Wolfe, Poplawski power up for senior season at Prospect
Prospect once again has high hopes for the upcoming girls cross country season, and the senior duo of Brooke Wolfe and Lauren Poplawski will be the twin engines powering the Knights' attack.
No, they're not actually twins, but the casual observer might think so.
Both stand 5-7 feet, both usually have their blonde hair in pony tails, and when they hit the course the two are sure to be in the front at the end of the race.
They are a perfect match for the Knights, but they're double trouble for the opposition.
The pair's accomplishments speak for themselves.
Wolfe has won a total of four state medals in cross country and track. She has made all-state two consecutive years in cross country finishing fifth as a sophomore and 16th last year. She took sixth in the 3,200 as a freshman and then was part of the Knights school record and third-place finish on the 3,200 relay last season.
Poplawski also has four state medals in cross country and track. She took 20th in Class 3A as a sophomore for cross country, finished in sixth in the 800 for track last season and also won back-to-back medals on the Knights' 3,200 relay team the past two seasons.
The duo powered Prospect to the Mid-Suburban League title in cross country in 2009 and 2011, and led the Knights to three top-10 finishes in the state for cross country, including back-to-back fifth-place efforts.
"It definitely makes the season worth it," said Wolfe of the awards and medals. "It gives us something to work for."
"It gives me a lot of motivation," added Poplawski, "Especially coming off a strong track season -- I think we're ready to do it again."
It will only help that this fall, both are healthy.
Wolfe had her sophomore track season wiped out due to a foot injury, and Poplawski was slowed at the beginning of last season due to mononucleosis. The pair had a strong track season in the spring and combined that with a strong summer, and now both are ready to roll.
"Last year we knew we were good, but there just seemed like a lot of obstacles were getting in our way," said Poplawksi of the various injuries and illnesses. "This year we are coming in at 100 percent and everything is falling into place."
"You look how we started last year and then we finished as MSL champs," added Wolfe. "We didn't have our best state meet, but it's good to know we came that far that quick. Now we're starting in a good spot."
Despite their similarities, there are a few differences in the Knights tandem.
Wolfe entered Prospect with plenty of accolades, and she hasn't slowed down since. The senior grinds out races and uses her strength to power to the finish. She has won back-to-back MSL and Schaumburg sectional titles, and is once again on the short list for securing an individual state title. She also ran at the Nike National as a sophomore.
"Brooke entered as phenom," said Prospect coach Dave Wurster of his elite runner. "Most of those kids that enter as phenoms fizzle out. Brooke has never shown signs of that. She never gives up and has a will to win, always ready to put the hammer down."
Poplawski entered high school with no such accolades, but she's certainly made a name for herself since. She's made all-MSL for three years and is one of the top 800-meter runners in the state. She has a fluid running motion and knows when to accelerate, making her one of the fastest finishers in state.
"Poplawski entered with zero running background in distance," said Wurster. "She has never loved to run, but every year she seems to tolerate more and more and now she may even say she likes it. But she was great right off the bat; she almost floats on the ground."
Despite their different backgrounds, Wolfe and Poplawski have had each other's back since for the last three years.
"Since we were the only two freshmen, we had to get each other going and we stuck together," said Wolfe of their first year experience. "We always pull each other up and keep each other focused on the positive things."
"I was definitely apprehensive about running cross country my freshman year," added Poplawski, "and Brooke definitely helped me stay focused. She kept my head in the game even when I doubted myself."
Wolfe and Poplawski have helped push the Knights to MSL and sectional titles, but there is one glaring piece missing for them: A state trophy.
This year the Knights seem to have the pieces to make a run at one, with junior Rachel Henk, junior Katrina Leeney, sophomore Hannah Getschman and sophomore Ellen Siefke rounding out the effort.
Defending state champion New Trier, Wheaton South, Naperville North, and Glenbard West will be waiting when the calendar flips to November, but the Knights are motivated to secure that final piece of the puzzle.
"It's almost frustrating, it seems every year we've been so close," said Poplawski. "Something has gone wrong to prevent us from there. Before we leave we want to make our mark."
"I'm looking to leave everything on the course this year," added Wolfe. "It's our last hurrah…we have to do it, and we have to do it right."