Metea Valley's Schneider ready to go the distance
It's not a novel idea, there are plenty of examples.
Still, cross country and track programs are fortunate to employ a coach fit, fast and sturdy enough to lead athletes on training runs.
Like Metea Valley assistant Alyssa Schneider. On Feb. 29 she will run throughout downtown Atlanta in the U.S. Olympic Team Trails for marathon.
"I coach girls cross country and track so they're all excited because they know," said Schneider, who teaches algebra and computer science. "I talk to them about training. I run with them a ton, so it helps me with my time and it also connects me with them."
As a runner at Bartlett, from 2009-11 Schneider finished fifth, sixth and fourth, respectively, in the Class 3A 1,600-meter run. She placed third in 3A cross country in 2009.
After dealing with shin problems now in her rearview mirror, Schneider went on to star at the University of Illinois, twice reaching the national finals in cross country with an All-America 17th-place finish in 2015.
Excellent, all of it. But the marathon? It seemed a reach.
"I always thought of myself as athletic, but I didn't really aspire to be at that level. I just wanted to be good," she said.
Now at that level, Schneider credits two women named Kristen for her ascent in distance running.
Her sister, Kristen, two years older, introduced Alyssa to cross country Bartlett as a way to stay in shape for soccer -- which fell by the wayside as Alyssa discovered track and field.
After Alyssa Schneider graduated from Illinois in 2016, she joined the Second City Track Club, whose members alternate weekend runs at sites downtown and in the suburbs, and at various locations during the week.
A fellow runner with Second City is Kristen Heckert, a former Kaneland track athlete several years older than Schneider. Heckert went to Murray State to compete and, like Schneider, study mathematics. Heckert teaches at Plainfield South.
"We just bonded right away," Schneider said.
"I just tried to piggyback off her," she said. "She's just one of the hardest workers I've ever met in my life. Just no excuses, ready to go."
Running 60 miles a week, cross-training by biking and swimming, teaching algebra and computer programming courses, coaching cross country in the fall and track from January through May -- maybe with a little sleep thrown in -- one must be ready to go.
At the 2017 Chicago Marathon Schneider hit the Trials' lower "B standard," then dropped her times each of the next two years. She reached the A standard in 2018 and again last fall in Chicago with her fastest time: 2 hours, 35 minutes, 41 seconds, the 18th woman to cross the finish line.
Her mentor Heckert also qualified. The list of those who've declared for the marathon trial includes Lake Park graduate Lindsay Flanagan, whose qualifying time of 2:28.08 ranks eighth among women.
The men's field in Atlanta includes former Neuqua Valley superstar Chris Derrick, York's Chris May and Naperville North's Tyler Jermann -- whose wife, Katy, is a women's qualifier.
With only the top three finishers of each gender advancing to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Schneider holds no illusions of grandeur. She is mainly looking to "better my place" among female marathoners.
"I've got to race this smart," she said. "I think people are going to show up and think they have to change everything because it's the big race. But I'm going to have to race it how I got there because I think if I do that I think I'll do well."
Rieger's the Man-Up
Last week New Wave Lacrosse announced that York senior Gavin Rieger earned the club's fall-winter Man-Up Award, the top honor accorded male lacrosse players by the Plainfield-based organization. The award salutes on-field excellence and leadership and off-the-field intangibles such as willingness to help others. IC Catholic's Max Cook won it this past summer.
Rieger, a midfielder and three-year varsity player at York, will play lacrosse for North Central College.