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2014 Girls Cross Country Preview: Trail mix

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Photo: The girls cross country team started its practice schedule the morning of Aug. 13 at the high school. The last three years have seen the Lady Knights continue their upward trajectory, placing eighth in 2011, sixth in 2012 and fifth last year. Photos by Patti Wilk

Girls XC returns key cogs in victory machine
KANELAND—In recent years, Kaneland High School girls cross country has found itself in the postseason picture, be it individual or State.

Junior Victoria Clinton captured the 2A State race as an individual two years ago, while the collective effort of the Lady Knights group allowed a fifth-place finish at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill., for the State gathering in 2013.

While the troops lose steady seniors like Sydney Strang and Erika Carlson, the Lady Knights return a gaggle of their top rotation in 2014.

Junior Brianna Bower, a 37th-place finisher at State, is joined by senior Aislinn Lodwig and Clinton to make a threat, along with sophomore Abby Shaw who came on strong in her inaugural campaign a year ago.

Seniors Jessica Kucera and Murphy Garcia also return, along with sophomore Sarah Daley and junior Carly Bartholomew to be in the running for a competing spot.

“Brianna Bower isn’t out there right now; she’s recovering from a stress fracture, but we’re expecting her back,” 28th-year coach Doug Ecker said. “That happens here more than we’d like, but we’ll be okay, and we return four of the top seven.”

Ecker has more than enough to have Kaneland in the thick of things all season, with a very tough XC area ahead.

“Victoria is healthy, and she’s finished triathlon season. Aislinn is very consistent and gives us what we need, and Abby took that spot at the end nicely and was helped by Erika Carlson’s leadership last year,” Ecker said.

Personnel looking to make an additional impact include sophomore Becca Richtman, senior Grace Drake and freshman Andrea Wells.

“Andrea could be in there and looks solid,” Ecker said “You like to see them run well, and we run stronger depending on how good we are at the four-through-seven slots.”

Ecker’s pack mentality for the crew is one born out of necessity.

“That’s the way it has to be with us in a Class 2A or 1A setting. In 3A, the teams just have sheer numbers,” Ecker said.

The Lady Knights have a landscape that needs talent and results at just the right time, and the black-and-white clad roster look to build up all season.

“We are in the toughest sectional in the State, and sometimes we run okay at regionals, and all we needed in the postseason to go was a fifth place. That’s what we do. Later on in the season, you want to show improvement. Last year, we took second in the conference, and it’s been third or fourth before that. We try to compete with Yorkville, but we don’t have the talent they do. It’s work and effort,” Ecker said.

Tuesday, Sept. 2, sees the season kick off at Sycamore, while the Eddington Invitational is at Kaneland High School this season, on Saturday, Sept. 20.

A quick example

in Girls Cross Country/Girls Track/Kaneland by
Heckert

Kaneland grad Heckert utilizes experience to coach, run marathons
PLAINFIELD, Ill.—As a multi-sport athlete at Kaneland High School nearly a full decade ago, Kristen Heckert used her immense talent to cross many a State-qualifying finish line.

Now as a math teacher and coach at Plainfield South High School, she’s been responsible for honing young athletes’ talent, while finding time to reach finish lines as a member of New Balance Chicago racing.

Having finished her college athletics career at University of Illinois-Chicago, Heckert soon made her way to a teaching post at KHS before landing at Plainfield South before the 2012-13 school year.

Heckert was the girls cross country coach this past season and assistant track coach, and plans to step into an assistant XC role to better concentrate on marathons when the New Balance banners fly.

There’s important overlap with the two.

“I try to talk about my running a little bit,” Heckert said. “I stepped down to an assistant for more time to train. My running is really important to me and I want to see what I can do with it. I didn’t want it to conflict with coaching. They should have a coach that is with them 100 percent, and nothing is more important than that,” Heckert said.

If anything, Heckert gets a built-in support staff in addition to her New Balance racing outfit, which most recently saw a 36:03 effort at United Run For The Zoo at Lincoln Park Zoo, tops in the 10K women’s division.

“They know that I am competing and know what my end goal is, but it’s not about me, it’s about the girls. They are so supportive, and the coaching staff and boys program is so supportive. It helps, because you let them know they always have to stretch and run. These kids are doing it all the time and combined with school. It just gives you an extra push,” Heckert said.

Now a three-time veteran of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon held in October, Heckert finished in 20th in the womens’ division with a 2:47.56 in 2012 and 2:44.12 in 2013. From the former Lady Knight’s perspective, there’s nothing not to like about the experience.

“There’s not outside pressure ever,” Heckert said. “There’s so many people. The pressue comes from ourselves. It’s kind of ‘go out there and see what you can do.” The racing team is so supportive and everyone wants the best for you. It’s a wonderful experience. To get that support from people who don’t even know you and are out at six in the morning, it’s wonderful and it’s a great accomplishment for anyone who does it.”

Having also competed in the Chicago Half-Marathon in September with a time of 1:19.18 and the DeKalb Corn Classic 10K last summer in 36:11, Heckert has plenty of great performances to draw from and still tries to match memorable runner highs.

“That first marathon was so perfect, it felt good. I thought they were all going to be that way, but the last two were so painful and hurt so much. I’ve been so lucky when it comes to injuries. You always wake up sore, but I haven’t had anything where I need to take time off, so I’m very thankful for that,” Heckert said.

