Scouting DuPage County girls track

By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/30/2017 5:11 PM
  • Katelynne Hart of Glenbard West High School wins the Girls Class 3A state cross country meet at Detweiller Park in East Peoria Saturday.

      Katelynne Hart of Glenbard West High School wins the Girls Class 3A state cross country meet at Detweiller Park in East Peoria Saturday. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Top teams: Naperville North, Glenbard West, Downers Grove South, Naperville Central, Hinsdale Central, Downers Grove North, Benet, Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley.

Top athletes: Addison Trail: Natalie Diaz, (soph.), sprints, jumps, Klea Gjonaj, (sr.), sprints, jumps; Lauren Kroll, (sr.), sprints, jumps; Mercedes Lopez, (soph.), sprints, hurdles, Giovanna Scarbaggio, (jr.), sprints, jumps, Julia Swierzb, (fr.), sprints, hurdles; Benet: Anna Brunk, (sr.), pole vault; Amanda DeSitter, (sr.), distance; Emma Jones, (sr.), hurdles, jumps; Aly Munson, (sr.), sprints, jumps, pole vault, Ashley Tyburski, (jr.), sprints, middle distance; Downers Grove North: Gina Kowalewicz, (sr.), sprints, middle distance, Faith Lamantia, (sr.), sprints; Isabel Maltich, (jr.), sprints, hurdles, jumps, Emma Moravec, (sr.), sprints, middle distance, distance; Downers Grove South: Maddie Manganiello, (sr.), sprints, jumps; Nicole Muccianti, (sr.), sprints; Katie Stapleton, (sr.), distance; Soren Umali, (sr.), sprints, hurdles; Fenton: Cassidy Kelly, (jr.), middle distance, Katrina Krebasch, (jr.), jumps, pole vault, Sarah Mason (jr.), sprints, jumps, Hanna Matuszewski, (soph.), sprints, jumps; Glenbard East: Cailyn Biegalski, (jr.), middle distance, distance, Claire Biegalski, (fr.), sprints, hurdles; Abbey Hoh, (jr.), jumps, Brenna Peters, (jr.), sprints, Kionnah Weaver, (jr.), sprints, hurdles, Lexi Weltin, (jr.), middle distance, distance; Glenbard North: Hannah Ivy, (jr.), sprints, Alyssa Laherty, (jr.), sprints, middle distance, Lauren Mahoney, (jr.), sprints, jumps, Elelta Sisay, (soph.), sprints, middle distance; Glenbard South: Ava Childs, (jr.), distance, Ciara Jackson, (soph.), throws, Abby Schlenker, (sr.), middle distance, distance, TeJanae Tate, (sr.), sprints, Emma Taylor, (jr.), hurdles, jumps; Glenbard West: Chloe Arduino, (jr.), sprints; Sophie Cvengros, (sr.), sprints, jumps, Katelynne Hart, (fr.), middle distance, distance, Katie Hohe, (soph.), middle distance, distance, Janie Nabholz, (sr.), middle distance, Lindsey Payne, (jr.), middle distance, distance; Hinsdale Central: Kayla Byrne, (soph.), middle distance, Ugochi Ihemeson, (sr.), throws, Grace McCabe, (jr.), middle distance, distance, Reilly Revord, (sr.), sprints, middle distance, distance; Hinsdale South: Rachel Arellano, (jr.), throws, Raquel Blumenstein, (jr.), sprints, jumps, Shell Hampton, (jr.), sprints, jumps, Agne Lukoseviciute, (sr.), throws; IC Catholic Prep: Hannah Johnson, (fr.), sprints, jumps, Kirsten King, (jr.), sprints, Olivia Slavin, (fr.), sprints, hurdles, Jaida Smith, (soph.), sprints, jumps; Lake Park: Emily Golab, (sr.), throws, Andelyn Granskog, (soph.), sprints, hurdles, jumps, Isabelle Kennedy, (jr.), sprints, jumps, Allison Mack, (jr.), sprints, hurdles; Lisle: Paige Kellie, (jr.), sprints, jumps, Odoise Omoike, (sr.), sprints, middle distance, Natalie Takahasi, (jr.), sprints, hurdles; Metea Valley: Nicky Cast, (sr.), sprints, middle distance, distance, Courtney Morgan, (sr.), throws, Kelly Reese, (sr.), sprints, hurdles, Keeley Weber, (jr.), middle distance; Montini: Dejah Amos, (sr.), sprints, hurdles, Joslyn Boyer, (soph.), sprints, jumps, Lauren Mikolajczak, (sr.), throws, Jenna Weidacher, (sr.), middle distance, distance; Naperville Central: Alana Austin, (sr.), distance, Carolyn Carpenter, (sr.), middle distance, distance, Naomi Egharevba, (soph.), sprints, Tikia Harris, (jr.), jumps; Lauren Kainrath, hurdles, jumps; Madeline Wagner, (sr.), sprints; Naperville North: Halle Bieber, (soph.), sprints, hurdles, Elise Chao, (sr.), sprints, jumps, Claire Hamilton, (sr.), middle distance, distance, Claire Hill, (soph.), middle distance, distance, Alex Morris, (soph.), Hannah Ricci, (jr.), middle distance, distance, Sarah Schmitt, (jr.), middle distance, distance; Neuqua Valley: Autumn Richmond, (soph.), sprints, hurdles, MiKenna Robinson, (soph.), sprints, middle distance, Autumn Rosales, (soph.), sprints, Kemi Sodipe, (sr.), sprints; St. Francis: Haley Garvy, (jr.), sprints, Clare Kolker, (fr.), distance, Leila Kral, (soph.), middle distance, distance, Amanda Peterson, (sr.), sprints, Nikki Quick, (sr.), sprints, pole vault; Timothy Christian: Olivia Hoekstra, (sr.), sprints, middle distance, Alyse Schnurr, (sr.), sprints, hurdles, jumps, Zoe Stanton, (sr.), sprints; Waubonsie Valley: Dana Dwyer, (sr.), sprints, Gwen Kibbe, (sr.), sprints, hurdles, jumps, Cami Robinson, (jr.), jumps, Rikki Stevenson, (sr.), sprints, Cassy Tsagaris, (sr.), middle distance, distance, Brooklyne Wilson, (sr.), throws; West Chicago: Maddie Brotnow, (jr.), sprints, middle distance, Brooke Eidel, (fr.), sprints, hurdles, Lupita Garcia, (sr.), sprints, Avalon Smith, (jr.), sprints, jumps; Wheaton Academy: Karyn Best, (jr.), Stephanie Gregersen, (soph.), sprints, Kayla Lotz, (jr.), sprints, middle distance, Julia Robleski, (jr.), distance; Wheaton North: Micah Brady, (sr.), pole vault, Malia Humecki, (jr.), sprints, pole vault, Abigail Noyes, (soph.), middle distance, Allyson Serbick, (jr.), sprints; Wheaton Warrenville South: Sara Atkins, (sr.), middle distance, distance, Mykaila Gentry-Humphrey, (soph.), sprints, Claire Haas, (soph.), sprints, hurdles, Alison McGrath, (sr.), distance, Tamera Patterson, (sr.), sprints, Tonjaya Yarbar, (jr.), throws; Willowbrook: Miani Blackwell, (soph.), throws, Ashley Gushiken, (soph.), sprints, jumps, Alexis Simmons, (jr.), sprints; York: Julie Biggins, (sr.), middle distance, Sarah May, (soph.) middle distance, distance, Jeanette Morley, (sr.), jumps, Bella Walker, (fr.), sprints.

