BATAVIA – Batavia sophomore Lexi Slome runs through neighborhoods and parks hours before sprinting past fellow midfielders.
Slome’s Campton United soccer schedule overlaps with Batavia girls cross country practice twice a week, and Slome eagerly brings those days on.
Slome gave up competitive dancing when she pursued cross country at her friends’ request, but either way, she is no stranger to movement. Whether she lines up on the flank or the starting box, her teammates know that’s a given.
“We go to soccer and we go to run, and everybody dreads fitness,” Slome said. “And I’m always ready. Excited. It’s never difficult for me.”
Batavia’s lone Class 3A state meet qualifier in 2011, Slome advanced to Peoria’s Detweiller Park by finishing ninth at the Wheaton North Sectional.
Her time of 17:40 at St. James Farm was the fastest in program history. Traversing the same course Friday, Slome won the Wheaton North Invitational in 18:57.
She has a whole season to keep chopping time – her goal is to break 17:15 – and Slome isn’t the only one who thinks she can do it.
“She’s definitely a champ. She’s really good,” senior Gracie Ball said. “She’s kind of an inspiration to me, and she’s younger.”
That might not be a reality if not for a handful of Slome’s former Rotolo Middle School classmates. Recalling her showing at Batavia’s annual fifth-grade track meet, the group encouraged Slome to pursue cross country because she already was an athlete and thought she would enjoy the sport.
For two years, Slome heard the same refrains before finally obliging as an eighth-grader.
Turns out her friends were right. Though she never had taken so much as a recreational run around the block before, cross country was for her.
After competing for the Batavia girls soccer team in the spring, Slome committed to a summer of rigorous training. With classmates Jenny Muehlbauer and Alicia Grant, she’s part of a young core that quickly has come together with longtime varsity runners such as seniors Rachael Spalding and Ball.
“That freshman to sophomore year, usually you make a pretty big jump as long as they get it and are committed to it,” Batavia coach Chad Hillman said. “Really, that whole sophomore crew, and especially Lexi, were really committed to a lot more running during the summer. It’s already showing. [Slome] ran great last Friday and she looks to have a really big year.”
The Bulldogs finished ninth at sectionals last season, falling 70 points shy of the top-five cutoff. There were a few runners sick that day, as well as a sizable gap between the team’s third and fourth runners.
Having teammates in the starting box rather than along the Detweiller course is Slome’s goal as a sophomore and beyond.
Whether she’s pushing the Bulldogs in practice or ramping up her own workout pace, Slome certainly is conditioned thanks to the cross country-soccer double play.
“I’m usually tired afterward, but I usually bounce back pretty quick and feel good,” Slome said. “Give me an hour or two to recover and I’m back on my feet doing stuff.”
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY RUNNERS TO WATCH
Victoria Clinton, Kaneland, So.
Clinton finished 11th in 2A last season, the Knights' first trip downstate since 1992. She doubles as an emerging triathlete for Tri-Cities-based Multisport Madness.
Ashley England, St. Charles North, Jr.
North's top returning runner from the 3A state meet, England was the runner-up at Tuesday's Elgin City Classic at Lords Park.
Jenna Koerner, Aurora Central Catholic, Sr.
A two-time state meet qualifier, Koerner looks to lead the Chargers with a jolt from promising freshman Karina Liz.
Brooke Nusser, Geneva, So.
After graduating just one member of last season's top seven, Geneva will rely on up-and-coming talents such as Nusser for years to come.
Kate Roback, St. Francis, Sr.
Roback led the Spartans to a seventh-place team finish in 2A last year and is already off to a solid start in 2012, taking fourth at the recent Sycamore Invitational.
Torree Scull, St. Charles East, So.
The reigning Kane County Chronicle Girls Runner of the Year, Scull advanced to state and also finished ninth in the 3A 800 meters during track season.
Lexi Slome, Batavia, So.
Whether she's running or playing soccer, Slome brings a blend of passion and intensity to each of her pursuits. Now she'd like to have some fellow Bulldogs downstate.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY TEAMS TO WATCH
With each of the top seven back from last season’s eighth-place 2A team, the Knights ought to shine if they can continue their recent streak of good health. Freshman Brianna Bower joins a core that includes Maggie Brundige, Victoria Clinton, Abby Dodis and Sydney Strang.
St. Charles East
Armed with young guns and veterans alike, East is eager to defend its conference and regional titles while ideally peaking at state. Five returnees competed for the Saints at Peoria in 2011, including three-time state runner Jess Evans.
St. Charles North
Five members of last season’s top seven are back from a team that placed 17th at 3A state. Kelly Manski and Megan Young provide senior leadership, and the underclassmen flanking them have plenty of promise.
– Kevin Druley,