With her 2012 Bank of America time in Chicago and top Illinois finisher, Heckert was able to be invited to a marathon in Osaka, Japan, but declined the task because it coincided with Plainfield South cross country regionals.

She was once again the top Illinois finisher in 2013, and Osaka won’t be a problem with an assistant coach job.

“If Osaka is offered to me this year, I’ll definitely take it,” Heckert said.

Heckert has more aspirations, only in the form of U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles in 20 months, where she’ll need a 2:43.

“I would love to run in the Olympic Trials (March 2016), that’s the end-all, be-all goal. I have a lot of opportunities with coaching and teammates. I would love to do that with running, and be running with the top Americans ever,” Heckert said.

With her brothers and sisters in cross-trainers, the journey will be noteworthy and fast.

“We always do the Palos race, the Soldier Field 10-miler—those will wipe me out—and the Zoo race is sponsored by New Balance,” Heckert said. “We do the Human Race in Oak Brook, which has the money go to great causes. I don’t like racing a lot, and I’ve raced a lot this year. I love training.”

Tri again

in Elburn/Girls Cross Country/Kaneland/Triathlon by
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Clinton named to All-American list by USA Triathlon, preparing for Florida race
ELBURN—With the mood-crushing winter season still upon us, the urge to get outside and participate in athletic activities can weigh heavily.

Lady Knight sophomore Victoria Clinton can do something about it right now, and looks to push herself more than most.

Clinton, named last week to the Junior Elite All-American list for USA Triathlon in the 16-19 age group category as an Honorable Mention, looks to participate with her fellow MMTT members at the PATCO North American Junior Championship on Saturday, March 8.

The honor is a big deal, considering its Clinton’s first year in the category.

“You have to keep in mind that prior to her injuries, she was near No. 1 in those rankings, and near the top of the overall standings,” coach Steve Brandes said. “She’s extremely consistent; her biggest attribute is consistency.”

The Sarasota, Fla.-based event provides a chance for Clinton, the 2012 Class AA State cross country individual champ, to swim, bike and run with five other team members from the western suburbs against a field that includes athletes from Mexico and Canada.

Clinton, who owns the fifth-best Class AA State-winning time in cross country at 16:56, can use her cross country experience to perform at a high level this weekend.

“Cross country is pure racing, there are no splits,” Brandes said. “Victoria is very good at rising to that top level. She’s a state champ, and cross country makes her tough. It’s about racing hard, and she’s very strong.”

Clinton has also managed to qualify for the Pan American Cup in early June in Monterrey, Mexico, as one of eight American females vying for the lone Youth Olympics Games spot taking place in China this summer.

Clinton’s last competition under the ITU (International Triathlon Union) Triathlon banner came in June 2013 at the Pan American Championships in Vila Velha, Brazil. Clinton finished eighth in the junior women category with a clip of 1:07:24.

Brandes, in his first year of working with Clinton, feels there will be no off-base expectations.

“That’s what you sign up for with these international events. It’s her biggest test against tough competition,” Brandes said.

Clinton’s team can be found at MMTT3.org, and the PATCO North American Junior Championship information is at http://www.triathlon.org/events/start_list/2014_sarasota_patco_triathlon_junior_north_american_championships/264732.

Lady Knights display Peoria power

in Girls Cross Country by
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Collective effort yields fifth place in Class 2A final
PEORIA, ILL—There may have been no individual state champ for the Lady Knights cross country squad in 2013, but the team-wide effort was still something to behold.

Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill. was the site for the Class 2A State final race, and saw the Kaneland roster’s fortunes and talent produce a fifth-place team finish.

Kaneland was led by team assets sophomore Brianna Bower, junior Aislinn Lodwig and senior Victoria Clinton, who paced the attack to a 246-point finish. The Lady Knights were given tiebreaker advantage over Chatham Glenwood.

The Lady Knights looked up at only four other teams in the Class 2A setting, with Northern Illinois Big XII rival Yorkville’s 104 points nabbing the trophy, followed by Glenbard South at 130, Vernon Hills at 181 and Marengo at 231.

Yorkville’s program has now nabbed three titles in a row.

For Kaneland, the finish marks a one-place improvement from last year’s sixth-place and 180-point output. It marked a third-straight top-10 finish, with the team finishing eighth in 2011, and marked the highest team finish in 24 years. The Lady Knights’ pack time was 1:47 last year, compared to just 54 seconds in 2013.

The overall individual champion in the competition was Riverside-Brookfield senior Mailin Struck at 16:35, beating Peoria Notre Dame’s Maryjeanne Gilbert by 29 seconds.

For Kaneland, Bower finished in 37th place with a time of 18:33, Lodwig, only healthy in the last five weeks of the year, was in 54th at 18:59, while Clinton, last year’s individual champion, took 76th overall at 19:12. Rounding out the top 5 for the Kaneland outfit were necessary components Abby Shaw and Erika Carlson, with the freshman Shaw finishing in 19:20 for 88th, and Carlson capping her senior season in 94th place with a time of 19:26.

Also taking the course for KHS were seniors Sydney Strang in 126th (19:58) and Anna Piazza in 148th (20:16).

Coach Doug Ecker couldn’t have been more pleased.

“The mark of this team was their ability to overcome injuries and setbacks, having eight or nine runners step up in various races to cover for injured or sick teammates,” Ecker said. “They truly got the most out of their season. I enjoyed every minute of coaching them.”

