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updated: 9/2/2011 10:48 AM

Prospect soaks up some anticipation

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  • Prospect's state trophy-contending team includes, from left, Kate Welsh, Brooke Wolfe, Lauren Poplawski, Rachel Henk, Katrina Leemey and Laura Maibuecher.

       Prospect's state trophy-contending team includes, from left, Kate Welsh, Brooke Wolfe, Lauren Poplawski, Rachel Henk, Katrina Leemey and Laura Maibuecher.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Prospect's state trophy-contending team includes from left, Kate Welsh, Brooke Wolfe, Lauren Poplawski, Rachel Henk, Katrina Leeney and Laura Maibuecher. A recent balloon-tossing, team-bonding episode only strengthened their resolve.

       Prospect's state trophy-contending team includes from left, Kate Welsh, Brooke Wolfe, Lauren Poplawski, Rachel Henk, Katrina Leeney and Laura Maibuecher. A recent balloon-tossing, team-bonding episode only strengthened their resolve.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent

The balloons the Prospect girls cross country team were tossing were a rainbow of colors, but the results were all the same.

As the Knights moved farther apart, the uncaught balloons would explode, drenching the unlucky recipient.

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Prospect's girls are looking to make a similar splash this season.

Prospect returns its top three runners and five of the top seven who propelled the Knights to a fifth-place finish in Class 3A last season.

This year the Knights are a bit more experienced and just as talented, and are looking to capture their first state trophy since a third-place finish in 1989.

"We have a lot of potential," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster. "We have a ton of experience in our top six, they have all been tested. When the big meets come, that is when the experience will help."

It starts with junior sensation Brooke Wolfe, who went undefeated in the invite season last year. Wolfe also won Mid-Suburban League, regional and sectional titles before placing fifth at the Class 3A state meet.

Wolfe went on to place 18th at the Nike National meet in Oregon in December, but her sophomore track season was wiped out because of an ankle injury.

The good news is Wolfe is back and is healthy and will be the engine that drives Prospect. The Knights enter the season ranked fourth in Class 3A according to Dyestat.com.

"Last year was really exciting," said Wolfe. "This year will be a different experience; we just have to keep working on our goals."

Joining Wolfe will be seniors Laura Maibuecher and Kate Welch, junior Lauren Poplawski and sophomores Rachel Henk and Katrina Leeney.

Poplawski finished 31st in leading the Knights to a sixth-place state finish in 2009, and finished 20th in Class 3A last season.

Poplawski and Maibuecher also helped the Knights to a fifth-place finish in the 3,200 relay in 3A last spring in track. Welch and Henk have state cross country experience and Leeney made huge strides during the track season.

"It's really exciting," said Poplawski of the Knights' potential. "I think we're much more devoted this season and we're definitely closer."

"Last year was a great experience," said Henk. "We just want to keep building."

For Prospect it was a nice rebound from a disappointing end to the 2009 season. The Knights won the MSL title behind the efforts of talented senior class that included Annette White, Emily Salzman, and Kasey Krum.

Prospect battled eventual 3A state champion Palatine for much of the season, but illnesses put a drag on the Knights' pursuit of a state trophy.

Wolfe, Poplawksi, and Maibuecher were a part of that talented squad, and definitely leaned on the seniors for leadership.

Now they are the ones providing the leadership, and it is still a work in progress.

"It is something we struggled with," said Poplawski. "We were so used to being the young ones -- now we realize we need to step up. It's definitely different, but we're adjusting to it."

"As freshmen we just raced," added Wolfe, "We learned a lot from that team, especially how to deal with pressure."

The Knights also learned to deal with plenty of obstacles during an off-season that included Wolfe's injury and a bout with mono for Maibuecher.

"Everything in life that is important, you are going to have obstacles," said Wurster. "It shows your character in how you overcome those obstacles. Your character will be tested; you just need to be able to adjust."

And the Knights seem to be adjusting. Maibuecher is still not at 100 percent, but that will open the door for a pair of talented freshman in Ellen Siefke and Maggie Sullivan, who are eager to make their mark.

"It's been a big adjustment," said Leeney. "Last year I just ran junior varsity; now I'm full-time varsity. It's a big role, but I'm excited."

Speaking of obstacles that yet stand in Prospect's path, there are a couple close to home, including Palatine and Barrington in an always tough MSL.

Wheaton Warrenville South and New Trier will be waiting for Prospect in the state series, so the Knights realize their work is far from over.

"As much as we have had some struggles with illnesses this summer, I'm really excited about our team," said Wurster. "When people are fit, healthy and ready to race, I like our chances."

The Prospect girls filed off the track on the late summer morning and a few were drenched more than others due to the water balloon toss. But the Knights were still thirsty in their quest for an elusive state trophy.

"We just keep looking forward toward the end of the season," said Wolfe. "It's a big goal for us to secure a state trophy. As it gets further in the season it will get harder, just like it was harder to catch the water balloons the further away we got from each other."

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