Girls cross country: Scouting the MSL meet
Where: Salk Park, Rolling Meadows
When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday
Host: Rolling Meadows
Last year's team champion: Prospect
Last year's individual champion: Brooke Wilson (Prospect)
MSL West Division champion: Barrington
MSL East Division champion: Prospect
What to know: Salk Park is the spot, and the Mid-Suburban League title is the prize. The course offers some long runways, including the finish where the runners can really open it up. Barrington has been the most consistent team from the start of the season, but Palatine and a resurgent Prospect and a young Fremd team cannot be overlooked. Barrington senior Jocelyn Long and Schaumburg senior Maddie Marasco are on a collision course for what is shaping up to be an exciting race for the individual title.
Individuals to watch: Buffalo Grove: Alexis Opperman (sr.); Hersey: Teagan Beckley (jr.), Katie Fredian (so.), Erin Barton (so.); Prospect: Mikayla Olsen (sr.), Julia O'Grady (jr.), Marissa Valentini (jr.), Reese Lettow (fr.); Wheeling: Yailene Leon (sr.), Christina Pierini (jr.); Barrington: Jocelyn Long (sr.), Molly Fitzpatrick (fr.), Alyssa Norris (so.), Katherine Shein (fr.); Fremd: Marissa Ban (so.), Rebecca Markham (so.), Nupur Pokharkar (sr.); Hoffman Estates: Michelle Diaz (jr.), Anna Miller (jr.); Palatine: Anne Marie Jordan (fr.), Liz Lechwicz (jr.), Kate Lechowicz (jr.), Lauryn Simons (sr.); Schaumburg: Maddie Marasco (sr.), Rachel Vaccaro (sr.).
Outlook: Barrington edged Palatine 27-28 in an epic MSL West dual meet at Palatine Deer Grove East in late September, and that victory keyed the Fillies' drive to the West Division title. On Saturday, the two teams will once again get to face off with the MSL title on the line. Joining the fun will be two-time defending champion Prospect which has made a nice late-season surge, and a rising Fremd team. Barrington has definitely been the most consistent team from the start, earning titles in the St. Charles Invitational to start the season and ending the regular season by taking first at the Wheeling Invitational. In between, the Fillies have looked strong at both the First to the Finish Invitational and the Palatine Invitational. Long and Fitzpatrick have given the Fillies a nice 1-2 punch. The key for the Fillies on Saturday will be to narrow the gap between their top two runners and the second wave. Norris and Shein have supplied some energy there. "It's going to be a great race and we'll have to be ready because those other teams are great. It's good to be in the mix and it's going to be a great battle," said Barrington coach Debbie Revolta. Palatine has also looked pretty strong with Jordan, the Lechowicz twins, and Simon providing some solid pack running. After moving up a group of young runners, including Jordan, the Pirates ran their best race of the season at the Peoria Notre Dame Invitational in Mid-September finishing in third place, 3 points away from first place. But an injury to their No. 5 runner, freshman Ellie Roy, has hindered the Pirates' attack. If Roy is healthy she could provide the Pirates with a spark. "It won't be easy for any team, it's your typical MSL meet," said Palatine coach Joe Parks. Olsen has definitely given Prospect a nice lift this season in taking over the No. 1 spot from two-time defending MSL champion Brooke Wilson. O'Grady and Lettow have been very steady and Valentini ran a strong race at Peoria Central's invite, elevating a Knights attack that produced an MSL East Division title run. Fremd is lurking in the shadows. Marissa Ban, Markham and Pokharkar have pushed a strong Vikings group that finished third at the Peoria Central Invite, one spot behind Prospect. Also keep an eye on Hersey. The Huskies have a young core led by Beckley that could make some noise on Saturday. Hoffman Estates has also made a late-season move and will pushing to crack the top five on Saturday along with Schaumburg. The individual race will be fun. Prospect's two-time defending champion Brooke Wilson is now running for South Carolina, and both Long and Marasco are looking to fill the void. The two met on Sept. 12 at Barrington's Ron Beese Park in an MSL West dual meet with Marasco (17:34) earning the victory over Long (17:52). Marasco ended the regular season by winning the Bartlett and Sterling Invitationals, and she also broke Schaumburg's home record on Macnider Course at Hoover School in a spectacular run. Long has been just as dominant, having earned second-place finishes at the Palatine Invitational and the Wheeling Invitational. The Northwestern-bound senior is gearing for a big finish. "It's going to be fun to get out there and compete against (Marasco), she's obviously super talented," said Long. "It'll definitely be a nail-biter.". The conference has also been infused with a number of talented freshmen, and Fitzpatrick tops the list. The Fillies' freshman should be right behind Long and Marasco on Saturday.
CSL North: Maine West will travel to Vernon Hills on Saturday to compete in the Central Suburban League conference meet. The girls varsity race will begin at 9:30 a.m. Junior Sarah Magnoni will lead the effort for the Warriors.
ESCC: St. Viator will be hosting the East Suburban Catholic Conference meet on Saturday at Melas Park in Arlington Heights. The girls varsity race will begin at 10 a.m.; freshman Katie Castelli paces the Lions' group.
WSC Gold: Leyden will be hosting the West Suburban Gold conference meet on Saturday. Due to construction on their home course, the meet will be held at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park. The girls varsity race will begin at 11:20 a.m. Junior Jazmin Santoyo will push the Eagles' effort; Downers Grove South is the favorite to win the meet.
-- Michael Eaken