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updated: 9/5/2013 5:07 PM

Girls cross country: Scouting the Fox Valley

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  • Jacobs' Lauren Van Vlierbergen finished seventh at the Class 3A state girls cross country meet last season.

       Jacobs' Lauren Van Vlierbergen finished seventh at the Class 3A state girls cross country meet last season.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Cary-Grove junior Talia Duzey earned all-state honors last season, finishing 25th at the state girls cross country meet.

       Cary-Grove junior Talia Duzey earned all-state honors last season, finishing 25th at the state girls cross country meet.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
By Mike Miazga
Daily Herald Correspondent

Burlington Central

Coach: Vince Neil (11th season)

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2012 finish: 6th place Big Northern Conference

Top returning runners: Seniors Kate Bush, Mykalya Evans, Hannah Zipoy, junior Courtni Neubauer

Outlook: Neubauer is the top returning runner from last year's team that qualified for sectionals as a team. "Our experienced athlete numbers are down quite a bit this season, but we do have many young girls who are looking to race," said Neil. "The senior girls will come up strong for us this season not only in their running efforts, but in regard to their leadership qualities. The girls respond very well to our senior leaders and with their efforts as mentors, the team will improve as the season progresses." Neil said the likes of Marengo, Rock Falls, Winnebago, Oregon and Byron will be in contention in the Big Northern. "Marengo and Rock Falls have several low-scoring girls," he said.

Bartlett

Coach: Beth Morrison (8th season)

2012 finish: 5th place UEC Valley

Top returning runners: Senior Mariah Brown, junior Emily Dowden, sophomore Gabrielle Murdoch

Key newcomers: Junior Jess Wittmayer

Outlook: Morrison said the team's goal is to get better as the season progresses. "We hope to improve our conference and regional standings from last year," she said. Former Bartlett runner Nicole Watkins is now running at Saint Xavier (2013 Bartlett graduate).

Cary-Grove

Coach: Mark Anderson (13th season)

2012 finish: FVC Valley champions

Top returning runners: Senior Natasha Geiger-Powell, juniors Talia Duzey, Gretchen Price, sophomores Sarah Riley, Emma Kreutzmann, Molly MacDuff.

Key newcomers: Junior Morgan Schulz, freshman Sara Caesar

Outlook: Cary-Grove won the FVC Valley Division title last year and returns state-qualifier Duzey from that team. She took 25th at the state meet. "We are a young team with few seniors," said Anderson. "So far the girls have been working very hard and are progressing nicely." Anderson said Crystal Lake Central and Jacobs will be top contenders in the overall FVC picture.

Crystal Lake South

Coach: Ken Greenfield (3rd season)

2012 finish: 5th place FVC

Top returning runners: Senior Malgorzata Waz, juniors Bianca Jimenez, Kiley Britten, sophomore Andie Kobrick

Key newcomers: Senior Morgan Szmutko, freshmen Caitlin Bruzzini, Ann Lewandowski

Outlook: While young, the Gators do return plenty of talent. Waz (21st), Kobrick (26th), Jimenez (27th) and Britten (29th) all earned all-conference honors last year. "A key strength is our pack," said Greenfield. "I would like to see us maintain our great pack running from last season (18-second split in the Top 5 at sectional) and move that pack down a few seconds. With four of our Top 5 sectional runners back, I think that's possible." Greenfield added a key will be the team's younger runners. "We have a very young team," he said. "I feel we have a lot of talented newcomers. A lot is going to hinge on how they hold up to a full season of training and how quickly they learn how to face. I feel we have a pretty strong team. If our new runners can fit into the middle of our existing group and someone has a breakout season as a Top 10-type runner, I think we can be very good."

