2014 Girls Cross Country Preview: Trail mix

By on August 21, 2014
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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.