ROSELLE – Katrina Schlenker knew she had strength for the final 300-meter push.
The Batavia senior needed every bit of it against Glenbard North’s Grace Schager, who came in holding Illinois’ third-fastest 3-mile time this fall season.
Schlenker, who entered Saturday with the 10th-fastest time, had just enough kick down the stretch to stave off the Panthers’ junior to capture her third career individual DuKane Conference championship with a 17:16.3 finish on Saturday at Lake Park.
Schager, despite nursing a foot injury sustained from the Wheaton Flight meet a few weeks ago according to coach Panthers coach Eric Day, clocked in just behind at 17:18.2.
The two runners were practically neck-and-neck making the final turn into the Lake Park track, but Schlenker pushed through the last 300 meters to lead Batavia to the girls varsity team championship.
Batavia had a combined 51 team points, with St. Charles East (58) and St. Charles North (59) second and third, respectively.
“No matter how I feel, I always have something in the last 300 or 100 [meters],” Schlenker said. “I don’t know what it is; I think it’s some adrenaline or some fight in me. I don’t know what I have, but I always have got that fight and aggressive [finish in the] 100.”
“I’ll push my hardest and if they’re faster than me, they’re faster, but I’ll always push,” Schlenker said.
Day said they’re “trying to be conservative” with the foot injury and Schager “ran a smart race.”
“…The second mile dropped a little bit; it was a little slow,” Day said. “I think that made it a kicker’s race. I think the state meet is going to be a little bit different, so our goal today was just get through this with the race, get her all-conference…next couple weeks [are about] getting her healthy for the state meet.”
All seven Batavia varsity runners finished in the top-25. Junior Liliana Bednarek was eighth (18:28.5), Olivia Gebhardt 11th (18:42.2) and Sasha Semanision was 13th ((18:53.4)).
St. Charles North senior Bella Dicrosta (17:45.7) and freshman Norah Dorrance (18:04.4) came in third and fourth, respectively. St. Charles East junior Morgan Sandlund (18:09.9) rounded out the top five individually.
“We’ve been working really hard. Our workouts have been stacking,” Schlenker said of the team championship achievement. “We’ve seen the rankings; we’ve seen all that, but [coach Chad] Hillman always says that ‘Those are just rankings. When you get to the race, it’s a race. Anything can happen’. We’ve been really grinding out workouts. It doesn’t really matter what we’re ranked; we know what we’re capable of.”
In the boys varsity race, St. Charles East powered through for its second consecutive conference title behind wunderkind senior Micah Wilson’s blazing 15:00.7 first-place individual finish. Wilson’s first place finish makes it the third consecutive year a Saints runner won conference.
Wheaton Warrenville South’s Michael Atkins was second with a time of 15:18.0 and Batavia’s Quintin Lowe was third with a 15:25.6. Wheaton North seniors Ryan Zydek (15:30.0) and Ryan Schreiner (15:33.3) rounded out the top five individually.
It was Wilson’s first race since officially being cleared after his COVID-19 diagnosis in the last few weeks.
“I wanted to go a little slower today. My legs haven’t been feeling great all week coming off of COVID,” Wilson said. “I just wanted to [start out] slow and then just keep on running. I just wanted to win today, so time didn’t really matter.”
“…I came back; my 10 days symptom-free was last Sunday,” Wilson continued.
Wheaton North placed second as a team with 47 team points, which trailed the Saints by just one team point. WW South was third with 65 points. Batavia (95) and Geneva (123) rounded out the top five team scores.
“I felt like I raced really good,” Lowe said. “It was probably my best race of the year [with a PR]. We’ve been [as a team] kind of tapering a little bit, but not too much…we had a nice workout on Thursday, legs felt good.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle