The DGS girls cross country team traveled to Channahon Community Park on Saturday to compete in the Minooka Invitational. The F/S and Open races were run in normal invitational style, while the varsity race was divided into 7 separate flights. The competition, like last week in Peoria, was top notch. The girls from Minooka are the defending state champions and ranked #4 in the state this year. For the 3rd time this season, we found ourselves racing against Yorkville, ranked #3 in the state. Other ranked teams included Batavia and Lyons Township among the 14 team field.
The F/S team started off the day with a respectable 6th place finish out of 11 competing teams. While 6th place may not appear to be a great result, it must be tempered with the fact that 6 of our fastest freshmen and sophomores are now competing on the varsity level. With an already small F/S contingent, their absence makes a huge difference. The girls who did run in this race did a great job of competing and leaving everything they had out on the course. Allison Calek (So) moved up steadily through the field and led the Mustangs with her 16th place finish. Julie LaLonde (So) was the next finisher in 26th place. Erin Glennon (Fr), Amanda Annese (So), and Clare Quirin (So) have all improved a lot from the beginning of summer running, so finishing close together in 38th, 42nd, 49th places was not a surprise. Freshman, Marlo Rachie, just joined the team earlier this week and was certainly nervous for her first HS cross country race. But she did a great job finishing in 55th place, just ahead of Gillian Musial (Fr) who finished in 71st place. Together these 7 girls scored 166pts to secure the 6th place F/S team finish.
The next 7 races were the varsity flight races. This format favors teams with great depth because all 7 runners count equally towards the team score. It also provides the unique opportunity of allowing each runner on the team to race near the front and try to win a race. But they are tough races to run. In races this small (14 runners in each flight), the start becomes so critical as the field spreads itself out. On Minooka’s winding course, it’s easy to get separated and then stuck running on your own. We discussed this ahead of time, but sometimes its easier said than done, especially when the boys and girls flights are starting together. Kara Petersen (Sr) was the first Mustang to race in the flights, competing in flight 7. Kara got taken a little by surprise when the boys pulled the lead group of girls out pretty fast at the start. Kara was gapped in the first 1/2 mile, but battled back, ran a strong last 2.5 miles and moved her way up for a 6th place finish. She was followed by Olivia Duax (So) in flight 6 who found herself with a similar fate. Olivia got out a little too slow, allowing the lead pack to separate, but like Kara, she ran a fantastic 2nd half of the race to finish in 5th place. Both of these girls learned from this experience and will continue to contribute great things to the varsity team.
A pair of Mustang freshmen took to the course for flights 4 & 5. Kennedy Warden (Fr), who sat out last week’s Peoria race, ran in flight 5. Erin Reidy (Fr) ran in flight 4. Having witnessed the earlier flights, both Kennedy and Erin were a little more prepared for the fast start and both were able to connect themselves to the lead pack in their respective races. Kennedy ran a fearless race, moving into 2nd place early on in the race. She maintained that position throughout the race, eventually holding off a runner from Lyons Township who pressed her the entire last 1/2 mile to finish in 2nd place. Erin ran a similar style race, running with a lead pack that consisted of herself and runners from Minooka and Yorkville. Erin battled with the two of them for the first 2 miles before falling slightly back to 3rd place. Both of these talented young athletes have been very impressive in their brief high school careers, and I’m very excited to watch them continue to get better and better.
Both Becky Versaskas (So) and Melissa Weidner (So) were in those same positions as stand out freshman last season. Both girls have continued to grow and improve and it showed in todays races. Melissa ran a great race in flight 3. Her preferred racing style is to slowly build throughout the first half of a race and try to negative split the 2nd half, but in these small flight races, you don’t always have that luxury. While Minooka all-state runner, Mackenzie Callahan, and Yorkville all-state runner Maddie Dearborn separated from the lead pack early, at the 1/2 mile mark Melissa was at the back of a 6-person chase pack. By the time the chase pack got to the mile, Melissa had moved to the front of it, taking over 3rd place. She continued to pull away from those girls, finishing in 3rd place about 20 seconds ahead of 4th place. When Becky’s flight 2 race began, she moved immediately to the lead pack with another pair of all-state runners, Emily Shelton (Minooka) and Olivia Borowiak (Yorkville). By the mile mark, Shelton began to pull away, leaving Becky and the Yorkville girl in a fight for 2nd & 3rd. As the race progressed, Shelton’s lead grew, and Borowiak pulled ahead of Becky by about 10-12 meters. As they exited the woods with about 300m left in the race, Becky reached for another gear and started to close the gap. Becky was able to move slightly ahead, before Borowiak’s final push helped her just edge out Becky at the finish line (they were awarded the same finishing times). Becky finished in 3rd place, but her gutsy race and finishing kick left her with the fastest DGS time of the day.
In the championship flight 1 race, Katie Stapleton (Sr) had to battle both a slew of good runners and a bad flare up of allergies that left it hard to breathe. It was a combination that proved tough to overcome. Even so, Katie gave it a valiant effort, racing in 4th place for the first 2 miles of the race. Her breathing struggles were evident, but her effort was never doubted. Over the last mile, she was passed by one runner from Lyons Township, but pulled away from the rest of the field, leaving Katie to finish in a very respectable 5th place.
As expected, Yorkville won the meet with 14 pts, followed by Minooka with 15 pts. Our varsity team scored 27 pts and were just edged out by a talented Lyons Township team that scored 26 pts. Finishing in 4th place behind Lyons Township was a little disappointing, but the way we ran was not. No one can say for sure if it would have changed the final scores, but we definitely missed having Brenna Cohoon (Fr) as part of our varsity team today while she was at home sick.
The final race of the day was the Open race where we had 16 girls take to the course at 12:00 noon in the blazing heat. As the rest of the team did all day, these girls took risks and ran with heart. Gillian Thomas (Jr) was the first DGS finisher. She battled a group of girls from Minooka over the entire 3 mile course moving up as high as 2nd place until eventually finishing in 4th place overall. Megan Albers (Sr) found herself slowly moving up in the field and finally settled on 14th place by the time she reached the finish line. Riya Bhasin (Jr) was the final Mustang medalist, running a strong race alongside Megan for the first 2.5 miles before slipping back to 19th at the finish. The rest of the team pushed hard through the 3-mile course and made no excuses as they gave it all they had.
I’m really proud of all of the girls and what they accomplished today!
DGS individual times and splits can be found on the Schedule/Results page. Full meet results can be found on the Minooka CC website.
Pictures from the meet can be found on the Pictures and Video page.