Top area teams: Glenbard West, Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central, Metea Valley, Hinsdale Central, Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard North, Naperville North, Downers Grove South, Glenbard South.
Top athletes: Addison Trail: Jamie Borscha, sr., sprints; Kim Schonder, jr., sprints, hurdles, jumps; Benet: Emma Jones, fr., sprints, hurdles, jumps; Claire McCabe, soph., distance; Downers Grove North: Stephanie Urbancic, sr., middle distance; Downers Grove South: Amanda Thate, sr., distance; Fenton: Emila Burris, soph., sprints, jumps; Taylor Patton, sr., sprints; Glenbard East: Angela Kerndl, sr., sprints, hurdles; Glenbard North: Simone Carr, sr., sprints; Tasia Collins, sr., throws; Allison Wahrman, soph., hurdles, jumps; Glenbard South: Katelyn Hill, sr., sprints, hurdles; Diane Lipa, soph., distance; Glenbard West: Emma Gambol, jr., sprints, jumps; Lindsay Graham, soph., distance; Lisa Luczak, jr., distance; Madeline Perez, sr., distance; Hinsdale Central: Anna Haff, fr., distance; Hinsdale South: Sarah Leganski, sr., sprints; IC Catholic: Rachel Hill, sr., sprints; Cara Horan, sr., sprints; Lake Park: Mani Lock, soph., sprints; Danielle Wojciechowski, jr., pole vault; Lisle: TyAnn Legrand-Melton, fr., sprints; Edoise Omoike, fr., sprints; Metea Valley: Emily Cowan, jr., sprints; Holly Julifs, jr., throws; Qualicia Miller, fr., throws; Montini: Brittany Fisher, sr., middle distance; Madeline Jamrozek, sr., middle distance; Naperville Central: Mary Beth Blank, sr., sprints; D'Jenne Egharevba, soph., sprints; Lauren Erickson, sr., sprints; Katie Hoffman, jr., middle distance, distance; Rachel Hoffman, jr., middle distance, distance; Nikki Hoffman, jr., middle distance; Naperville North: Elle DeTurris, jr., distance; Maria McDaniel, sr., distance; Stephanie Mueller, sr., jumps; Neuqua Valley: Kenna Lonergan, soph., hurdles, jumps; Maya Neal, jr., sprints, hurdles, jumps, middle distance; St. Francis: Meghan McShea, sr., distance; Amanda Nunley, sr., sprints, hurdles; Timothy Christian: Heidi Huiner, jr., sprints; Waubonsie Valley: Alyssa Post, sr., sprints; Alli Wilson, sr., distance; West Chicago: Emma McCarthy, jr., sprints; Cindy Mendez, soph., sprints; Wheaton North: Sarah Bradley, sr., pole vault; Wheaton Warrenville South: Maggie Dansdill, sr., sprints; Erin Zappia, sr., jumps; Willowbrook: Taylor Burton, sr., sprints; Molly Krawczkowski, sr., middle distance, jumps; York: Shante Dansby, jr., sprints.
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Scouting report: Madeline Perez is back for a final encore. The Georgetown-bound Glenbard West senior cannot improve upon her junior year. As a sophomore, Perez was an integral member of the Hilltoppers' 3,200-meter quartet that ran the second-fastest time in state history. Unfortunately for the Glenbard West relay team, it became a footnote to history as Wheaton Warrenville South became the first team to break nine minutes in setting the new state standard.
But Perez came back with a vengeance, running the fastest Class 3A cross country time in history in Detweiller Park in Peoria as a junior. Perez then saved her best for the track season. At the state meet in Charleston, Perez defeated defending state champion Kaylee Flanagan of Lake Park by 12 seconds to earn her first state title. Later that afternoon, Perez turned back a valiant effort by New Trier senior Courtney Ackerman to complete the triple crown of distance racing with another state championship at 1,600 meters. After missing virtually the entire cross country regular season last fall, Perez returned to lead the Hilltoppers to their first team state title in program history.
The Hilltoppers, who were third last spring at the state meet, are the top-ranked team in the area as Perez headlines another talented Glenbard West squad. "It's a matter of spreading the wealth and figuring out where everyone belongs," Glenbard West coach Kelly Hass said of integrating the members of the cross country squad into track and field mode. "Decisions should get made for us." In addition to Perez, Hass welcomes back Lisa Luczak and a critical transfer: sophomore Lindsay Graham. Graham was fifth at 3,200 meters last spring as a Glenbard East freshman. Emma Gambol is the Hilltoppers' leader in the field as the medal-winning triple jumper has grand ambitions for her junior campaign. But all focus will be on Perez to duplicate her achievements as the girls outdoor track and field season begins in earnest. "(Perez) is going to want to win something, be it both events," Hass said. "She has no illusions that the rest of the field isn't going to be focusing on her. Madeline just wants to compete. Whatever she wants to compete in, it will be a heck of a race."