Scouting report: When it comes to girls track and field, freshman sensations are inevitably present year after year. But Glenbard West ninth-grader Hart, the reigning Class 3A cross country champion, is the talk of the local girls track scene heading into the outdoor season. "She could be the greatest ever," said hall of fame Naperville North cross country and track coach Dan Iverson. "Ever. I don't know if we have ever seen anyone that good before. It is a fair representation of where she is at."

"You will be telling people that she is the greatest athlete you have ever covered," Benet cross and track coach Scott Brooks said. "I have never heard of times like that for a freshman," added Jim Braun, coach at Metea Valley, who has been around the sport for more than three decades. Hart has posted astonishing numbers during the indoor season. The Hilltoppers' freshman had the fastest times in the state at 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters, respectively, 2 minutes, 14.09 seconds, 4:48.6 and 10:11.51. "She could be the very first kid in state history to win all three (events) at the same state meet," Brooks said. "We don't know what we're going to do with her," Glenbard West coach Kelly Hass simply said. Former York great Maria Cicero holds the large-class state record at 3,200 meters from the 2001 Class AA finals at 10:17.28. But Hart shattered that mark by almost seven seconds at the Indoor Top Times meet in Bloomington last weekend.

"(Hart) has the fastest time in the United States at 3,200 meters indoors," said Mike Newman, who covers girls track and field nationally as part of the ESPN family of networks. "She just destroyed the field (at Bloomington)."  "It's definitely pretty cool," Hart said of the attention she has received. "I have been working really hard. After (winning) state cross country I had a little confidence going into track season. I would love to break some national records. It's a long journey for the next four years." Hart also has amazing range. The freshman can compete at any distance between 400 and 3,200 meters. "I get asked that so much," Hart said when asked her favorite event. "Whatever event I am running that day is so much fun." Local coaches involved in cross country and track and field are at a loss for superlatives when it comes to Hart. "I think (Hart) is going to be the best we have ever seen," Brooks said. "It's ridiculous how fast she is going. I think she is going to set the all-time state record in the mile and 2-mile as a freshman." Glenbard West coach Hass prefers caution. "Everybody wants these projections," Hass said of Hart. "She is just a 15-year-old girl. She is only a freshman." Hart and junior Payne swept the state cross country meet last fall for the Hilltoppers. Payne is the defending champion at 3,200 meters in Class 3A. "Payne is an animal," Newman said. "She is so physically and mentally strong." The Hilltoppers' junior is following in the footsteps of former Glenbard West greats Madeline Perez, a one-time triple-crown winner in cross country and the 1,600 and 3,200 at state track, and fellow cross country state champion Lindsey Graham. "The Georgetown coach (where Perez attends school) asked me if I knew Madeline Perez," Payne said. "I said, 'Well, I have only met her one time. I was in eighth grade.' I was like star-struck. I am just trying to continue her legacy at Glenbard West."

