Cross country: St. Viator, Prospect excel at state
St. Viator cross country coach Wayne Edelman called it the "best result in school history" after the performance of two of his seniors at Saturday's state finals.
Prospect's Pete Wintermute said that he and his team were "on Cloud Nine" after the achievement of his racers.
No doubt about that, and whatever appreciative verbiage you want to use, it was an exemplary day on the Detweiller Park course in Peoria for the Lions and the Knights.
Prospect took second place as a team in the girls' Class 3A run, while Viator boasted two of the top individuals in Class 2A.
Mary Grace Hegberg of the Lions was second in the girls race while on the boys' side, classmate Michael Schumacher finished sixth overall.
"Those two, like you will hear from anybody, are two of the hardest workers on the team," said Edelman, who is both boys and girls coach for Viator.
"Michael is the best male runner I've ever had in 19 years. He's so focused, and he's the kind of guy that if you ask him to do 50 push ups, he'll do 52. If you ask him to do 50 sit ups, he'll do 52. If you ask him to run 7 miles, he'll run 9½. He just says, 'coach, I want to push myself'. That's the kind of kid he is."
Schumacher finished at 15:02.33, while Hegberg's time of 16:38.91 was just a little more than 15 seconds behind winner Ava Parekh of Chicago Latin.
"Starting the season, we were hoping for a top ten finish at the finals for Mary Grace," said Edelman. "Then as the year progressed, we saw her just get better and better and then we were shooting for a top five.
"All the way through the race today, she was fighting for third or fourth, but then coming up the hill in the final 400 meters, she had an extra gear, and passed two runners to take second."
For the Knights, it was a culmination of the success of a close-knit team, with Lily Ginsberg (16:58.25), Audrey Ginsberg (17:27.95), Hailey Erickson (17:37.69), Cameron Kalaway (17:54.86) and Ireland Wildhart (18:06.91) leading the way.
"These girls rocked today," said Wintermute. "They believe in themselves, and they got themselves into the race early and just kept going. This is something that you dream of and the kids did an awesome job."
Both Lily Ginsberg, a sophomore, and Audrey Ginsberg, a senior, said that teamwork was the main factor leading to the Knights' stellar season.
"The whole team and I were excited to be able to do this together," said Lily Ginsberg. "We kept telling ourselves to do it for each other, because we set a goal to work for each other. We got out strong, were in a good position, and the last 400 felt really fast."
"We're super confident, and we had big goals this year," added Audrey Ginsberg. "We knew that if we trusted each other and believed in what we've done all season, today could be really special."
York won the Class 3A team title, while in the same division, Sandburg was victorious in the boys' competition.
Barrington senior Joey Furlong had the top mark for Northwest suburbs' boys in Class 3A with a time of 14:46.69 (15th); Mason Krieg of Palatine was 21st at 14:49.08; and Sean Safford from Hersey was 26th at 14:56.67.
"We are so proud of the way he ran today," said Broncos coach Tom Root of Furlong. "He was looking out for his teammates in the first mile. He set the tone, and in the second half of the race he attacked beautifully.
"He's had an outstanding four years, he put an incredible cap on an incredible career today. He was second or third (near the end of the race) but had a final push to close out his career with a bang."
In Class 1A, Willows Academy had its first state qualifier since 2014, and Francoise Lechner put forth an inspired performance, finishing in the upper tier of runners and setting a personal record at 19:46.82.
"Going in I was a little nervous," said Lechner, a junior, "but I went off pretty fast, and with so many girls running I was able to just feed off them -- and I cruised from there.
"This was always a hope of mine but if anyone had told me as a freshman I'd be here at the state finals two years later, I would have said they were crazy."
In the Class 3A girls race, Barrington freshman Scout Storms was eighth with a 16:53.05; Juliet Frum of Glenbrook North was 17th (17:02.92), Wheeling's Brenda Torres (17:15.95) finished fourth, while Anna Harden of Hersey (17:16.24) took 25th.
But the top run of the day belonged to Hegberg of the Lions.
"I felt really good today," said Hegberg, who will enroll at Georgetown University next year to run track and cross country and major in business. "I didn't have that tired feeling you sometimes get.
"No race is perfect -- I saw areas that I could have improved upon today -- but when it came to that final 400-meter stretch, I knew I had something left. My kick is something I've really improved on this year."