Dundee-Crown

Coach: Tyler Carlson (1st season)

2012 finish: 11th place Fox Valley Conference

Top returning runners: Senior Anabel Aguirre, juniors Lena Hemmer, Maria Rodriguez, sophomores Margaret Himmel, Arina Hurgoi

Key newcomers: Senior Veronica Acosta, junior Michaela Barrera, freshman Jenna Berlet

Outlook: Pack-running will benefit the Chargers under first-year coach Carlson, who takes over for longtime area great Tom Smith, who retired. "Our strength will be a pack," said Carlson, who ran at Oregon High School and Augustana. "We don't have a front-runner, but we have a solid core of girls who had a strong summer and have worked hard to push each other in practice. D-C lost three of four sectional qualifiers from a year ago. "The girls have had the right mentality of trying to seize the opportunity with major changes to contribute on the varsity level," said Carlson. "We have to keep our pack tight. If we can keep a strong pack with a low split we have a chance to improve our finish in conference."

Elgin

Coach: Jon Miquelon

2012 finish: 7th place UEC River

Top returning runners: Anali Cisneros, Amelia Westberg, Yesenia Mendez, Idalis Salcedo

Key newcomers: Nayeli Cisneros, Selena Rodriguez, Chloe Burkhart, Stephanie Perez

Outlook: Elgin has almost tripled its roster size this year. "Having more girls vying for upper varsity positions on the team has really stepped up our girls' work ethic," said Miquelon. "Hopefully we'll see this translate into strong finishes this year and the continued building of our program. We're still trying to poke our head into the mix of competitive teams in the Upstate 8 and we're running in one of the fastest regions in the state so we have our work cut out for us." That doesn't mean the Maroons aren't up for the challenge. "We are continuing to work hard and are pushing each other to be better than we were yesterday," the coach said. "Each race will bring new challenges and we will meet those challenges head-on. Hopefully we can surprise some people this year. Our girls are strong and ready to go out and have some fun. It is going to be a very good season."

Harvest Christian Academy

Coach: Steve Bland (3rd season)

2012 finish: Conference champions

Top returning runners: Valerie Richter, Anneliese Herman, Aliyah Ellis, Whitney Donaldson, Kylee Knox

Outlook: Bland said the team's goal is to win another conference championship. "We would like to build on last year's success of getting the team to sectionals," he said. "This year we feel we can send the team to state." Harvest has been without top runner Hannah Nelson, who sustained a leg injury going into the state track meet this season and still hasn't rejoined the team. "We are hopeful she will be able to rejoin the team," said Bland. "Her loss is substantial." Bland cited strong offseasons from a number of girls. "Anneliese and Aliyah have vowed to have a great senior season with ambitions of running at the state meet," said Bland. "Their hard work has yielded significant improvements in their fitness and times and should set them up nicely for that goal." Richter was a state qualifier in the 800 in track. "She too has become much stronger over the summer," said Bland. "These girls are helping Harvest Christian establish a running legacy in our school's young history."

Hampshire

Coach: Patti Nihells

2012 finish: Qualified four runners out of regional

Top returning runners: Seniors Natalia Sztukowski, Elizabeth Pagan, Emily Eischen, junior Rebecca Freund

Key newcomers: Senior Aahuti Desai, junior Ashley Romanoski, sophomores Yessenia Gonzales, Anna Wilson, freshmen Morgan Richert, Shayla Sotelo, Kaylee Adams

Outlook: Hampshire has a relatively youthful look to it this year. "We are working hard to run as a team," said Nihells. "We will be needing help from the underclass athletes. Obstacles for us will be the inexperience at the high school level and the level of this conference, regionals and sectionals. The conference always strong."

Huntley

Coach: Brad Gallaugher (4th season)

2012 finish: 9th place FVC

Top returning runners: Junior Kelly Meehleib, sophomores Kate Mitchell and Jerissa Chan

Key newcomers: Sophomore Kiera Daly

Outlook: Huntley returns its entire varsity squad from a year ago. Meehleib is back after an injury-plagued sophomore season. Mitchell was 16th in the conference last year, while Chan missed all-conference honors by four spots. Daly is in contention for the varsity lineup after having a strong freshman track season. "We look to be improved after all our varsity runners put in some good work this summer," said Gallaugher. "If we can get our No. 5 runner to close the gap a bit our strength could be our team spread. We control our own destiny. We are going to continue to train hard and control what we can control."