KHS girls cross country says goodbye to seniors Carlson, Riley Coyle, Christina Delach, Kayla Hedgren, Piazza and Strang.

Photos by Mary Paulson

32 Knights earn NIB-12 honors

in Boys Cross Country/Boys Soccer/Football/Girls Cross Country/Golf/Tennis/Volleyball by
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KANELAND—Kaneland High School announced its fall all-conference athletic honorees Tuesday. In all, 32 Knight athletes were honored by the Northern Illinois Big XII.

• Cross Country
Boys: Luis Acosta, Kyle Carter, Nathaniel Kucera and Andrew Lesak
Girls: Brianna Bower, Erika Carlson, Victoria Clinton, Aislinn Lodwig and Sydney Strang

• Golf: Matt Yonkovich and Brody Kuhar

• Football: Brandon Bishop, Drew David, Cole Carlson, Justin Diddell, Gary Koehring, Joe Komel, Dylan Nauert, Jaumaureo Phillips, John Pruett and Alex Snyder

• Soccer: Arsim Azemi, Anthony Parillo, Tyler Siebert and Chris VanDinther

• Tennis: Jelly Emmanouil, Madi Jurcenko, Stephanie Karolewicz, Colleen Landers and Sammie Schrepferman

• Volleyball: Ellie Dunn and Jenny Lubic

Just enough: Girls cross country’s fifth place means another trip to Peoria

in Girls Cross Country by
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Photo: Senior Erika Carlson stepped up for the Lady Knights, running as their No. 3 with a time of 19:30. File Photo

KANELAND—Looks like the Lady Knights cross country squad had just enough on Saturday in Belvidere, Ill.

Due to their 176-point total, the Kaneland girls cross country lineup earned the last Class 2A State qualifying margin by 27 points over Woodstock at the Sectional meet at Belvidere High School.

The Lady Knights, who saw sophomore Victoria Clinton take the top prize in 2012, now set plans for the Class 2A finals on Saturday, Nov. 9, at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Ill.

Crystal Lake Central was crowned Sectional champs with a 103-point total, followed by Marengo at 121, Vernon Hills at 126 and Lake Forest at 141.

Senior Maura Beattie of Woodstock took the course with a stellar time of 17 minutes, 43 seconds. For Kaneland, the troop was led by junior Clinton, who finished 11th at 18:31. Sophomore Brianna Bower continued her steady trajectory with a 18:37 for 15th place. Third-best for KHS was senior Erika Carlson in 42nd at 19:30. Rounding out the top five for Kaneland: freshman Abby Shaw in 53rd at 19:46, and veteran junior Aislinn Lodwig at 55th in 19:49.

For the third year in a row, the Lady Knight girls saw hard work and a rise to the occasion pay off.

“Once again, Victoria Clinton and Brianna Bower led the way with strong races,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said. “In arguably the toughest sectional in the state with 8-9 teams running for five spots, I’m very proud of how the girls ran their best race on the day it mattered most. They definitely earned their trip to the State meet.”

In 2012, Clinton’s championship run helped KHS toward a sixth-place team finish, with rival Yorkville and Normal University taking the top two spots on the Peoria course.

Girls cross country advances to Sectional

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BURLINGTON, ILL.—One down, one to go in the Kaneland quest for the state meet.

Coach Doug Ecker’s crew, led by a sixth-place finish by sophomore Brianna Bower, secured fourth place at the competitive Burlington Central Regional last Saturday, and more importantly a spot at this Saturday’s Belvidere Sectional.

“The girls finished a respectable fourth at the very competitive 2A Regional,” Ecker said. “Brianna Bower ran her usual strong race to lead the team.”

Bower, running an 18 minute, 42.8 second time over the 3-mile course, was 24 seconds behind individual champion Vivian Overbeck of Vernon Hills.

Junior Victoria Clinton secured an 11th place finish with a time of 19:01 as the second KHS runner to finish. She was followed by three Lady Knights that were within seconds of each other: seniors Sydney Strang (19th, 19:56), Erika Carlson (20th, 19:58) and junior Aislinn Lodwig (22nd, 19:58) packed it up to finish the team’s scoring. Anna Piazza (33rd, 20:30) and Jessica Kucera (46th, 21:09) rounded out the top seven.

The Lady Knights, now ranked eighth in the latest DyestatIL poll released Tuesday, have their work cut out for them at the Belvidere Sectional.

Including the No. 8 Lady Knights, the sectional features No. 3 Crystal Lake Central, No. 5 Vernon Hills, No. 9 Lake Forest, No. 11 Marengo, No. 19 Belvidere North, No. 22 Woodstock and No. 23 Lakes. Only five teams qualify from the sectional to the state meet.

The sectional takes place on the grounds of Belvidere High School, with the girls racing for their chance at the state meet at 10 a.m.

Setting a second-place course in Morris

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Photo: Senior Sydney Strang leads most of the field at Saturday’s NIB-12 championship. Photo by Ben Draper

Girls cross country takes to Redskin school grounds for NIB-12 outing
MORRIS—The Northern Illinois Big XII conference cross country field can boast some high-caliber talent.

After Saturday’s conference meet at Morris High School, the Kaneland girls can boast up there with the best of them, but that wouldn’t be their style.

Bracing for impact for the first meet signifying the 2013 homestretch, Kaneland’s 66-point total was shy of only Yorkville’s 52-point total on Saturday, with DeKalb (105), Dixon (112) and Geneseo (125) rounding out the conference elite.

