It was a great end to the season for the Whitney cross country family of Vernon Hills last weekend at the Class 2A state meet in Peoria.
First-year Vernon Hills boys coach Mark Whitney not only got to help guide his son Kyle to a solid 52nd-place showing on the storied 3-mile Detweiller Park course, but he also got to watch his daughter Kristen run to an impressive 36th-place finish in the girls meet.
Kyle and fellow junior teammate Ben Mohrdieck qualified for the meet as individuals. Despite losing a shoe, Mohrdieck still managed to place 100th under what could have really been a potentially disastrous situation.
"That was tough," Mark Whitney said. "Things can happen in these really big races, so that was unfortunate. But he ran a really courageous race."
Senior Kristen Whitney helped lead the young Cougars downstate for the first time in school history. They placed 12th with 306 points.
Freshman Vivian Overbeck (56th), sophomore Samantha Hershman (67th) and freshman Lexi Reich (101st) give Vernon Hills coach Suzanne Richert a great nucleus to build around for years to come. The Cougars will have four of their top five runners back next fall.
"They (Kristen and Kyle) both had PRs for the course and for the year, so they were both happy with that," said Mark Whitney, who has four of his top runners back next season. "It's just a great experience to be a part of the state meet."
With Deerfield moving from Class 3A down to 2A this fall, the Cougars were unable to reach state for the first time as a team in school history. But Whitney feels confident his squad can rebound next season.
"We're feeling really optimistic about next year with six of the top seven back," Vernon Hills' coach said. "We're feeling like next year we have a really good chance to do it."
Also in boys Class 2A, Lakes senior Ryan Prais closed out his rock-solid career with a 40th-place finish in his third appearance at the state meet. Grayslake Central senior Kevin Boyle also finished strong (42nd).
Not only did the Vernon Hills girls reach state for the first time ever this year, but Grayslake Central also pulled off the feat with a great late-season push. The Rams placed 15th in Peoria.
First-year cross country runner junior Jamie Brew led the Rams' surge at state with a 50th-place finish. She got solid support from teammates Elsie Rehberg (57th), Korina Gomez (68th) and Jordan Larson (123rd). Brew and Rehberg will be back to lead Grayslake Central's pack next fall.
"Brew ran really well and she is still figuring out how to be a runner because it's only her first year," said Grayslake Central coach Jim Centella. "She ran a lifetime best by about 30 seconds, and Elsie PR'ed by about 25 seconds. I'm cautiously optimistic because we have two potential all-state (top 25) type girls coming back. But we do lose four out of our top seven."
"Gomez PR'ed by a small margin and she had mainly been our No. 1 runner for most of the year so I'm really proud of her," added Centella.
Lakes also had two very promising young runners at state as sophomore Danielle Griesbaum (52nd) and freshman Kortney Schardt (77th) give coach Keith West great hope for the future of his program.