Cross country: St. Charles East boys, Batavia girls take 2nd at DuKane meet
Batavia girls cross country coach Chad Hillman has seen this sort of thing before from freshman phenom Katrina Schlenker.
"We've known her for a long time, known Katrina, known about her," said Hillman, whose wife, Kate, coaches cross country at Rotolo Middle School, where Schlenker set Illinois Elementary School Association records.
"She comes in with her talent and has the work ethic and great attitude and great combination of speed, power, strength to go along with it. She does a great job of taking her talent and using the most out of it," Chad Hillman said.
It all came together Saturday at Lake Park's East Campus in Roselle. In the inaugural DuKane Conference cross country championships Schlenker won the girls varsity race in 16 minutes, 51 seconds, ahead of St. Charles East's Alice Abbott at 17:05.
In a tight team race Hillman and Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Harvey had each anticipated, WW South took the team title 54-56 over Batavia.
St. Charles East's boys, led by top-eight finishers Bob Liking, Aidan King and Bennett Melone, took second to WW South, 28 points to 46. The standings fit the Nos. 1-2 boys teams in the Illinois Cross Country Coaches Poll.
From early into the girls varsity race it was a three-girl duel. Schlenker, Abbott and WW South's Sam Poglitsch ran well ahead of the field. Then Schlenker and Abbott picked it up a notch.
Eventually it was all Schlenker, who upon finishing turned to see teammates Mia Gianfrancesco, Jenna Schifferer, Audrey Pellico and Erin O'Brien all place in the top 19 over the 3-mile course.
"I don't know where I took off. I think it was maybe the last mile, the last mile or two," Schlenker said.
"I had a plan to go out a little bit fast, which I think I did, and just see where she was at behind me. And by the last mile or two to just create a distance between me and her."
By then "she" and "her" meant Abbott. Dismayed by "dropping off" Schlenker's pace, the St. Charles East sophomore nonetheless is "a lot farther ahead" than last cross country season, she said, and could look at Saturday as valuable race knowledge.
"It's a learning experience," said Abbott, a healthy 15 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Poglitsch. "It's my first experience like this this season, and I'm just really excited for regionals, sectionals and hopefully state."
Rachel Price and Grace Dorrance finished fifth and eighth, respectively, for third-place St. Charles North. Sophia McDonnell placed fourth overall, at 17:36, for fifth-place Geneva.
In the boys race that followed a top group 15 strong led the field for a good mile before Geneva senior Ryan Kredell, St. Charles East junior Bob Liking and WW South's Bill Hauenstein gained separation.
Out of a hairpin turn the course emptied onto Lake Park's track for a 300-meter sprint to the finish. There, Hauenstein's notable kick took hold, and the junior surged to win in 14:55 to Kredell's 14:57 and Liking's 14:59.
"I feel like the first mile and a half we were all kind of right there and then I tried to go," said Kredell, sub-15 for the first time since last season. "And Billy and Bob, when we came into the third mile, they just pushed it, it was crazy. Sticking with them was really what I think helped me get through the race in the time I did, because we were pushing back and forth the whole third mile."
Once into the stadium it was anyone's race.
"I know both of them have pretty strong kicks," Liking said, "so my whole goal was just to stick onto them. Both Kredell and Hauenstein, they're just such talented athletes, so I thought it was pretty good just being with them. I thought it was a pretty good race."
As did Saints coach Chris Bosworth, a 2002 Lake Park graduate whose knowledge of the course perhaps aided a 12-second improvement in splits between Liking to fourth and fifth scorers Micah Wilson and Zack Loomis.
"We definitely took another step in the right direction," Bosworth said. "We don't need to be sharp now and ready now, we need to be ready in November."
Batavia's Damian Rodriguez placed 10th for the third-place Bulldogs; Ryan Arnold, at 18th, led sixth-place St. Charles North.