WOODSTOCK – Crystal Lake South girls cross country team was left wondering what might have been a year ago.
The Gators won the Class 2A Lakes Sectional Meet, which because of the COVID-19 pandemic was where the IHSA postseason ended.
At the ShaZam Championships the next week, the unofficial state meet held by the website il.milesplit.com, teams South had edged out the week before took the top team spots.
Nothing will be left to imaginations this time. South repeated as a sectional champion and looks on top of its game heading into next week’s Cross Country State Meet at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
The Gators took the team title at the Class 2A Woodstock North Sectional Saturday at Emricson Park with 100 points. Grayslake Central (112), Vernon Hills (116), Lakes (134), Crystal Lake Central (147), Prairie Ridge (148) and Northside (159) were the other qualifying girls teams.
“We talked to the girls the night before, there’s a ton of competition here,” Gators coach Ken Greenfield said. “I said as long as we run well, we could take third or fourth, or we could win it. As long as we put our best foot forward, I’d be happy.
“We ran a really good race, our girls handled the prep really well. They were on their game. I’m really proud of them.”
Chicago Northside’s Elia Ton-That won the girls race, with Crystal Lake Central’s Hadley Ferrero second, St. Viator’s Mary Grace Hegberg third and South’s Bella Gonzalez fourth.
South’s Abby Machesky (ninth), Addie Frisch (19th), Gianna Pinta (36th) and Colette Bacidore (42nd) were the other scoring runners.
St. Viator’s Mikey Schumacher edged Burlington Central’s Yusuf Baig in the boys race by 4 seconds. It was only the second time Baig has lost a race this season.
Deerfield scored 55 points to take the boys team title, followed by Crystal Lake Central (141), Grayslake Central (143), Belvidere North (154), Woodstock (155), Sycamore (203) and Lakes (207), which all advance to state. Cary-Grove (208) and Prairie Ridge (210) just missed the seventh team-qualifying spot.
Cary-Grove’s Jocelyn Onstot was the local individual qualifier in the girls race. In the boys race, Baig, Prairie Ridge’s Will Gelon (fifth), C-G’s Ian Barnes (ninth) and Burlington’s Ryan Kries (28th) were individual qualifiers.
“I’m really proud of all of us,” said Gonzalez, who ran on South’s sixth-place state team two years ago. “If one person’s having a bad day, the entire team is there to help pick it up. We work together really well. I had a good race. It’s a tough course. I thought of the team and wanted to help get them to a state spot.”
Ferrero, a freshman, led the Tigers back to the state meet with her runner-up finish.
“It was really fun,” said Ferrero, who won the Fox Valley Conference and Woodstock Regional in her previous two races. “It’s a really challenging course and there are a lot of really good runners. It pushed me to do better. It was good competition.”
Prairie Ridge’s Rachel Soukup returned after missing the FVC and Woodstock Regional to let a hip injury heal. She took seventh to lead the Wolves back to the state meet.
“It’s doing a little better than it was,” Soukup said. “It’s a little sore today, but it’s OK. Mostly my legs felt heavy from the time off. I ran every day (in practice) this week and every day last week. I’ve been taking off some mileage.
“I also had a cold this week and I’m recovering from that too. It was good today. I was praying through the whole thing and God helped me through it.”
Baig enjoyed his competition with Schumacher. It was only the second race he has not won this season.
“I was fine with it,” Baig said. “The hills got me a little bit, but I know there are some things I can work on this week. The taper’s really starting to kick in.
“I’ve seen the rankings. I haven’t raced (Schumacher). He was a few seconds ahead of me so it’s great to race him and I’m really glad I get to race him again.”
Gelon was FVC runner-up to Baig and had hoped he would run with his teammates at state, but the Wolves just missed.
“The race got out slower than I expected. In the second mile they really went,” Gelon said. “That’s when I fell off a little bit. I didn’t feel the greatest. I’m really excited for Detweiller, I haven’t raced there.”
Woodstock, which won the Kishwaukee River Conference Meet two weeks ago, grabbed the fifth team spot with a team of four sophomores in its top five.
“We’ve been close with boys and girls teams, three or four or five times,” Blue Streaks coach Jay Fuller said. “The team hasn’t gone since 2010. The boys and girls went then, neither since. It’s a long road and they’ve been working hard.
“We’ve had some really good teams get really close, but we’re in the toughest (2A) sectional in the state every year. This is a good day.”
The Streaks’ No. 5 runner Jakob Crown was one of many runners in the race who had troubles with their race bibs. Crown, a sophomore, lost his and was uncertain if he would be disqualified, so he went back and picked it up.
“It took him like 10 seconds, he got it and came back, good stuff,” Fuller said. “I think he was afraid (he would be disqualified).”
Source: The Daily Chronicle