Girls cross country: Cooperative effort key for Stevenson
The Stevenson girls cross country team continued to pull together as a true group Saturday morning in the Libertyville Class 3A regional.
The Patriots' effort led them to their first regional championship in many years, as they toppled runner-up Lake Forest by a 37-64 margin on the challenging, 3-mile Adler Memorial Park course.
Lake Forest's Brett Chody won the race in 18:05.62, while Stevenson junior Isabelle Sparreo placed second in 18:20.
The Pats' pack was in rare form with Kendall Roberts in sixth, Gabriella Jagielo in seventh and Natalie Sparreo in ninth. Freshman Caimin Xi came through with a 13th-place finish to round out Stevenson's top-five scorers.
Isabelle Sparreo improved her time from last weekend's North Suburban Conference meet by nine seconds on the hilly course.
"I actually like this weather a lot, so I liked it a little better this week, and our top group was a lot closer this week," Sparreo said following the race that was ran in 48-degree weather. "We have definitely progressed since the beginning of the season, and our goal for sectionals is to finish in the top three."
After placing 13th in Class 3A last fall, the Patriots are in a good position to return to the state meet again in two weeks and do even better with a year of experience under their belts.
"The top five have been working hard all season, and we're working for the next two weeks," said Stevenson coach Maureen LeVanti, whose program also reached the state meet in 1997 and 1999. "Our goal is definitely to advance (to state). It's not going to be an easy race, but we know we are a team that everybody will be looking at."
Stevenson will be joined at the Waukegan sectional next Saturday by third-place Libertyville (94 points) and fifth-place Mundelein (136 points).
The host Wildcats were without the services of top runner and NSC champion Melissa Manetsch due to illness Saturday.
But Libertyville still managed to get the job done on its home course behind 11th-place finisher Jenna Ocheltree and 12th-place finisher Maggie Shutts.
"Hopefully (Manetsch) will be better for next weekend, and I thought our top two runners looked really good and strong," said Libertyville coach Bill Etnyre. "It's going to take our fourth and fifth runners to do a lot better if we're going to have a shot at the top five at sectionals."
Mundelein's solid pack was led by sophomores Andrea Cordova in eighth and Clarissa Wienckowski in 18th.
"(Cordova) looked good today, and she faced a lot of adversity last week at conference when she lost one of her spikes and she still placed 13th," said Mundelein coach Adam Pauley. "I think we're all proud of our effort today. We wanted some of our places to be higher up, but the upperclassmen are battling some injuries."
Round Lake freshman Fatima Giron was the top at-large individual sectional qualifier with a 15th-place run.
"(Giron) did pretty well, we were pretty happy, and we thought we could advance as a team," said Round Lake coach Kevin Brady. "(Giron) has done really well this year. She broke our record for the 3-mile, and she's been our top runner all season."
Giron was shocked after advancing to the sectional in only her first season of cross-country.
"I think it's an honor to make it there," she said. "It's great. I didn't think I would make it this far."
Giron will be joined at the sectional meet by fellow at-large qualifiers Ashley Kachurik (19th) and Morgan Liebau (26th) of Warren.
"We had a race plan today, and the girls really executed it well," said Warren coach Brett Heimstead. "We're young and we're building, so this was a good experience for them today. They raced well."