Gallaugher said Jacobs is a top contender in the FVC. "However, the entire conference lost very little with its senior class."

Jacobs

Coach: Kevin Christian

2012 finish: 2nd FVC valley; 1st FVC overall

Top returning runners: Senior Kayla Giuliano, juniors Lauren Van Vlierbergen, Courtney Eubanks, sophomore Alex Lorenz

Key newcomers: Juniors Molly Barnes, Taylor Bona, freshmen Kathryn Van Vlierbergen, Bailey Zinger

Outlook: Van Vlierbergen finished seventh in state and won the FVC individual title last year. Lorenz was 10th in the conference and Giuliano was 11th. "The strength of the team rests in our top returners and some girls who put in big summers," said Christian. Barnes was not a varsity runner last year, but led off the track team's 3,200 relay that placed fifth at state. "She took momentum from that and put in a great summer, finishing every workout with the top girls. Kayla and Alex had injury and illness-filled finishes to last season, but put in a ton of work over the summer and are in better shape at this point than they were last year. Lauren ran and did a ton of cross-training this summer and is in as good of shape as she was last year. Last season she missed a large chunk of training during the season due to a stress reaction. If she can stay healthy she could have an even better year." Christian sees a lot of potential in this group. "If we can stay healthy and with our Top 7 we should be even better than last season's team," said Christian. "If they can keep consistent and stay healthy they can be better."

Larkin

Coach: Heather Carey (3rd season)

Top returning runners: Seniors Sarah Fischer, Jen Miller, Yenitza Castillo, Jocelyn Salinas, junior Elizabeth Alvarado

Key newcomers: Juniors Valerie Vargas, Ariana Real, Domaris Fuentes, Kennya Franco, freshman Tanya Franco

Outlook: Carey would like to see the team qualify for the sectional. "We want to continue to build the program and qualify for the sectional and not be the last team in," she said. "We have a strong team bond and good senior leadership."

South Elgin Storm

Coach: Jorie Bartholomew

2012 finish: 6th place UEC Valley

Top Returning runners: Senior Taylor Warrick, junior Kirsten Kochan, sophomores Sam Czuprynski, Jackie DeLaMora

Key newcomers: Senior Brittany Carson, freshman Lauren Toussaint

Outlook: While South Elgin is young on paper, it does not lack in potential. "A lot of our juniors and sophomores are the ones who are on varsity," said Bartholomew. "We have growth potential. We need to take our younger athletes and get them to become leaders of our team. Right now our team is mostly underclassmen who have never run cross country, so getting them to understand the sport and grow from the beginning of the season to the end is important. If we also can get them to grow and love the sport, we can expand our team in the years to come. We are trying to build a stronger team and be able to be competitive with our times and places from last year's invites. We have a lot of new members of the team, so we are making season goals and are hoping to reach those goals and exceed them this season."

St. Edward Green Wave

Coach: Mike Olenek

2012 finish: Individuals only

Top returning runners: Katie Kremer, Ashley Lopez

Key newcomers: Freshman Megan Kremer

Outlook: St. Edward is young with 5 girls at the frosh-soph level. "They all are working very hard and improving their times on a weekly basis," said Olenek. The coach has high hopes for Megan Kremer. "Megan is a strong runner and likely will do very well this year," he said. Olenek added improved endurance will be important with this group. "we need to continue to develop our endurance so we will be able to push for all-out speed when it is needed." Olenek is looking forward to developing this group. "This group of five girls is very excited about cross country and will be competitive at the frosh-soph level," he said. "I look forward to developing them into a strong and competitive team as we continue this season."

Westminster Christian Warriors

Coach: Adriana Armstrong (1st season)

Key newcomers: Senior Lexi Guttilla, sophomore Maddie Versluys

Outlook: The size of the Warriors' cross country program (boys and girls) has doubled since last year. "The strength of this team is the willingness to work hard in practice, pursue camaraderie and to demonstrate leadership," said Armstrong. "All returning team members have improved their running and show great potential for this season's competitions. New members of the team also are demonstrating success for the upcoming races."

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