“You’ve probably got the first 10 or 15 girls here really good at handling this course. Dixon and us and Yorkville may not have been as strong at this met as last year, but still, it’s a very good conference,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said.

While Yorkville’s Skyler Bollinger won the school-housed course with a time of 17:23.2, and her and DeKalb rival Kelsey Schrader (17:31.6) were the top two striders, Kaneland sophomore Victoria Clinton took fifth with a time of 17:56.3, and classmate Brianna Bower finished seventh with a time of 18:09.8. Both were able to secure All-NIB-12 nods.

Other top KHS finishers on Saturday included senior Sydney Strang in 17th with a time of 19:00.6, and senior classmate Erika Carlson in 18th at 19:02.9.

“We’ve been trying to speed up on hills because of our home course,” Strang said. “But we definitely tried to just keep momentum and just look for our teammates. We always try to run together if we can.”

The fifth-best finisher for the Lady Knights was junior Aislinn Lodwig at 19:07.2 for 19th place.

Now awaiting Kaneland cross country: the IHSA Class 2A regional housed by Burlington Central on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 11 a.m. The nine-team regional features NIB-12 rival Sycamore.

Wild in Whiteside Co.

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Girls XC takes seventh at Sterling Invite
STERLING, Ill.—In a Saturday meet hosted by Northern Illinois Big XII outlet Sterling, Kaneland High School girls cross country had to deal with the talented field from the northern half of the state.

After a sixth-place varsity outing, KHS could consider itself part of that talented field that others had to deal with.

Kaneland’s 234-point total was sixth-best of 25 outlets at the meet. The top three featured Minooka (74), Schaumburg (78) and Hoffman Estates (94). The Lady Knights total was behind Iowa City High School’s 221.

While Riverside-Brookfield’s Mailin Struck won the course in 17 minutes, 2 seconds, Kaneland’s pack was paced by sophomore Brianna Bower, who took 12th overall with a time of 18:40. Senior teammate Sydney Strang continued her way back to health had a 27th place outing with a time of 19:06, while junior Aislinn Lodwig was 62nd overall with a time of 20:13. Rounding out the top five for KHS was senior Erika Carlson at 63rd with a time of 20:16, and freshman Abby Shaw at 70th with a 20:24.

KHS saw personal bests from Bower, Strang and Carlson.

The freshman/sophomore end had Kaneland taking ninth with a 283-point total, highlighted by sophomore Noelle Espino’s 20:23 for ninth place.

“The girls continue to work hard in practice and show improvement on a weekly basis,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said. “Aislinn Lodwig continues to improve after only three weeks of practice and racing.”

On Saturday, Oct. 19, the girls head down, along with the boys, for the Northern Illinois Big XII conference race in Grundy County, hosted by Morris High School. It marks the final race featuring 12 teams in the conference setting, with Dixon and Streator leaving at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

No twist

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KHS girls cross country wins Pretzel Invite
FREEPORT, Ill.—The Kaneland girls cross country team is getting healthy at the right time.

After their early schedule saw ups and downs with injuries, the group put together a solid effort at Freeport High School’s Pretzel Invitational on Saturday, winning the 11-team meet with 50 points, six ahead of runner-up Boylan’s 56.

Head coach Doug Ecker was pleased with his team after their performance. It was the third year in a row the Lady Knights have been victorious at the land of the Pretzel.

“The girls continue to show improvement both individually and as a team as the season progresses,” he said.

Defending 2A State Champion Victoria Clinton led the way for KHS, posting a second-place finish with a time of 17 minutes, 52 seconds. Freeport’s Ellie Willging was first in 17:47.

Brianna Bower was next for the Lady Knights, posting a fifth-place finish in a time of 18:08.

“Bower continued her string of top 10 finishes,” Ecker said. “(It was) a 30-second improvement over last year.”

Newcomer Abby Shaw contributed as the No. 3 Saturday, placing 13th with a time of 19:41.

Erika Carlson continued to improve as well, besting her 2012 time by 60 seconds, placing 14th in 19:41 this year. Sydney Strang cracked the top five once again, by placing 16th with a time of 19:54.

Rounding out the Lady Knights were Anna Piazza (23rd, 20:28), Aislinn Lodwig (29th, 20:36) and Jessica Kucera (35th, 21:46).

Up next for the Lady Knights is another trip to Sterling on Saturday for the Sterling Invitational. Racing begins at 9 a.m.

In the right direction

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Girls CC looks for October improvements
STERLING, ILL.—As the calendar turns to October, it’s time for cross country teams to start coming together and jelling.

The Kaneland girls cross country squad decided to start a little early, with a solid effort in their annual late September stop at Saturday’s Rock River Run, hosted by Sterling High School.

The Lady Knights were third out of the 15 teams with 134 points, behind only Belvidere North (117) and champion Geneva (49). Northern Illinois Big XII conference-mate Dixon actually tied KHS with 134 points, but Kaneland’s sixth runner, Anna Piazza, broke the tie by placing 49th—Dixon’s sixth runner placed 69th.

Kaneland was led by the 1-2 tandem of sophomore Brianna Bower and junior Victoria Clinton. Bower cracked the top 10, placing eighth with a time of 18 minutes, 58 seconds. Clinton was nearby, placing 13th in 19:19.

