Part of the elite
Photo: The varsity girls make their start at the Eddington Cross Country Invitational on Saturday at Elburn Woods. In center is Victoria Clinton (No. 355), who was the Northern Illinois Big-12 Conference Champion last year as a freshman and placed ninth individually at the state meet. Photos by Ryan Wells
KHS girls XC team proves it belongs among top tier
by Ryan Wells
Kaneland—As hundreds of runners and spectators descended on Elburn Woods Saturday for the annual Kaneland Eddington Invitational, the Kaneland High School Lady Knight cross country team proved it has what it takes to be among the top teams in the state.
Kaneland took fifth as a team in the highly competitive field, with 117 team points. Jacobs earned the top spot as a team, with 73 points. Marengo placed second with 93, followed by Geneva (102) and Crystal Lake Central (109). Kaneland closed out the top five with 117.
“Obviously, we’re pleased with a fifth-place showing in such a tough field of competitors,” KHS head coach Doug Ecker said.
Not only did the team overall demonstrate that it is among the top tier in the state, individuals showed they belong in the lead group as well.
For Aislinn Lodwig, a Kaneland sophomore who battled through an illness and a painful foot, the competitive atmosphere of the large-scale race was a significant motivator.
“With more teams it just makes me feel better about how I did,” Lodwig said. “I know I can stick with more people than the usual (races), where it’s more spaced out during the race. This course is one of the hardest to run with the huge hills, and it really takes a toll on you.”
Lodwig was the sixth Lady Knight to cross the finish line, with a time of 21:08.
Leading Kaneland was sophomore Victoria Clinton, who took third overall and ran as part of the lead pack throughout the entire course.
Like Lodwig, Clinton’s race served as proof that she was able to reach the goals she had set for herself coming into the race. She took third overall with a time of 18:07.
“My goal was to finish in the top three,” Clinton said. “It was a fast race today; good competition was out here.”
Clinton stayed in the front group that included returning Class 2A champ Sami Staples, a sophomore from Crystal Lake Central, and Katie Adams, a senior from Marengo. The trio was three-fourths of the lead pack, and set a hard pace from the start.
“The first part, we went out really fast, and then I felt it in the (middle); we picked up the pace at the end, and I just had a mental goal to be in the top three; and God allowed me to have a good, fun race,” Clinton said.
Freshman Brianna Bower was the second Lady Knight to finish, taking 20th overall with a time of 19:59.
“That’s a very strong time for our tough home course,” Ecker said.
Bower said she was able to push through a bit of nerves, since it was her first time running in such a significant race at home.
“I felt good today; I was nervous at first. It ended up turning out OK,” she said.
Senior Amanda Lesak placed 29th for Kaneland. She led a Kaneland mini-pack, helping push a trio of Lady Knights to a seven-second split in their three-through-five runners. Lesak credited that trio for the team’s solid finish.
“A lot of my teammates really helped me and pushed me,” she said. “We all push each other so we can push the pace a little bit.”
Lesak said that the fast start was anticipated because of the nature of the Elburn Woods course.
“The first mile is always the fastest, because everybody wants to get a good spot,” she said. “Usually people find their pace and find the people they want to run with and settle down a little bit.”
The people Lesak ran with were Kaneland senior Abby Dodis, who finished 31st with a time of 20:30, and senior Maggie Brundige, who took 34th with a time of 20:33.
Sophomore Jessica Kucera paired up with Lodwig to take 52nd overall with a time of 21:10.
“It was great to see Lodwig and Kucera team up on the last portion of the course,” Ecker said.
Each runner faced individual challenges and reached for individual goals, as well as working together to meet the team goal and push each other. Ecker said this is part of the program’s plan as the final stretch run of the season looms ahead.
“This appears to be a deep team—and we need everyone fighting to push forward and get stronger for the conference meet and post-season run,” Ecker said.