Girls cross country: No state title defense, but Benet still motivated
Benet Academy is the defending Class 2A girls state cross country champion.
And due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Redwings will stay defending champions into next fall as the IHSA has limited this year's postseason to one regional meet.
"That was not the greatest news for everyone," said Benet senior Elisabeth Camic, "especially because we had a chance to attempt to win another state championship because we all have been training really hard over the summer."
But eventually every dark cloud gives way to sunshine.
"As sad as that news was, it was used as motivation," Camic said. "We are not taking anything for granted, which is nice."
Benet opened its season recently by splitting between events at Naperville North and Harvest Christian Academy in Elgin. The Redwings were second at Naperville North with Camic leading the way with a team top time of 18:46. Benet's 2-4 pack featured Louisa Diamond (18:55), Joy Jackson (18:59) and Kelly Andrews (19:07). Rounding out the Top 5 for Benet was Emily Spellman (19:53). Amelia Parisi and Mary Weber were Benet's sixth and seventh runners.
If that Top 7 looks familiar, it is. All seven ran in the state meet in Peoria last year with a finish ordering of Spellman (12), Andrews (14), Jackson (26), Parisi (44), Diamond (55), Camic (56) and Weber (57).
"I just like being out there with everyone," Camic said. "That's the best part for me this year. It's nice to see everybody after quarantine and be able to work out together."
Benet coach Katie Paski noted the team took 14 runners to the Harvest meet. Freshmen Terese Tully and Kailey Frangella took 14th and 15th respectively, and both dropped more than a minute from their previous week's time trial at practice. Junior Katie Lewellyan took the early lead in the JV race and never looked back in winning her first cross country race as a newcomer to the sport this year.
"After many months with no competitions, it was great to see the girls back in action," Paski said. "We are beyond blessed that they will all have such opportunities to compete and reach both their personal and team goals."
Naperville North update
As mentioned above, Naperville North was involved in a meet with Benet, DeKalb and Metea Valley. The Huskies, the 2019 Class 3A state champions, won the meet, leaving coach Dan Iverson quite impressed. "We won and ran some solid times for early in the season," he said.
Lucy Westlake led the way for North in the meet, forming a solid pack at the front along with teammates Maggie Gamboa and Audry Mendrys, Iverson noted. Sophie Golobitsh also had a solid day as the Huskies' fourth runner. Those four finished 1-4 in the race with Gamboa, fifth in the state a year ago, clocking 17:43.20 for 3 miles.
"We feel very good about learning to race reasonably normally under very unusual circumstances," Iverson said. "That's an underrated and important aspect of having success this season -- being able to focus amid uncertainty. It is clear that adjusting to this properly will be almost as important as many of the workouts we are doing. So far, I am encouraged at the progress we have made here."
The Bulldogs had success at the St. Charles East quad where Katrina Schlenker was the individual champion. Jenna Schifferer was third and Lauren Hunecke took seventh. "This was Lauren's first race in a long time," coach Chad Hillman pointed out. "She has battled injuries for the last few years and is feeling healthy and looks great."
Hillman said his Batavia squad is still finding its way under unique circumstances. "Like all teams, we are learning to adapt to the changes and need to work every day to get better," he said. "We can't create excuses for things that are uncontrollable. After all the changes settle, in the end, it's still a 3-mile race and we're still trying to beat our competitors to the finish line."
The Vikings edged Wheeling 23-35 in a recent Mid-Suburban League contest. Coach Joe Marcin said freshman Ella O'Brien has quickly stepped into one of the Vikings' top varsity spots. "The team is young," he said. "This season we have a lot of inexperienced, but very talented freshmen and sophomores. Each week we are gaining valuable workout and race experience."