“Brianna Bower and Victoria Clinton once again ran solid races to lead the varsity,” head coach Doug Ecker said. “Both are looking to make some dramatic improvement in the next few weeks.”

Senior Erika Carlson was the next Lady Knight to finish, placing 35th in 20:23. Junior Jessica Kucera placed 42nd in 20:35, and freshman Abby Shaw closed out the KHS scoring by placing 48th in personal-best 20:57.

“Erika Carlson continues to impress each week with her consistent effort and improvement,” Ecker said.

Also competing for the varsity race were Piazza (55th, 21:12), Noelle Espino (62nd, 21:29), Sydney Strang (64th, 21:32), Aislinn Lodwig (68th, 21:42), Murphy Garcia (135th, 24:34), Grace Drake (146th, 25:27) Christina Delach (147th, 25:31) and Kayla Hedgren (155th, 26:35).

The freshman/sophomore team also placed fourth in the meet, led by top 15 efforts by Katie Huber (7th, 22:29) and Carly Barholomew (15th, 23:02).

Next up, the girls cross country team heads north to the home of the Pretzels for the Freeport Invitational Saturday at 9 a.m.

Steady effort at Eddington for girls XC

in Girls Cross Country by
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ELBURN—If one wants to see the quality of the Kaneland girls cross country lineup, one just needs to see the results from the traditional late September staple, the Eddington Inviite

The Elburn Woods-housed event saw the Kaneland group manage an above-average third-place finish out of the 17 teams running on Saturday.

Kaneland’s 122-point total was behind Geneva’s 64 and Crystal Lake Central’s 79. Kaneland bumped Rosary out of the top three by six points, while Belvidere North, at 131, snuck into the top five.

Rounding out the top 10 were Marengo (150), Waubonsie Valley (180), Glenbard East (206), Burlington Central (226) and Hampshire (262).

Kelsey Schrader of DeKalb outlasted the rest of the field with a winning time of 18 minutes, 30.5 seconds.

For Kaneland, sophomore Brianna Bower was the fastest of the black-and-white clad group at 19:16.6, good for fifth overall and a personal best. Junior teammate and State champ Victoria Clinton, in her first 2013 invitational race, was 12th at 19:49.6, followed by junior Jessica Kucera, who took 28th overall at 20:47. Senior Erika Carlson was next for KHS at 21:16.8 for 37th place, and sophomore Noelle Espino was 46th overall at 21:38.7 for her sophomore run of the Eddington.

“(I’m) very happy with the overall effort of all the girls today. Carlson, Kucera and Espino all ran personal best for 3 miles on any course and really competed today on a tough course,” KHS coach Doug Ecker said.

Bower tried to make the most of her home-based opportunity.

“It was really nice, and it was cool and perfect weather to run a race today,” Bower said. “We’re still working up our team with Victoria injured and Sydney (Strang) not feeling good and still trying to get healthy.”
Freshman Abby Shaw showed her strides by finishing as the top Lady Knight in the frosh-soph leg of the morning at 22:25.2, good for 13th place.

Coming up for Kaneland girls cross country is the usual Rock River Run in Sterling, Ill., on Saturday, Sept. 28.

Preview: 44th annual Eddington Invite

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ELBURN—The 44th annual Eddington Cross Country Invitational is Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. at Elburn Woods.

The meet commemorates the 25-year teaching and coaching career of Larry Eddington, a long-time Elburn resident who passed away suddenly in 1994.

On the girls side, the team race appears to favor Geneva, Crystal Lake Central and Marengo, with Benet and Jacobs potentially a factor as well. Top individuals in the girls race include Lauren Van Vlierbergen of Jacobs, Kelsey Schrader of DeKalb, Allie Sprague and Katie St. Clair of Marengo, Maddie Dagley and Mary Fleming of Crystal Lake Central, McKenzie Altmayer and Brooke Nusser of Geneva, and Brianna Bower of Kaneland.

In 2012, four teams from the Eddington went on to qualify for state at either the 2A or 3A level Seven individuals went on to earn all-state honors. The Lady Knights took fifth at the meet in 2012, as Jacobs earned the team title.

On the boys side, Crystal Lake Central returns to defend their 2012 team title, as does 2012 runner-up Jacobs. Perennial 2A power Belivdere North joins the fray this year as well. The Knights finished sixth in 2012, paced by returner Kyle Carter’s fourth-place finish individually.

The girls varsity race kicks off the day at 9 a.m., followed by the boys varsity at 9:45 a.m. The girls f/s race is 10:45 a.m., and boys f/s is 10:45 a.m. Open races conclude the day, with the boys starting gun going off at 11:15 a.m. and the girls starting 11:45 a.m.

Parking for the meet will be at Kaneland High School, with regular shuttles going to-and-from the Elburn Woods course every 10 minutes.

Individual focus

in Girls Cross Country by

Short-handed Lady Knights look for individual gains

WAUCONDA, Ill.—Without assets like senior Sydney Strang and junior Victoria Clinton in the lineup, the Lady Knights traveled to Wauconda’s 23-team Invitational held Saturday. Head coach Doug Ecker’s ladies finished 14th in the team standings with 390 points, sandwiched between Grant’s 354 and Richmond-Burton’s 400. Cary-Grove (88) won a close battle for first over Lake Zurich (82) and Crystal Lake Central (97). Lake Forest (123) and West Chicago (153) rounded out the top five teams.

Last year, Kaneland finished second only to Crystal Lake Central.

