Girls cross country: Stevenson top team in NSC; Libertyville's Manetsch manages individual win
With a great team performance from top to bottom, it was what Stevenson's girls cross country team had been waiting for in the North Suburban Conference meet.
The Patriots captured the title on Saturday with 36 points, toppling runner-up host Libertyville (58 points) on the hilly, 3-mile Adler Memorial Park course.
After taking first place in the NSC as a freshman, Libertyville junior Melissa Manetsch returned to the head of the pack with a winning and personal-best time of 18:18.2. She barely held off second-place finisher Brett Chody (18:19.0) of Lake Forest.
The Scouts placed third in the new, eight-team NSC with 74 points to outdistance Lake Zurich (91, fourth) and Mundelein (151, fifth). The top 22 runners earned all-conference medals.
Stevenson's effort was led by the duo of junior Isabelle Sparreo (18:29) in third and sophomore Kendall Roberts in fourth. Junior Natalie Sparreo placed seventh.
The Patriots, who were third in the NSC last year, boasted plenty of depth. Junior Gabriela Jagielo placed 10th, freshman Caimin took 12th, junior Shea Kirby was 18th, and freshman Michelle Yu finished 21st.
"I'm very happy. We've had this goal since the beginning of the season," said Stevenson coach Maureen LeVanti, whose Patriots went undefeated in dual meets for the first time. "They have big goals for the end of the season. They've all been training very hard all summer, and they're just all really focused."
Manetsch was on the top of her game in fast-paced race. She received strong support from teammates Maggie Shutts (ninth), Jenna Ocheltree (11th), Margaret Buchert (17th) and Nora Tucker (20th).
"I've just been focusing on trying my best and just letting everything else happen," said Manetsch, who placed seventh in the NSC last season. "I just started going for it on the last hill and in the last half-mile."
Libertyville coach Bill Etnyre has high hopes for his team heading into the final stages of the grueling campaign.
"We knew beating Stevenson was going to be a very tall order, and I think all six of our runners had their best times of the season at Adler," said Etnyre, whose team jumped up from a seventh-place finish in the NSC last year. "(Manetsch) had about a 12-second Adler PR, and I think that shows the level she is at in the important part of the season over the next two weeks."
Lake Zurich had three all-conference runners in sophomore Emily Burns (fifth), junior Melody Multra (eighth) and junior Carley Peldiak (22nd).
"We looked OK. Burns had a really good race, and she's been racing really well," said Lake Zurich coach Ian Silverman, whose team lost all-stater Caitlin Shepard to graduation. "This is like a new varsity. They've stepped up really well, and they're tough kids."
Mundelein had all-conference finishers in Andrea Cordova (13th) and Clarissa Wienckowski (14th). Sophomore Ashley Kachurik was Warren's top runner in 15th place.
"Ashley is running really well, and I'm really proud of my whole group," Warren coach Brett Heimstead said. "We got out aggressively, and I couldn't ask more of my whole group."
Lake Zurich sophomore Jillian Baffa placed 25th, followed by Libertyville's Sarah Townsend in 26th and Stevenson's Taylor Yen in 27th.