graduating four of the top seven runners, this team will not only turn over some talent but usher in a new coaching staff led by Matt Johnson.  Said Coach Johnson: "We will look for a pack running mentality early on until a front runner emerges from the group."

Head Coach: Kevin Christian
Last year's finish: State Championship- 24th place
Newcomers: Amisha Schlicht (Fr), Kailyn Schlicht (Fr), Jasmine Lenth (Fr)
Outlook: 2022 was a very successful season for the Golden Eagles who advanced to state out of the tough Hoffman Estate Sectional. It is going to be a tall task in getting back to Peoria after graduating five of the top seven runners. According to Coach Christian, there are going to be opportunities for student-athletes to step from the junior varsity ranks.

One impact name to watch is Bailey Schwartz who ran 17:44 and placed 46th at state. "Bailey made a big jump from freshman to sophomore year and with the summer she put in, she should see another improvement, even after an injury-shortened track season," stated Christian. Look for Madeline Osmansk and Kathleen Kania to add depth after producing good summer training sessions. 

Head Coach: Kevin Horst
Last year's finish: State Championship- 11th place
Key returnersDanielle Jensen (12), Skyler Balzer (12)
Coach's thoughts on the team: Jensen and Balzer had great summer training and look to make improvements over the last year. Jensen repeating her all-state performance in 2022 is a very realistic goal, and Balzer is in a position to be a state-level runner in her own right. The search for depth beyond the top two will determine how far we go as a team. 

Head Coach/coaches: Peter Anderson, Amy Freeman, Anne-Marie Lemp
Last year's finish: State Championship- 26th place
Key returners: Maddie Romaine (Jr), Ema Eissler (So.), Hannah Tebbe (Jr), Sienna Keith (So), Mackenzie Skidmore (Jr) Newcomers: Gianna Carroll (Sr), Rebecca Farrell (Jr), and Brigitte Noyes (Jr)
Outlook: The Falcons advanced to the state meet last year for the time in several years. As coach Anderson indicated, it's going to be a challenge getting back to Peoria after losing three of the top seven who graduated.

However, reinforcements are on the way via newcomers Annika Carlson and Emily Offutt. Both yearlings trained with key varsity members over the summer. Said Anderson: "Romaine and Eissler also trained well this summer, building on great seasons last year in cross country and track & field. Skidmore is returning carefully from a stress fracture during the track season."

Head Coach/coaches: Bradley Kaplan, Brandon Wilkerson 
Last year's finish: State Championship- 22nd place 
Key returners: Marley Andelman (Sr), Amalia Im (So), Allison Walker (Sr), Colleen Thumm (Sr), Kendall Crossen (Jr) Newcomers: Nikki Mayer, Ruby Garcia
Outlook: Heavy graduation losses have hit the Saints hard entering the 2023 campaign. But there is a silver lining to it all. "This year's team will be led by Marley Andelman and will take the season to develop as we're very young," according to Coach Kaplan. "Our goal is to work hard and run our best when it counts in the postseason."

Look for Amalia Im to step up in the leadership role after producing a great track season per Kaplan. In addition, newcomer Nikki Mayer appears ready to step into the Saints lineup at some point during the year. Kaplan adds: "We're looking forward to seeing new faces on varsity and seeing where they take us this season."

Head Coach/coaches: Head- Bob LeBlanc/Lori Gonzalez and Bryan Musolf
Last year's finish: Hoffman Estates Sectional- 16th place
Key returners: Maria Polyakov (Jr), Nicole Golebiowski (So), Vivien Qian (Jr), Nora Skiest (Sr)
Newcomers: Payton Walker
Outlook: It was a devasting blow to lose superstar talent Juliet Frum who transferred to national power Mountain View HS in Colorado. On the flip side, the Spartans will rely on some key experience led by Maria Polyakov. It will be a work in progress but Coach LeBlance is optimistic that his team will be solid.