There was not a team that could get close to the dominating races from York last fall on their way to winning their second state championship. Their sights could be big this fall looking at repeating as the state champion in this class but also at the national picture. They could be one of the top teams nationally.

Prospect was the one team that was the closest to the Dukes during last season. They will be just as good as last year’s runner-up finish. Can they get close to York this fall? The Knights hope so.

Naperville North is focused after finished seventh last year in Peoria. The Huskies, along with crosstown rival Naperville Central have hopes to take a trophy away with them. There are a number of teams behind the two Naperville’s that could challenge for a trophy. There will be fluctuation in the weekly rankings between 5 to 15. It does not look like The top four will change much.

There are so many storylines that we will follow this fall in Class 3A. Let’s look at some of those teams that will toe the line this season.

1 Elmhurst (York)

Coach – Lauren Deangelis; 2021 Finish – 1st, 3A State

Top Runners –  Katherine Klimek JR (7, 16:51), Bria Bennis SR (19, 17:04), Brooke Berger SR (21, 17:07), Michaela Quinn JR (27, 17:27), Maggie Owens JR (41, 17:39), Lily Beerhalter SR, Anna McGrail JR, Sofia Stoddard SO, Margaret Maston JR, Katelyn Pratt SR, Maureen Buhrfiend SR, Helen Pygon SR, Tatum Olson SO (transfer from Fenwick)

Notes – You could see the smiles on the faces of the York team after they accepted the trophy proclaiming them Class 3A Girls State Champions in Illinois. In their eyes, however, you could see the determination that they still had unfinished business. That showed the following week when they won the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regionals. It showed in December when they finished fourth in the high stakes Running Lane Championships. That determination still showed in their eyes when they opened up practice for the 2022 season on August 8. There is still many things that this group wants to accomplish.

“We had a solid summer training with a focus on aerobic base and building,” said the York coach, Lauren Deangelis. “Our goal is to develop healthy habits and keep as many girls injury free as possible.” The defending state champions lose all-state runner Katelyn Winton to graduation. It is nice to have three all-state runners returning to this powerhouse. Katherine Klimek had a breakout sophomore season where she ended up the top runner for York at sectionals and state. Bria Bennis was the team’s top runner most of the season and also ended up all-state. Brooke Berger was all-state last fall. She followed that up earning all-state honors last spring in the 800 Meter Run. Michaela Quinn just missed all-state last year by two spots. She won’t miss the top 25 this year.

Maggie Owens was the team’s sixth runner most of the time last year. Owens should be in the team’s top five with a top 25 finish in her future. Owens most likely will not start racing until their conference meet according to Deangelis. It was a track injury that was discovered during summer training

“All 5 of these girls are laser focused. All 5 of these girls want to be all-state and have their eyes set on breaking 17 minutes,” added Deangelis. “They work so well together. They truly are family to one another.  What is great about these 5 are they truly do not care who is the #1 runner – their focus is on training and racing together.”

The team does not stop there. Lily Beerhalter and Anna McGrail stepped up during the summer and should have great seasons. “They (Beerhalter and McGrail) have really stepped up and I am excited to see them respond to opportunities presented to them,” said Deangelis. York also has a good freshman class coming in. It is hard to say if any of these runners could see the top 10. “This freshmen class is very talented,” added the York coach. “I am excited to see who steps up and how they develop over this season.  High School is a different beast than middle school and everyone’s adjustment is different.”

With Owens out for now, there two runners could be able to step up to the fifth spot. It could also be Maggie Quinn who could make the step into the varsity. “We are in a great position to let Maggie heal and train safely to return strong for conference and beyond while giving others on the team a chance to step up and perform to their potential,” added Deangelis.

There is a beauty in the way this team runs. Seven runners in unison on a course achieving mutual goals with domination in the front in races. This is one of those teams that could achieve some great things in the history of cross country. Their team time last fall was the third fastest ever in the state meet. That should improve when they get to November. “Yes, we talk about performing at a high level at all 3 levels in the WSC conference, throughout the state series, and at a national level,” concluded Deangelis. “They have the focus and will be going after some high goals. This entire team is focused and eager to perform on all levels.”

