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Sports

Girls Cross Country: Previewing the teams from around Kane County

The girls cross country season has arrived, as runners aspire to reach the state meet in East Peoria. Here are previews of Kane County teams:

BATAVIA BULLDOGS

Coach: Chad Hillman

Last season: Upstate Eight River champion; Class 3A West Aurora Regional champion; second at the Waubonsie Valley Sectional; ninth at state meet.

Top athletes: Josephine Adams, jr., Alexa Andrews, sr., Katie Cole, jr., Anissa Garcia, jr., Mia Gianfrancesco, jr., Erin O’Brien, jr., Audrey Pellico, jr., Jenna Schifferer, so., Katrina Schlenker, fr., Annie Sellenberg, so.

Outlook: Batavia enters the season as a legitimate Class 3A trophy contender. In anchoring the Bulldogs’ sixth-place finish, Gianfrancesco was all-state last fall in placing 13th. But freshman sensation Schlenker has garnered much of the preseason attention. The ninth-grader was the middle-school state champion last fall and added record-breaking performances in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs in track in the spring. “[Schlenker] is a very driven kid,” Hillman said. “She has a unique combination of speed and strength.” 

BURLINGTON CENTRAL ROCKETS

Coach: Vince Neil

Last season: Kishwaukee River Conference champion; third at the Class 2A Burlington Central Regional; eight at the Kaneland Sectional.

Top athletes: Brooke Barkocy, so., Grace Camparone, so., Annalise Daniels, so., Jenna Dinges, jr., Lauren Dowd, so., Erin Jossart, so., Lauren Leegard, jr., Natalia Rodriquez, sr., Emily Stark, jr., Jocelyn Victoria, so.

Outlook: The Rockets are poised for a breakthrough season after an infusion of promising talent from its freshman class last fall. Barkocy, an all-state hurdler last spring, is the Rockets’ most dynamic athlete. The sophomore should be the Burlington Central frontrunner this fall. “The girls have had a great summer,” said Neil, whose squad is seeking a first state appearance in nine years. “It’s all about plugging in the pieces.” The Rockets’ primary regular-season aim is to defend their conference championship in their final year in the league.

GENEVA VIKINGS

Coach: Bob Thomson

Last season: second in the Upstate Eight River; third at the Class 3A West Chicago Regional; eighth at the Waubonsie Valley Sectional.

Top athletes: Emily Belanger, sr., Lauren Hasty, so., Andrine Larsen, jr., Shannon Laukaitis, so., Sophia McDonnell, sr., Abby McVay, jr., Ana Nikolic, sr., Sarah Pratt, jr., Kayla Stone, fr., Skylar Zimmy, sr.

Outlook: A decade removed from the second of its back-to-back state championships, Geneva enters the season with a dearth of bodies. Thomson has only 19 athletes in the entire program. But the Vikings have quality at the top in Larsen, the lone returning state qualifier, and McDonnell, who made the track state cut in the 3,200 run last spring. “They are definitely the strength of our team,” Thomson said of Larsen and McDonnell. “We are going to try and build around them. We think we have a chance of going to state.”  

KANELAND KNIGHTS

Coach: Doug Ecker

Last season: second in the Northern Illinois Big XII East; Class 2A Burlington Central Sectional Champion; fifth in the Kaneland Sectional; eighth at the state meet.

Top athletes: Emma Ball, sr., Erin Ball, sr., Tessa Brennan, sr., Aubrey Broz, so., Bethany Duffy, jr., MacKenzie Egert, so., Olivia Franklin, so., Emma Hockey, jr., Grace Purcell, sr., Rachel Richtman, jr., Lauren Sparber, sr.

Outlook: Richtman, a two-time all-state performer as an underclassman, headlines six returning starters from the Knights’ eighth-place state team. “I just want to focus on our team pack running,” said Richtman, who was 12th last fall. “We want to get our times as close as possible.” In addition to Richtman, also the first Class 3A state qualifier on the track in Kaneland history last spring, Franklin, Purcell and Broz were among the scoring runners for Kaneland last fall at the state finals. “[Going back to state as a team] is the goal,” Richtman said.