There are few states in the union that can match the brilliance of girls track and field than Illinois. Nowhere was it epitomized more than in 2012 when Perez teamed with Julia Sakach, Maddie Nagel and Emma Reifel to run the third-fastest time in the nation at the Class 3A 3,200 relay state finals. But the Hilltoppers had to settle for second place to the record-breaking foursome of Amy Yong, Erin Herrmann, Hope Schmelzle and McKenna Kiple from Wheaton Warrenville South, who became the first unit in state history to eclipse nine minutes, finishing in 8:59.03.

"Illinois (girls) can race with any athlete in California, Texas and Florida," Newman said. "Illinois can compete with all of them. Look at shot put. Four of the top-eight ranked girls in the nation are from Illinois." Hart is not the only Illinois female track and field performer at the top of the national charts. In addition to Hart, 2017 girls track and field season figures to offer extraordinary performances as south suburban jumpers Jelena Rowe and Jaimie Robinson from Bloom and Homewood-Flossmoor, respectively, also own the top marks in the nation.

Glenbard West hardly owns a monopoly on distance racing in DuPage County. DuPage Valley Conference favorite Naperville North, the indoor league champion, is arguably the best team in the area in terms of covering all 18 outdoor events. The Huskies have an extraordinary collection of depth in the distance events between 800 and 3,200 behind their core of athletes from the reigning state cross country state-championship team. "(Iverson) is like (Kentucky basketball coach) John Calipari," Benet coach Brooks said. "It's like what McDonald's All-American do I put in the game? It's a nice problem to have." Of the three disciplines between 800 and 3,200 meters, Naperville North has an athlete who has met the state-qualifying standard 17 times. Indiana-bound Hamilton and Schmitt are the leaders of the Huskies' nationally ranked distance runners. "We are confident in our training," Schmitt said. "We are confident in each other. We have girls who can fill in all the distances. We are so deep." Hamilton, the last remaining link to the Huskies' 3,200 relay state-championship quartet from two years ago, was in top form during indoor season. "Everything the way indoor has gone has exceeded my expectations in so many ways," Hamilton said. "I am very proud of (Hamilton)," Iverson said. "She just persevered."

Metea Valley thrower Morgan and Benet pole vaulter Munson are returning state champions. Morgan, a Central Florida recruit and a two-time state champion in the shot put, was also state runner-up in the discus for the Mustangs last season. "That's my No. 1 goal: to be state champion in the shot put and state champion in the discus," Morgan said. "I have some hard work to do, but I don't think those goals are out of reach. It would set me up for a decent freshman year in college."

Benet was elevated to Class 3A this season after Munson vaulted 12 feet, 9 inches to best any competitor at the state finals -- regardless of class -- last spring. The Princeton-bound senior has set a peculiar agenda for her senior year. "One of her goals is to break the boys school record in the pole vault," Brooks said. "There are not too many female athletes who can say they are going for a boys record. I don't know what (the boys record) is, but I would be willing to bet she knows it off the top of her head." "Thirteen-six," Munson replied without hesitation. "I'm going for 13-7."

Addison Trail had a considerable drought when it came to state qualifiers in the last decade-plus. But it all changed for the Blazers when Kroll entered high school in the fall of 2014. The Loyola-bound senior made history for the program by becoming the first all-state sprinter in school history last spring at 100 and 200 meters. Kroll will be a formidable opponent this spring after sweeping the two West Suburban Gold indoor sprint titles. "It makes me feel like I'm walking on air," Kroll said of her achievement. "I want to end my senior year with a bang. I definitely want to rank higher in the state (in the 100 and 200 dashes)."  

IC Catholic Prep sophomore triple jumper Smith also achieved a program first. "She is the first all-stater I have ever had in my career," longtime IC Catholic Prep coach Bob Cronin said of Smith finishing in fifth place in the Class 1A triple jump last year.

Like Naperville North and Montini a season ago, Hinsdale Central has three veterans back from its state-championship quartet in the 3,200-meter relay. Revord was also third place in the open 1,600 for the Red Devils, who won their second state trophy in program history last season with a third-place tie. The West Suburban Silver is annually one of the best girls track and field conferences in the state. "It's crazy," Glenbard West coach Hass said. "Thirteen points separated the first four teams at indoor conference."  

The outdoor season is an entirely different species with the addition of the 400-meter relay, 300 hurdles and discus added to the mix. "I think it's a wash (between Neuqua Valley, Wheaton Warrenville South and Naperville Central for the DuPage Valley Conference outdoor league championship) adding the three events," Iverson said.

Key dates: April 8: St. Charles North; April 8: Downers Grove South; April 13: Downers Grove North Ritter Invite; April 13 Gus Scott Naperville North Invite; April 21: Wheaton Warrenville South Invitational; April 22: Glenbard West Invitational; April 28-29, conference championships.

-- Kevin McGavin

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