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updated: 10/20/2012 4:15 PM

Prospect bounces back, wins regional title

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By Michael Eaken
Daily Herald Correspondent

Prospect was feeling a bit down after finishing a disappointing fifth at the Mid-Suburban League girls cross country meet a little more than a week ago.

But the Knights snapped back on Saturday at the Class 3A Hoffman Estates regional, showing a bit of crackle and a lot of pop.

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Senior Lauren Poplawski hung tight with Schaumburg sophomore Caroline Kurdej the entire race before sprinting to the finish in the final 50 meters to secure the title in 18:12.

Poplawski's effort helped Prospect to the team title with 44 points at Busse Woods.

"It felt awesome," said Poplawski who flashed her closing speed at the end. "I wanted to stay as close as possible to Caroline (Kurdej) and then rely on my kick. We really worked well together the whole race."

Kurdej, who finished second at the MSL meet, was not able to match Poplawski's closing speed, but the sophomore did power Schaumburg (62 points) to a second-place finish.

"We were battling for position the entire race," said Kurdej of the two-way battle.

Fremd (70 points) took third place followed by Hoffman Estates (83 points), Conant (125 points), Hersey (181 points), and Rolling Meadows (192 points).

All seven teams advance to next week's Schaumburg sectional at Busse Woods on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Senior Brooke Wolfe (18:41) has been battling a hip injury since mid-September, but the Prospect senior, while not 100 percent healthy, still took sixth place and help key the Knights' victory.

"We were a little down," said Wolfe of Prospect's MSL performance. "But we knew we could come back strong, and that's what we did."

Prospect's back pack definitely stepped up. Key efforts came from sophomore Hannah Getschman (19:13), junior Rachel Henk (19:21), and junior Katrina Leeney (19:32) who took 10th, 12th and 15th.

"Today was our best race of the season," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster. "It definitely gives us some confidence heading into the sectionals."

Kurdej set the tone for Schaumburg, but sophomore Ali Gutt (18:35) wasn't far off pace, finishing fourth. And sophomore Erin Falsey (19:08) came through by closing hard for a ninth-place finish.

"We've improved a lot since last year," said Gutt. "I didn't know I'd be up there with Caroline today, but it definitely gives me a lot of confidence."

Senior Kelly Breen (18:31) energized Fremd by taking third place and helping the Vikings take third as a team. Sophomore Ayako Higuchi (19:04) and senior Megan Moroney (19:22) finished 8th and 13th for Fremd.

Breen has been dealing with iron deficiency issues all season, but the Fremd senior blocked out the fatigue Saturday.

"Mentally I'm getting better at pushing through it," said Breen, who has helped the Vikings take a step closer to a state qualification. "If we hit, it's a possibility."

Sophomore Alondra Aquirre (18:40) used a hard charge to pass Wolfe at the finish in securing fifth place for Hoffman Estates. Aguirre ran an impressive race, taking the lead briefly early in the final mile and inspiring the fourth-place Hawks.

"I felt stronger and more focused," said Aguirre. "As team we took it slower at the beginning and came on strong."

Sophomore Abby Tripp (18:57) and freshman Zoe Shoro (19:28) took 7th and 14th to propel Conant's fifth-place finish.

Tripp and Shoro have taken charge for the Cougars. A key for Tripp was her strong start Saturday.

"I think that helped me at the end," said Tripp.

Senior Amanda Cortese (19:35) took 17th place in helping Hersey secure sixth place.

Freshman Sara O'Malley (19:59) finished 27th to help Rolling Meadows lock down the final sectional qualifying spot with a seventh-place finish.

Elk Grove freshman Jeanne McCormick (19:15) was the top individual qualifier, taking 11th overall for the Grenadiers.

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