Girls cross country conference meets
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Where: Busse Woods (Conant Course)
When: 11 a.m.
Last year's team champ: Prospect
Last year's individual champion: Brooke Wolfe (Prospect)
What to know: A different course and a chance of rain will add to the challenge. The race will be run at the same location at Busse Woods, but Conant will run its home course, which differs from the Schaumburg sectional course.
Girls teams to watch (rankings by Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll): No. 5 Palatine, No. 9 Barrington, No. 14 Schaumburg, Prospect, Hoffman Estates, Fremd.
Girls individuals to watch: Tess Wasowicz, (Sr., Palatine), Jessica Lincoln (Jr., Palatine), Cassidy McPherson (Jr., Palatine), Liz Cox (Jr., Palatine) Lauren Conroy (Fr., Barrington), Cary Reynolds (Jr., Barrington), Rachel Simon (Sr., Barrington), Solome Haile (Jr., Hoffman Estates), Alondra Aguirre (Soph., Hoffman Estates), Caroline Kurdej (Soph., Schaumburg), Ali Gutt (Soph., Schaumburg), Erin Falsey (Soph., Schaumburg), Zoe Shoro (Fr., Conant), Kelly Breen (Sr., Fremd), Ayako Higuchi (Soph., Fremd), Brooke Wolfe (Sr., Prospect), Lauren Poplawski (Sr., Prospect), Kaitlyn Ko (Fr., Buffalo Grove), Jeanne McCormick (Fr., Elk Grove).
Outlook: Palatine has had the most consistent attack this season, with the Pirates running to third-place finishes at Hinsdale Central Invitational, Richard Springs Invitational, and the Palatine Invitational, all of which featured strong fields. Palatine cruised to the MSL West title and is welcoming the return of sophomore Amy Kieliszewski, who should strengthen the Pirates' attack as the No. 5 runner. "I think our front four front runners definitely give us a strong push," said Palatine coach Joe Parks. "If we run our race, we should do well." Palatine is favored to win its first MSL title since 2008, but defending champion Prospect and Barrington will challenge the Pirates' attack. Prospect won the MSL East, but has struggled for a better part of this season. The Knights welcome back Wolfe, who has not raced since mid-September. The big key for the Knights will be to get its back pack up to speed. "We're the underdogs," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster, "but if you see us at practice or meets there is no panic." Barrington has been making progress and has received a lift from senior Rebecca Batliner. Fremd has offered some impressive finishes, including a third place at First to the Finish in Peoria. Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg add to a strong field. Individually, Wasowicz has had a strong season from start to finish, capping it by taking first at Metamora last weekend with season-best time of 17:05. The Pirates senior has to be considered the favorite especially with two-time defending MSL champion Wolfe just returning from a hip injury. Don't be surprised to see Kurdej challenge for the lead. Breen and Poplawski are also battled tested. Ko, McCormick, and Conroy will inject a bit of youth into the race.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE
Where: Midlothian Meadows
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Outlook: Marist may be a slight favorite, but Benet and St. Viator will challenge. Senior Hanna Winter and junior Meghan Carroll power Viator and will challenge Fenwick sophomore Olivia Ryan and Marist senior Maggie O'Loughlin for the individual title.
CENTRAL SUBURBAN LEAGUE
Where: Waukegan Sports Park
When: Noon, Saturday
Outlook: The 12-Central Suburban teams race together, but the meet is scored into the two 6 team divisions. No. 3 and defending Class 3A state champion New Trier is favorite in the South Division, while Maine West will run in the North Division where Glenbrook North is favorite. New Trier senior Courtney Ackerman is the individual favorite.
WEST SUBURBAN GOLD
Where: Center Point Park, Northlake
When: 11 a.m.
Outlook: No. 6 Downers Grove South enters the WSG meet as favorites. Leyden joins Willowbrook and Morton giving chase. Senior Danyle Segura and Aleks Kijowska will pace the Eagles attack and will be seeking all-conference honor.
-- Michael Eaken