Cross country: Batavia's Schlenker, Neuqua's Dovalovsky shine at Naperville North
Batavia junior Katrina Schlenker made a point to make one last short dash following the completion of Friday's Naperville Twilight Invitational.
After posting a winning time of 17 minutes, 9.9 seconds at the prestigious event, Schlenker searched for her "big sister" for a celebratory moment. Nearly three years ago, Schlenker credits Wheaton Warrenville South's Samantha Poglitsch for providing a jump-start to her budding career.
Schlenker recalled with great detail not making the finals of the 1600-meter run at the Class 3A state track meet in her freshman year. She finished fifth in her preliminary heat, just behind Poglitsch, who advanced to the finals that season.
"I was a little freshman, and was so frustrated because I thought I would be up there with Katelynne Hart and I didn't even make it to the finals," Schlenker said. "I was so upset and was crying. Sam saw it and came up to me right after the race. She was so encouraging. She's like a big sister to me. She's so kind and supportive. She told me not to worry, to keep working hard. It made me feel so much better. She was there, even though she was not on my team."
On Friday, Schlenker added to her impressive resume with a strong performance on a warm fall evening at Naperville North. She held off a late push by Naperville North Maggie Gamboa (17:13), while Poglitsch notched third (17:23).
"This means a lot to win this race," Schlenker said. "My sophomore year was a struggle. I feel like I'm coming back. I've had a lot of hard times over the years, so this was an awesome experience."
On the team front, Naperville North tallied 19 points to win the meet, easily beating out St. Charles East (66), Benet (70), Wheaton Warrenville South (105) and Neuqua Valley (111).
In the boys race, Neuqua Valley's Nicolas Dovalovsky overcame a tough week to post a winning time of 14:44 to nudge out St. Charles East's Micah Wilson (14:46), with Wheaton North's Ryan Schreiner taking third (15:06).
With three runners among the top five, the Saints claimed the team title with 60 points. Neuqua Valley (73), Wheaton North (118), Naperville North (118), Naperville Central (137) and Waubonsie Valley (145) took the top six spots in the 13-team race.
Meanwhile, Poglitsch, a senior, said she's not ready to pass the torch to Schlenker, but she talked with pride about her younger competitor's race and improvement from their first meeting. It was the fifth time this season -- with a few more races expected in the postseason -- that Poglitsch and Schlenker have each competed in the same race.
"This race meant a lot to me," Poglitsch said. "This is my last time running here. It was weird not having the course lined with people ... Me and Katrina are really close. We've been close since her freshman year at state, when I talked to her when she didn't qualify.
"That's when we got our first connection. We have so much respect for each other. I can't wait to see what she will accomplish next year on her own."
Right before the girls final race, Dovalovsky put on a show with a midrace push to overtake Wilson for his first Naperville Invite title. Despite struggling all week with chest pains that affected his sleep, Dovalovsky was thrilled to win the race.
"Micah took charge of the race at the start, which was awesome," Dovalovsky said. "My big challenge was stick around him and be able to finish it. This was my first real race of the year ... At one point, I wasn't thinking, I was focused and just wanted to finish the race. I had a really crappy week, in terms of sleep. I couldn't sleep ... I didn't know what to expect in the race, but I closed it out, so it doesn't matter how I started."
Wilson said he was happy with his time, even though he fell shy of a personal record on an ideal evening to race.
"It was fun to run this course, just under the lights and compete with Dovalovsky," Wilson said. "That was my best competition of the year. It was an amazing race. He's an amazing runner. It was really cool with the lights and music. The course was flat, which was awesome. I felt fantastic the first two miles but I fell off the last mile."