ROSARY ROYALS

Coach: Vic Meade

Last season: no conference affiliation; second at the Class 2A Marist Regional; fifth at the Wheaton Academy Sectional; 23rd at the state meet.

Top athletes: Julie Bottarini, sr., Bridgette Buckley, sr., Sophia Chiesa, jr., Maia Italia, so., Katie Lifka, so., Annie Molenhouse, so., Taylor Obbish, sr., Brooke O’Carroll, fr., Megan Ronzone, sr., Lianna Surtz, fr., Ally Tippett, sr.

Outlook: Surtz is being tabbed as a legitimate state contender as the incoming freshman began the Royals’ season with dominant wins at Yorkville—the two-time reigning Class 3A runner-up—and the Aurora City Championship last week. The Royals’ youth movement continues with the progression of expected second and third runners Italia and Lifka. “I think being captain of the team has really helped me,” said tri-captain Ronzone, who was dogged by nagging injuries a year ago. “I think our team is going to be really good.”

ST. CHARLES EAST SAINTS

Coach: Brad Kaplan

Last season: third in the Upstate Eight River; fourth at the Class 3A West Chicago Regional; 10th at the Waubonsie Valley Sectional.

Top athletes: Alice Abbott, so., Amelia Belizzi, fr., Grace Jackson, jr., Gia Klasa, fr, Amelia Kuhlman, jr., Amber Lampkin, sr., Stephanie Martens, sr., Venezia Munoz, so., Ashley Stepien, sr., Klaudia Wyszynski, sr.

Outlook: Abbott is unquestionably the Saints’ most promising runner after a breakout freshman year as the lone cross state qualifier who also excelled in the 3,200 meters in track. “Alice is without a doubt the most focused and hard-working athlete that we’ve got,” Kaplan said. “She is going to do a lot of amazing things.” The Saints and other charter members of the DuKane Conference will be hard-pressed to combat the aspirations of state-trophy contenders Batavia and WW South. “There is no room for error,” Kaplan said.

ST. CHARLES NORTH NORTH STARS

Coach: Shari Hayes

Last season: fourth in the Upstate Eight River; fifth at the Class 3A West Chicago Regional; 11th at the Waubonsie Valley Sectional.

Top athletes: Sydney Chen, sr., Grace Dorrance, so., Natalie Galvan, sr., Rylie Kaufmann, sr., Tara Leonard, so., Jennifer Nickel, so., Claire Norman, jr., Rachel Price, fr., Ella Townsend, so., Maddie Wiltrout, sr.

Outlook: Galvan has grand designs for her final year as a competitive runner. “For my last season, especially my senior year, I want to have the best year possible,” said Galvan, the North Stars’ lone returning state qualifier. “I have had three hips stains [in my career]. I do not want a No. 4. I am injury-free.” The North Stars will also bank on the development of Price, yet another talented newcomer in the area. “She will definitely be in our top three,” Galvan said of Price. 

ST. FRANCIS SPARTANS

Coach: Scott Nelson 

Last season: skipped Chicago Catholic League White Conference meet; third at the Class 2A Riverside-Brookfield Regional; seventh at the Class 1A Wheaton Academy Sectional.

Top athletes: Elizabeth Brouch, sr., Evy Fang, sr., Sarahi Garcia, jr., Leah Gaul, fr., Katie Harvey, sr., Gabby Hernandez, so., Clare Kolker, jr., Leila Kral, sr., Mary Faith Murray, so., Minnie Rolston, so.

Outlook: Nelson will look for the quartet of Rolston, Kolker, Hernandez and Harvey to propel St. Francis’ fortunes this fall. “Our strength is going to lie in our front end,” Nelson said. “We think we can make it to the state finals.” The Spartans will rekindle former league associations—going back to the days of the Suburban Catholic Conference—in the new look Metro Suburban this school year. “It’s a great conference,” Nelson said. “We’re going to fight for the conference [championship)].”  

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