Kaneland sophomore Brianna Bower continued he impressive streak of meets, placing ninth in the 154-girl field with a time of 18 minutes, 44.36 seconds over the rolling hills of Lakewood Forest Preserve. Bower improved over her 2012 time by over 50 seconds when she placed 21st as a freshman.

Senior Erika Carlson was the next KHS runner to cross the finish line, placing 64th with a personal-best time of 20:47. Jessica Kucera (90th, 21:17), Noelle Espino (92nd, 21:20) and Anna Piazza (145th, 24:15) rounded out the KHS varsity.

Next up for the girls cross country squad is the 44th Annual Eddington Cross Country Invitational at Elburn Woods Saturday, Sept. 21. The morning kicks off with the girls varsity race at 9 a.m. The fr/so girls run at 10:15 a.m., and girls open at 11:45 a.m.

“We hope to have our full varsity team running in the next two to three weeks so the girls will continue to focus on individual improvement at this meet,” Ecker said.

Parking for the Eddington Invite will be at Kaneland High School, with regular shuttles available.

Oregon trail

in Girls Cross Country by
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Photo: Kaneland senior Sydney Strang continued her solid start to the season, earning a fourth-place finish in Oregon, Ill., Saturday. File Photo

Lady Harriers run strong Saturday
OREGON, Ill.—The Lady Knights trekked to Oregon High School Saturday, and left with numerous individual accolades.

In a meet where no team score was kept, Kaneland placed six girls in the top 30 in the varsity race.

Brianna Bower again led the way with a time of 20 minutes, 32 seconds, which was good for third place overall. She was followed closely by Sydney Strang in fourth place, with a time of 20:42. Jessica Kucera also cracked the top ten, placing ninth with a time of 21:26.

“The three mile hilly Oregon High School course is very challenging on a good day to run,” head coach Doug Ecker said. “Today with the hot, humid, sunny conditions, all the girls did a very good job.”

Rounding out the Lady Knights varsity was Anna Piazza (15th, 22:00), Erika Carlson (17th, 22:14) and Noelle Espino (29th, 22:56).

The good times continued in the girls open race, as KHS placed three freshmen in the top five, led by Abby Shaw’s individual win in a time of 22:12.1. Katie Huber (3rd, 23:19) and Grace Dodis (4th, 23:48) were solid as well.

“The three freshmen running their first three mile high school race under today’s conditions were impressive,” Ecker said.

Rounding out the KHS open runners were Brianna Booton (11th, 24:27), Lilah Klingersmith (12th, 24:47), Sarah Daily (16th, 25:27), Carly Bartholomew (23rd, 26:09), Haley Penkala (27th, 26:21), Samantha Sommerville (31st, 26:59), Grace Drake (32nd, 27:08), Christina Delach (33rd, 27:09), Murphy Garcia (38th, 27:29) and Kayla Hedgren (46th, 28:45).

Kaneland canceled a triangular meet Tuesday at Elburn Woods against East Aurora and Yorkville due to hot conditions.

The Lady Knights next travel north to the Wauconda Invitational Saturday at 8:30 a.m.

Bower’s way

in Girls Cross Country by
GXC

Photo: Sophomore Brianna Bower earned her first individual cross country victory in Tuesday’s season opener at Elburn Woods. Photo by Ben Draper

Sophomore takes individual win in season opener
ELBURN—Many runners start a cross country race, but only one gets to win.

On an afternoon where runners finally were able to escape the heat that plagued them the previous week, the Lady Knights opened up with their usual four-team meet against Hinckley-Big Rock, West Chicago and Wheaton Academy, led by the sophomore’s individual win.

When the dust settled, Kaneland finished third as a team with 48 points, behind winner West Chicago’s 38 and Wheaton Academy’s 42. H-BR did not field a full team.

Highlighting the afternoon for KHS was Bower’s win, followed by a second-place showing by senior Sydney Strang.

Bower covered the 2.42 mile course in 15 minutes, 14 seconds, 37 seconds ahead of Strang.

A 2013 track all-stater in the 3200m, Bower was happy with how she ran.

“It feels great,” she said. “I just didn’t know what to expect,but I think this year is going to be a good one and I’m really excited to race.”

It was Bower’s first individual win in cross country.

Returning 2A state champion Victoria Clinton was the third Lady Knight to cross the finish line, placing 11th with a time of 16:33. Rounding out the top five were junior Jessica Kucera (16:51) and senior Anna Piazza (17:31).

“Overall they felt good about how they ran, and I was pleased with their performances for the first meet of the season,” said KHS head coach Doug Ecker.

The girls cross country team travels to the Oregon Invitational this Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and then hosts East Aurora and Yorkville at Elburn Woods next Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

Kaneland results:

1. Bower 15:14
2. Strang 15:51
11. Clinton 16:33
14. Kucera 16:51
20. Piazza 17:31
22. Carlson 18:04
23. Espino 18:10
24. Shaw 18:11
25. Huber 18:25
37. Booton 19:55
38. Dodis 19:55
40. Havlin 20:10
41. Klingensmith 20:10
42. Coyle 20:14
43. Sommerville 20:18
45. Pankala 20:54
47. Batholomew 21:09
48. Garcia 21:09
51. Delach 21:24
52. Hedgren 21:54

Photo Gallery: 2013 Knights Under the Lights

in Boys Cross Country/Boys Soccer/Football/Girls Cross Country/Golf/Kaneland/Tennis/Volleyball by
012

Photos from Thursday, Aug. 22.