2 Mt. Prospect (Prospect)

Coach – Pete Wintermute; 2021 Finish – 2nd, 3A State

Top Runners –  Lily Ginsberg JR (11, 16:58), Hailey Erickson SR (39, 17:37), Cameron Kalaway SR (63, 17:54), Ireland Wildhart SO (77, 18:06), Bridget Derengowski JR (90, 18:12), Samantha Patterson SR (122, 18:47), Fiona Chojdecki JR, Veronica Znajda SO, Sophia Anast SR, Jillian Sawadski SR, Kate Woodland SR, Kaitlin Skelton JR

Notes – The Knights would get so close to York early in races last fall. Somehow, they were the best of the rest in Illinois Class 3A teams. In most any other year, this team would have won the state title with the race they ran in 2021. This team is good and could be better than last year. They lose only all-state runner Audrey Ginsberg but return the rest of that state team.

“The girls had a solid summer of training,” Peter Wintermute said. “They had a team trip with the Prospect Boys to Lorado Taft in July which was awesome.  Also, a number of girls have gone on summer trips together and worked to fit in their training together while away.”

One thing that bonded this team even more was when they went to compete in the Oregon Relays during the track season. “The trip to the Oregon Relays was a great opportunity for these girls to showcase their talents outside the Midwest (two years of no Nike XC Nationals),” said Wintermute. “Running the Illinois #1 All-time time Distance Medley was not the goal but is a credit to who these girls are and what they are capable of. They run for each other and that is what is most important.”

Lily Ginsberg was one of the team’s top runners last fall and finished 11th at state. Hailey Erickson was outside of all-state in Peoria but came back the following week at NXR Midwest and finished 11th. Cameron Galway is the third runner back that does not get that much attention. She could finish in the top 25. “She is always there and is dependable,” said Wintermute. “Her cool confidence is a result of days and weeks and years of consistent training. Look out for Cam this season as she is good enough to lead the Knights.”

This team is deep in talent where this group could be interchangeable in the top seven. Ireland Wildhart, Bridget Derengowski, Samantha Patterson, and Fiona Chojdecki all could find themselves in the top five. Veronica Znajda and Kaitlin Skelton had great track seasons with that improvement continuing this summer. There are eight freshmen that could challenge in the top 12 (maybe top 7) that includes Ella Henni, and Anna Zajac. This group will continue to make this team tough in the future.

The Knights have put in the work over the summer to get closer to York. They have also established themselves as one of the top teams in the Midwest. “We have a pretty deep team, and the goal of the team is to improve from top to bottom.  If we can do that we will have a very good season,” Wintermute said. “The top 3 girls have embraced the opportunity to lead their team and they have done a good job encouraging others to join the lead pack.  This is not a me thing, this is a WE thing.”

3 Naperville (North)

Coach – Dan Iverson; 2021 Finish – 7th, 3A State

Top Runners –  Julie Piot JR (70, 18:01), Emma Berres SO (72, 18:02), Marissa Magana SR (116, 18:30), Logan Brennan SR (134, 18:36), Anika Lovisa SO (174, 19:11), Shania Tandon FR, Rianna Tandon FR, Norah Hess, Bridget Kacedan JR, Sydney Day JR , Kayla Marx JR, Nora Palm SO, Lexi Pera JR

Notes – If you would look at last year’s 3A results, you would think that Naperville North’s seventh-place finish was an anomaly. The Huskies had earned trophies at the past nine state meets heading into last year’s race. Injuries and illnesses down the stretch caused that finish but it was an experience to learn from. “Well, sometimes things don’t happen as you think or hope they will,” said North coach Dan Iverson. “Last year was one of those times. However, our ability to return the next week after state to get fourth in Terre Haute was a great victory for us. We hope to capitalize on that resilience we built last year.”

