Girls cross country: Conference meets take center stage
The girls cross country postseason kicks off in earnest this weekend with the majority of area schools competing in conference championship meets.
Hoffman Estates hosts the Mid-Suburban League meet Saturday where Prospect is the favorite, having gone 9-0 in duals and winning the Loyola Flight Night title. The Knights are looking for their first MSL title since 2018 and fourth since 2015. Prospect finished second as well in 2017 and 2019.
The Knights are led by Annika Erickson, Hailey Erickson, Audrey Ginsberg and Cameron Kalaway. "Any of the top four have finished first throughout the season and will be ready to lead us," Prospect coach Pete Wintermute said.
Wintermute said Barrington, Hersey and Palatine are also teams to keep an eye on. Defending MSL champion Barrington is led by Katherine Shein, Anne Berquist, Kari Drage, Gaby Andrews and Maddy Ziebarth. "I would say Prospect is the team to beat," Fillies coach Debbie Revolta said. "We have been running very well lately. We will be fighting to win the conference title, but everyone will need to do their job in order for that to happen."
Hersey sophomore Anna Harden is a strong candidate for individual MSL title contention. She was only 11 seconds behind Chicago Latin School standout Ava Parekh (third in state at 2A last year) at Loyola Flight Night. "Anna is running so strong right now and has only gotten more confident each week," Huskies coach Danielle Freeman said.
The MSL meet will be contested in four flights with three runners per team in each flight, starting with a team's 1-3 runners.
•Defending Class 3A champion Naperville North has won eight DuPage Valley titles in a row heading into Friday's meet at Waubonsie Valley. Maggie Gamboa, Lucy Westlake, Audrey Mendrys, Campbell Petersen and Sophie Golobitsch lead the way for the Huskies. "We look good and are improving heading into conference," coach Dan Iverson said. "We had a good meet at the Twilight invitational last weekend, and are ready to go."
•Another meet to keep an eye on is the West Suburban Conference Silver Division meet at Camera Park in Glendale Heights Saturday. York is the heavy favorite here, but will face challenges from a host of teams. Downers Grove North is led by Melissa Jachim, who was fifth in the meet a year ago. Glenbard West junior Audrey Allman could contend for a top five 5 spot, "which is no small accomplishment given the depth of individual talent within the conference," Hilltoppers coach Paul Hass said.
On the other side of the WSC, Downers Grove South will look for its 22nd conference title in a row. Junior Sophia McNerney is a favorite to win the individual title. She's unbeaten and has won most races by nearly a minute this season.
•St. Charles East runs in the DuKane Conference meet Saturday at Lake Park. Marley Andelman and Morgan Sandlund will be racing in the No. 1-4 flight for the Saints, as will Mackenzie Loomis and Ava Abbott. "If we run our race like we have done all season, the girls will be happy with the results of the meet," coach Brad Kaplan said.
•Defending Class 2A state champion Benet Academy will run in the two-flight East Suburban Catholic meet Saturday at Arlington Park racetrack, looking for its sixth title in a row. Louisa Diamond, Elisabeth Camic, Joy Jackson and Kelly Andrews run in the 1-4 flight for the Redwings. "While the format will be different, our pack and the performance of the team, keeping our 1-5 split as low as possible remains crucial," coach Katie Paski said.
•Host Lakes and Grayslake Central are the favorites in the Northern Lake County Conference meet Saturday. Lakes' Brooke Stromsland will defend her NLCC title, while Becca Runyan, Alex Bryant and Maddie Perez are returning all-conference runners for the Eagles. Lakes and Central split in two confrontations this year. Antioch's Sarah Benes was sixth a year ago and is looking for a top five finish.
•Host Vernon Hills is looking for a fifth Central Suburban North title and will face competition from Deerfield. Sophomores Rose Sheridan and Anna Todd lead the Cougars, who beat Deerfield by nine points earlier.
•Defending Metro Suburban Conference Blue champ Rosary is paced by Lianna Shurtz, Maia Italia, Olivia Kunio and Katie Lifka. Royals coach Vic Mead said IC Catholic Prep is the team to beat Saturday in Manteno, while Wheaton Academy has a tight pack. Aurora Central Catholic is led by sophomore Isabella Orosco, along with seniors Maggie Dervis, Grace Watson and junior Katelyn Dineen.