Five of the top seven place-winners at 3,200 meters were from the area, including the top three.
Glenbard West and Naperville North were the class of the large-school cross country programs last fall, and the rivalry will be renewed this spring as the Huskies' state stable of runners, headlined by returning all-stater Elly DeTurris, will be favorites to medal in the longer races this spring.
Naperville Central also made the state cut in cross country last fall, and the Redhawks have one of their strongest track and field programs of the past decade. The Redhawks' fortunes have been energized by the emergence of the Hoffman triplets. Rachel Hoffman was brilliant at the DuPage Valley Conference indoor championship last week with victories at 800 and 1,600 meters. Katie Hoffman won the 3,200 run for the Redhawks, and third sibling Nikki has ample reason to perform at a high level after missing the entire cross country season with nagging injuries. The Redhawks are far from one-dimensional, though, as veteran coach Mike Stine returns sprint-relay all-state members Mary Beth Blank, Lauren Erickson and sophomore burner D'Jenne Egharvba. Naperville Central and state power West Aurora -- which nipped the Redhawks by 2 points for the indoor league championship -- are the class of the DuPage Valley Conference.
Wheaton Warrenville South, the defending outdoor champion, lost its magisterial duo of Hope Schmelzle and McKenna Kiple to graduation. But the Tigers should be dangerous this spring behind high jumper Erin Zappia. The Tigers also welcome back star sprinter Maggie Dansdill, who missed her junior year with a basketball-related knee injury. Zappia and Naperville North senior Stephanie Mueller are leading contenders in the high jump. Zappia is ranked in the top 10 in the nation after outdueling Mueller, 5 feet, 8 inches to 5-7, at indoor conference. "She is starting to receive a lot of recruiting interest," WW South coach Rob Harvey said of Zappia.
Glenbard North features one of the top sprinters in the state as DePaul-bound Simone Carr, a 400 specialist, seeks to become a four-time conference champion at 400 meters. "I am really looking to improve my time in the 400," said Carr, who was sixth at state last spring. "I am shooting for a sub-56 (second time) outdoors."
Maya Neal already has a wealth of state experience as an underclassman. The Neuqua Valley junior won three events to power the Wildcats' first-place-tie at the Upstate Eight Conference meet. Neal is a legitimate state contender in the long jump as well as an all-state candidate for both hurdle events. Neal, who has verbally committed to Tennessee, has such versatility that a state run in the open 800 is not out of the question. "I will probably have to decide on a third and fourth event for outdoor," Neal said. "I might transition into the 400 from the half-mile." Neuqua Valley sophomore Kenna Lonergan is another leading contender in the high jump.
Metea Valley also returns a strong state contingent from a year ago. Holly Julifs is one of the top throwers in the state; Kendall Cast and Taylor Majher are the Mustangs' distance leaders, and junior Emily Cowan is the star sprinter for the squad. "We like the throws," Metea Valley coach Jim Braun said of the Mustangs' defining look. Qualicia Miller augments Julifs in the throws as the newcomer won a national middle-school championship in the discus last summer. "I haven't seen her throw the discus yet," Braun said of his prized newcomer. The area has produced the largest-division state champion at 800 meters eight times since 2001. Willowbrook senior Molly Krawczykowski returns in the event after an all-state junior campaign.
WW South coach Harvey once called the 3,200 relay "the cross country race of the spring," and the area should be well-represented once again in the state finals in the event. In Class 2A Glenbard South should figure prominently. Katelyn Allen is one of the top hurdlers and backbone of the Raiders' sprint relays. "Katelyn Allen has been an absolute beast this spring," Glenbard South coach Mark Tacchi said. "I think she is the top-(ranked) kid coming back in the 300 (hurdles)." Glenbard South has historically been consistent in the field, but Tacchi bid adieu to several notable seniors last spring. "Our entire field events are brand-new kids," Tacchi said.
Montini is the defending state runner-up in the 3,200 relay; Madeline Jamrozek and Brittany Fisher return for the Broncos.
Key dates: April 17, Downers Grove North Ritter Invite; April 25, Lockport Invitational; April 25, Indian Prairie Invitational; April 25, Glenbard East Ram Invite; April 26, Glenbard West Invitational; May 2, Wheaton Warrenville South Invitational; May 8-9, conference championships.
-- Kevin McGavin