Five runners are back from that state team. Add in a few new runners to the depth that this program usually has and you can see that the Huskies are looking to pick up where they left off after NXR MW. Julie Piot and Emma Berres form a solid first two runners for Iverson. “Julie really took a step forward in track, and that continued over the summer,” stated Iverson. “I am really impressed with her attitude, work ethic and leadership. She’ll be a big part of whatever we do. Emma Berres went from the track, to soccer, back to track in her freshman season. Her finish was great earning all-state honors in the 800 Meter Run. “Emma had an unusual track season, to be sure, but her experience at the end of the season was tremendous for her growth,” added Iverson. “She had a great summer and will hopefully take a step forward this fall as well. She has a tremendous attitude. Marissa Magana has been slowed by injuries during the summer. Iverson believes they will need to be patient with her this fall.

Logan Brennan and Anika Lovisa were in the top seven last year and will challenge again for those spots. A freshman that could make an immediate impact is Shania Tandon. The incoming freshman shined in Scullen Middle School where she won the Naperville D 204 championships in 204. She could make it into the top seven last year along with her twin sister Rianna who was 12  seconds back in that race. Norah Hess and Lexi Pera are among eight other runners that could challenge for one of the top seven spots.

The 2021 season is the past. There is nothing to prove what happened from this team. “We had some difficulty and did not run well, but we have grown from it,” Iverson said. “I hope and expect that we will run at our best informed by experience rather than run trying to prove something to someone.” I think we will see some great improvement from their returning five runners especially Piot and Berres. The setback on Magana is disappointing for now, but the next up mentality comes into play with opportunity to step up to the next level. “This is a group willing to work hard, but I think some of the attention to detail got lost in the pandemic, and we need to rebuild it,” Iverson concluded. “This includes our attention to flexibility, strength and form work, in addition to issues of nutrition and self-care.”

4 Naperville (Central)

Coach – Matt Blondell; 2021 Finish – 6th, 3A State

Top Runners – Liv Phillips JR (26, 17:18), Ava Hendron JR (34, 17:32), Kate Tueting JR (63, 17:54), Addison George SR (104, 18:20), Lola Satre-Morales SO (123, 18:36), Julia Laird SR (168, 19:06), Abby Moog JR, Becca Liaw JR, Allie Opalka SO, Segi Smith-Pariola SR, Emma Orend SO

Notes – Naperville Central was one place ahead of cross-town rival Naperville North in last year’s state meet finishing sixth. They have established themselves as a conference and area power in the west suburbs. Now they go after a quest to return from Peoria with a top three trophy. “I have yet to have a team that had a perfect summer,” said their coach, Matt Blondell. “And what I mean is that it is always a challenge to determine how training went while dealing with summer travel conflicts and never really having everyone at camp together at the same time. In my opinion, we held our own.”

One runner that held her own last year was Liv Phillips. “Liv is our rock,” said Blondell.  “She is very consistent and leads by example at every practice and meet. As a junior, she is ready to lead this team beyond just her excellent performances.” Phillips missed all-state by one place last year. She won’t miss in 2022. Ava Hendren showed tremendous improvement in track after finishing 34th last fall. Hendren dropped her PR down to 10:45 to finish 12th in last May’s state meet. She is ready to take the next step up this fall. Kate Tueting missed most of outdoor season due to injury but came back to run a leg in the team’s 4×8 in their sectional meet. “She is finally getting back to a full training load,” added Blondell. “She is looking strong and fit. We will be smart with her training so that she can remain healthy and be right in the mix with Liv and Ava.”

Six runners are back from the state team. Addison George missed the two meets before the state meet and finished 26 seconds behind Tueting. She should be a key to the teams success from their fourth through seventh runners. Lola Satre-Morales and Julia Laird were in that state race and have improved. Abby Mogg and Becca Liaw lead five more runners itching to get into the top seven. “The confidence of last year’s team was contagious,” added Blondell. “They had fun and enjoyed competing on the course with one another. When this bond happens, it makes our job as coaches easy.”

Naperville Central could place three runners in the top 40 at state with two possible all-state runners. The thing to watch is the gap after the first three. It was 26 seconds at state. It could be as much as 40 seconds this season. Keeping the four runners in the pack closer to the first three runners will determine if they win a state trophy. “This team wants to be better than it was last year, on all levels,” Blondell said. “So many members of our team have this mindset. They have set their goals high, and they look forward to putting forth the effort to achieve them. If they align their work ethic to these goals, great things will happen.”

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