Geneva returns six of its top seven runners from last season, but veteran coach Bob Thomson cautions that those slots don’t have to be etched in stone.
“I’m not saying they’ll get knocked off, but there’s a lot of girls waiting in the wings right now,” Thomson said.
The Vikings already were young with top incumbents such as McKenzie Altmayer, a sophomore, and Brooke Nusser, a junior. Add some emerging freshmen and runners who made strides from last season’s freshman-sophomore lineup, and the Vikings could develop the welcome problem of having too much talent.
With a handful of runners nursing minor offseason bumps and bruises, that’s all the better for competition.
“I’m not sure they’re where they would be normally this time of year, but I think they’ll rebound just fine,” Thomson said. “I’m not concerned, I just know they’ve got a ways to come back, but they’ll be back fine.”
Count to five: Conversely, Kaneland coach Doug Ecker is searching for top contributors beyond his known commodities, including returning 2A individual champion Victoria Clinton, who’s working to get her “running legs” back after training as a triathlete all summer.
“Our weakness will be a lack of depth and experience beyond the top five runners. Several girls in the top five have a history of being prone to injury and sickness, and that is a major concern for us,” Ecker wrote. “The girls will have to stay healthy to have an opportunity to accomplish their goals of returning to the state meet for a third straight year and finishing in the top three in the conference.”
GIRLS RUNNERS TO WATCH
Corrin Adams, St. Charles East, Sr.
An all-state track athlete, Adams is eager to bring her strength and leadership from the oval to the parks and forest preserves of Illinois.
McKenzie Altmayer, Geneva, So.
Another young standout in a program that’s produced its share in recent falls, Altmayer’s in-season improvement in 2012 helped Geneva take 6th in 3A.
Brianna Bower, Kaneland, So.
All-conference in cross country and all-state in the 3,200 meters in track, Bower is itching for a strong follow-up to her debut season.
Victoria Clinton, Kaneland, Jr.
Returning Class 2A state champion and Kane County Chronicle Runner of the Year looks to propel the Knights onto the team medal stand, too.
Ashley England, St. Charles North, Sr.
Placed 40th in 17:29 to spark the North Stars to 17th-place 3A state finish last fall. After taking up track for the first time in the spring, she’s primed to move up in the pack.
Abby Hammer, Rosary, Sr.
One of Rosary’s known commodities on a team lined with newcomers, Hammer helped the Royals to a sectional berth last season.
Jenny Muehlbauer, Batavia, Jr.
Along with classmate Alicia Grant, Muehlbauer developed well during track season and in summer workouts.
Brooke Nusser, Geneva, Jr.
Just four seconds behind Altmayer at the state meet last season – 17:27 to 17:31 – Nusser returns with five other members of the Vikings’ top seven.
Nina Olshever, St. Charles North, So.
Olshever assumed the role of lead runner a handful of times last season, including at North’s 3A regional meet.
Dakota Roman, Batavia, So.
The youngest of the Bulldogs’ core runners, Roman brings state meet experience and serves as an example for the underclassmen Batavia wants to accelerate into leadership roles.
Torree Scull, St. Charles East, Jr.
Scull, the Saints’ longtime lynchpin, provided the Chronicle-area’s best 3A state finish with a 31st-place run in 17:20 last fall.
Sydney Strang, Kaneland, Sr.
While the Knights’ resurgence comes in large part due to the strength of their underclassmen, Strang’s experience and consistency should not be overlooked.