2013 Girls CC Preview: Breezing past

in Girls Cross Country by
Girls Cross Country_2013_2

Photo: Tuesday’s high temperatures kept the girls cross country team indoors, but the Lady Knights won’t be cooled off this season. Kaneland is currently ranked 4th in DyestatIL.com’s preseason poll, and still feature returning state champion Victoria Clinton. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Clinton, young company look to maintain area standing
KANELAND—There is only one way to try and eclipse a third-place sectional finish for Kaneland High School girls cross country.

For the remaining Lady Knights and new charges, it’s go about their business.

Kaneland rose to the occasion at the Belvidere Sectional, and returning junior Victoria Clinton outpaced the entire Class 2A field enroute to becoming State champ as Kaneland earned a sixth-place finish.

The sixth-place total, coupled with conference rival Yorkville’s first-place, showed the depth of talent in the area, and a high standard for KHS to maintain.

“It’ll be  a totally different  kind of team.  They’re going  to be young,  but they’ll be good.  It’ll take time to  figure it out.” KHS girls cross country coach Doug Ecker
“It’ll be
a totally different
kind of team.
They’re going
to be young,
but they’ll be good.
It’ll take time to
figure it out.”
KHS girls cross country coach
Doug Ecker
Gone from the top seven are runners like Amanda Lesak, Maggie Brundige and Abby Dodis. But Kaneland coach Doug Ecker believes in the team’s talent and work ethic to achieve similar heights and negate deficiencies.

“We lost four seniors, but we don’t have as much depth, so we can’t afford to lose anybody,” Ecker said. “It’ll be a totally different kind of team. They’re going to be young, but they’ll be good. It’ll take time to figure it out.”

It could be a case of learning on the job.

“Take someone like Brianna Bower, she ran 34th in the State meet and the traction got her confidence going. She’ll be much stronger,” Ecker said.

Clinton, Bower, Sydney Strang and Aislinn Lodwig are the returnees from the postseason lineup of a year ago.

Girls Cross Country seniors: Erika Carlson, Anna Piazza, Sydney Strang and Christina Delach. Not pictured: Riley Coyle and Kayla Hedgren.
Girls Cross Country seniors:
Erika Carlson, Anna Piazza, Sydney Strang and Christina Delach. Not pictured: Riley Coyle and Kayla Hedgren.
“Last year was an amazing year for Sydney, she was out the first two-thirds of the season with pneumonia. You don’t come back from that and she finished 38th in the State meet. The talent and the attitude is there, it’s just a matter of staying healthy,” Ecker said.

The roster consists of seniors Erika Carlson, Riley Coyle, Christina Delach, Kayla Hedgren, Anna Piazza and Strang. Juniors are Clinton, Grace Drake, Murphy Garcia, Sam Havlin, Jessica Kucera and Lodwig. Sophomores are Carly Bartholomew, Brianna Booton, Bower, Noelle Espino, Lilah Klingensmith, Haley Penkala and Sam Somerville. Freshman are Sarah Daley, Grace Dodis, Abigail Mejia, Cassidy Garland, Katie Huber and Abby Shaw.

“You always want the team to err on the side of caution in high school, and as they get older and stronger they’ll do more. Clinton is like that and the amazing thing is she’s a triathlete first and runner second,” Ecker said.

KHS will need its mix of experience and youth to do battle with the area.

“Yorkville is obviously the favorite and will be strong all the way through, and DeKalb comes back as a 2A school with Kelsey Schrader and Sycamore will be better,” Ecker said.

The girls cross country team hosts their first meet on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Kaneland Foundation hosts cross country race

in Boys Cross Country/Girls Cross Country/Kaneland by

Kaneland—The Kaneland Foundation will host its 2nd annual 5k Cross Country Race on Friday, June 21, at 8 p.m. at the Kaneland High School campus/football stadium, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park. There will also be a 1/4-mile Kids Track Run at 7 p.m. and a 1-Mile Cross Country Fun Run/Walk at 7:30 p.m.

The 5k and 1-Mile runs will cover a flat cross country course entirely on the Kaneland campus.

Racers will finish on the Kaneland track for a spectator-friendly and exciting event. The 5K will be timed, and awards will be offered in age groups and overall categories. Prizes will be awarded to the top three overall male and female finishers in the following age groups for the 5K Cross Country Race: 14 and under, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-65, 65 and over.

All runners will receive a T-shirt for participating, provided they are registered by Saturday, June 15.

Packet pick-up begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21, near the track at the Kaneland High School campus.

Schedule of Events
7 p.m.: 1/4-Mile Kids Track Run—$5 registration fee, signed waiver must be on file.
7:30 p.m.: 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk—$10 registration fee; signed waiver must be on file.
8 p.m.: 5k Cross Country Race—$20 registration fee; signed waiver must be on file.

Download the race applications from www.kaneland.org, or register and pay online from the website on the Webstore (click on Kaneland Foundation). For more information, please call (630) 365-8295 or email beth.sterkel@kaneland.org. To mail in forms and money, please address it to: Beth Sterkel, Kaneland Foundation, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park, IL 60151.

Hometown Hall of Famer

in Girls Basketball/Girls Cross Country/Girls Track/Kaneland by
Screen shot 2013-06-07 at 10.00.17 AM

The Kaneland School District last week inducted Kerry Rink, pictured here from her days as a Kaneland High School cross country runner, into its Hall of Fame in the Personal Athletic Achievement category. Rink was a three-sport athlete at Kaneland, standing out in cross country, track and basketball. Courtesy Photo

Former KHS athlete inducted into District Hall of Fame
by Mike Sandrolini
ELBURN—Kerry Rink received a phone call out of the blue a couple of months ago from Dr. Jeff Schuler, superintendent of Kaneland Community School District 302.

Needless to say, she was pleasantly surprised to hear from him.

Schuler gave Rink, one of the most successful athletes in Kaneland High School history, the word that she had been selected for induction into the Kaneland School District Hall of Fame.

“That was kind of nice,” said Rink, who starred in track and field, basketball and cross country during her four years at Kaneland from 1984-88. “I was just honored that I was going to be inducted.”

Rink was officially inducted last week during Kaneland’s Senior Athletes’ Night. Members of her family, including her mother, Gerry, and her father, Richard—her varsity high school basketball coach—attended the ceremony.

“I think it’s a great honor,” said Richard, who coached the Knights during the 1980s, first as an assistant and then as head coach. “They finally got her in there, and she deserves to be in there. It’s good that they did it (induct Kerry) in front of the seniors to see what can be done by their athletes.”

Legendary career
Although she excelled in each of the three aforementioned sports, what Kerry accomplished on the track is legendary around the area. She was the Class A 800m state champion three consecutive years, and capped her stellar career by setting the state 800m record in a preliminary heat at a meet in 1988.

She then broke that record during the finals en route to the championship.

Her state record in the 800 stood for 19 years.

In addition, Kerry ran on the Knights’ 4x400m and 4x800m relay teams, the latter of which also set a state record and won a Class A title. The Knights captured the overall Class A team crown in both 1987 and 1988.

In cross country, she was a three-time all-state runner and placed third overall at the 1987 state meet, which at that time was not divided into classes.

Kerry’s track and field prowess landed her a scholarship to the University of Kentucky, where she achieved All-American status her freshman year.

She unfortunately ended up tearing the medial meniscus ligament in her right knee during her sophomore year while running for the UK cross country team. Kerry ran track the following spring, but the injury didn’t allow her to compete in either cross country or track her junior and senior years.

However, Kerry did graduate from UK with honors, and then went on to earn her master’s degree in occupational therapy from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“I’m proud of the way she handled things on the court and off,” said Richard, who is an assistant boys basketball coach at Hinckley-Big Rock and was a sixth-grade teacher at Kaneland Middle School until his retirement in 1999. “I’m proud of the way she handled herself and came back and got her master’s degree after all the adversity.”

Homecoming
Kerry had been living and working in Los Angeles for the past seven years, but recently moved back to the area to be closer to her family. She now works in occupational therapy in DeKalb.

Rarely did a day go by in the Rink family when either Kerry or one of her five siblings—four brothers and a sister—wasn’t taking part in a practice, game or meet.

Kerry’s oldest brother, Patrick, wrestled and played football at Kaneland.

Her sister, Amy, was the starting point guard on Kaneland’s 1982 Class A state champion basketball team. Kerry’s two older brothers, Mike and Danny, each played football and basketball and ran track, as did her younger brother, Greg.

Gerry and Richard Rink had three of their children going to high school at the same time.

“I wish the microwave (oven) had been invented a few years earlier,” Richard said with a laugh. “There was someone in sports all the time. My wife and I used to parcel out watching games. She’d go to one event and I’d go to another. It was somewhat chaotic sometimes, but it worked out.”

Richard, of course, didn’t have to attend Kerry’s basketball games because he was her coach. Coaching one’s daughter or son isn’t unusual, yet Richard was always wary that he didn’t treat Kerry differently from the rest of her teammates.

“It was fun coaching her,” he said, “but it was kind of hard when you coach your own kid. You maybe have to be harder on your kid than you would on the other kids; otherwise it looks like favoritism. But I thought she was a very good player, and she did quite well for herself.”

That she did. Kerry was an all-state player in 1988 and tied a school record for most points scored in a quarter (17). She shares that record with Beth Creamean, a former two-sport star (basketball and softball) at DePaul University.

“It was hard sometimes because I didn’t know whether to call him Dad or coach,” Kerry said, “But I’m honored to have him as a coach. It was a good experience overall. We had a good team.

“He was a great coach and still is. I learned quite a lot from him. He helped me with my shooting and defense, and think I was the basketball player I was because of him.”

Influences
Kerry lists her parents and siblings as being among her biggest influences, both on and off the field and court.

“I went to school, went to practice, studied and went to bed (during high school),” said Kerry, a straight A student at Kaneland. “I was very serious and very driven. They were always good about telling me, ‘It’s OK if you get a B (in a class).’ They tried to help take the pressure off me a little bit, but I put a lot of pressure on myself from within (to succeed).

“My parents had a big influence on me, and my siblings did, too. I come from a very sports-minded family. My sister was an influence, as well, because she was a really good point guard.”

Kerry also mentions Lea Ann Machais, her sister’s teammate on the 1982 championship team; Pat Sheetz, the head track and field coach during her varsity career at Kaneland; Doug Ecker and Tom Todd, who also coached her in track and cross country; and Mr. Davis, her favorite high school teacher, as inspirations.

“My teammates inspired me, too,” she said. “There were a lot of different personalities and talents (on those teams).”

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