Area cross country teams ready to run
Minooka's cross country teams under coach Kevin Gummerson have taken that program to the extreme in recent years. While other local teams from Morris, Seneca and Gardner-South Wilmington have had individuals who have made noise over the years, none has achieved like the Indians have.
While each of the schools continues its stride toward excellence, in Minooka that means just one thing — another trip to state.
"(The boys) have worked hard and have set the goal of returning to the IHSA state meet and improving upon last year's 13th place finish," Gummerson said while adding that the girls, "are looking to return to the state meet and run our best race of the year at Detweiller Park."
It's exactly what everyone is after.
Gummerson said that his returning group of boys harriers has something to prove.
"I am extremely excited about the potential of this group," he said. "We just had a great group of athletes graduate and this group has been waiting for their turn to run the show."
Key returning varsity runners for the boys teams include: Joey Santillo (Sr.), Alex Pierce (Sr.), Erik Brick (Sr.), Tommy Coyle (Sr.), Will O'Connell (Sr.), Cam Knudsen (Sr.), Donaven Paramo (Sr.), Steve Szymanski (Sr.), Dakota Collofello (Sr.), Joey Teresi (Jr.), Kyle Swanson (Jr.), Gabe Ceballos (So.), Kyle Brown (Jr.), Kyle Shelton (Jr.) and Andy Geldean (Jr.).
"Joey Santillo and Alex Pierce have some great big-meet experience and have worked extremely hard to set themselves up for a great senior year," Gummerson said. "It is going to be interesting to see who steps up and fills the key 3-7 spots. There are so many kids that can challenge for those spots. That is exactly what we need as that is going to determine how good this team will be."
Gummerson's excitement is not just for the varsity class, either.
"I am also extremely excited about our freshman and sophomore classes. This is an extremely talented group that has put in more over the summer than we have ever had a freshman or sophomore class do," Gummerson said. "There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to see some excellent running from that group. You never know, one of those frosh-soph kids might step up and have an impact on the varsity level."
As far as the girls team, Gummerson said that they have certainly put in the time this summer.
"This group put together a very nice summer. I am extremely excited to see how they respond to their competition this year. It is a very experienced junior and senior class," he said. "Then you are throwing in some runners on the frosh-soph level that are going to be challenging for spots on the varsity level. That will create an interesting dynamic with some competitive practices that is only going to make this team better. Our schedule is extremely tough and we want to make to sure that we are prepared for the state series when that rolls around."
The projected varsity lineup for the Indians' girls team includes: Haley Renison (Jr.), Kaitlyn Chetney (Jr.), Laura Simon (Sr.), Caleigh Beverly (Jr.), Gaby Gall (So.), Devin Doran (Sr.), Moira McAsey (Jr.), Colleen Coyle (So.), Tara Schumal (So.), Ashley Clark (Sr.), Haley McNamara (Jr.), Hailee Goodale (Sr.) and Marissa Post (Sr.).
Both the boys and girls cross country teams virtually mirrored each other last year as both Redskins teams were ninth in the NIB12 Conference and 16th in sectional competition. Only the boys second-place regional finish topped the girls third-place regional run.
"I think both our squads are in a similar place. We expect to get to sectionals and we are finding that some of the next logical team goals — winning a regional title, or winning a sectional or advancing a team to state are much more difficult to attain," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "Very few of our runners train during the spring, which makes our summers even more critical. And quite frankly, as a team, we aren't putting in the number of quality miles in the summer to overcome the setbacks."
Blumberg said the turnout for both his teams is where it needs to be, but that is only the beginning.
"Our overall numbers are fine, but we do need more freshmen though," he said. "Many of our opponents have runners coming from junior high cross country programs but we do not and I think that hurts our freshmen numbers."
Key returning runners for the boys team this year includes: Jacob Wantland (So.), Nick Marino (Jr.), Austin Fatlan (Jr.), Justin Sjostrom (Sr.), Evan Bjelland (So.), Eric Robinson (Jr.), Anthony Ascolani (Sr.), Christian Gehrhardt (Jr.), Jake Hesslau (So.), Geoff Lamaze (Sr.), Austin Patterson (So.), Tristan DeGrush (So.), Brock Kukman (Jr.), Adam Roseland (So.), Vincente Gallegos (So.), Kris Eliakis (So), Alex Magers (Sr.) and John Struck (Jr.). New runners out this year are Sam Allen (Jr.), Matt Bernickus (Jr.), Chet Lear (Jr.), Roberto Luna (Sr.), Nate Mellundy (Fr.) and Austin Stacy (So.).
"I honestly am not sure what to expect right now," Blumberg said. "I really think this group has the potential to be the best I've coached. But it's a long season. Injuries are always a factor and we have quite a bit of improving to do. But I think we have the talent and depth to be a solid 2A team."
The Morris girls are facing a number of things early in the fall but Blumberg emphasizes that the key is patience with his crew.
"The toughest thing to teach new runners is patience. They expect to show up and find distance running easy after one or two practices," he said. "The only way to become a better distance runner is to train safely and consistently. That takes time. If we can keep the new runners focused, patient and remind them that the postseason is still over two months away, I think several of our rookies can push for the top seven spots."
Key returning runners for the girls team includes: Sara Burns (Jr.), Bridget Gile (So.), Valerie Pfaff (Jr.), Sydney Corrigan (Sr.), Katie Friend (Jr.), Paige Cordrey (Sr.), Katie Erickson (Jr.), Hannah Hesslau (Sr.) and Maddie Davy (Jr.). New runners out are: Aiden Baetzel (Sr.), Skylar DeLong (So.), Ciara Duff (Sr.), Mackenzie Larson (Sr.), Lexi Leach (So.), Becca McKee (Jr.), Sarah Wise (Fr.) and Micayla Schlappi (Fr.).
"When healthy, I think we have three solid runners up front. Our success will depend on how close our second pack can be to our first," Blumberg said. "After that, it's wide open. It comes down to this. Do they want to put on a uniform and get in better shape, or do they want to push the body to its limit mile after mile for the good of the team?"
The Fighting Irish come into the fall with just one senior on the team, but coach Kim Sedlock likes what she has seen out of the team to this point.
"I have already seen an improvement in all returning runners this year," she said. "It's going to be an exciting cross country season for the Seneca Irish.
The girls team has the only senior in the program this fall in Molly Movotney though juniors Savannah Baldauf and Caroline Collet have valuable returning experience along with sophomore Michaela Hart.
"We have a few key runners returning," Sedlock said. "We also have many new girls in all grades this year that all have a lot of potential. The girls should advance to sectionals again this year and I'm hoping some of them qualify for state, as well."
Others out this year for the Seneca girls are: Terah Coughlin (Jr.), Jacey Lamboley (Jr.), Ana Munoz (Jr.), Rachel Towne (Jr.), Shailee Bauer (So.), Anna Clubb (So.), Jessica Sapyta (So.), Lexi Bogren (Fr.), Kaitlyn Ortiz (Fr.) and Rebecca Towne (Fr.).
Of the boys team, Sedlock said that, "expectations are very high for the team this year. We have a few key runners returning."
Of the key returners, Ben Barnett (Jr.), Carter Gallick (Jr.) and James Bowen (So.) are expected to set the pace, along with freshmen Ross McCormick, Jacob Weinreich and Michael Rhodes. Sage Friese, a sophomore, is also new to the team.
"He (Friese) will also be a competitor," Sedlock said. "I see the boys team definitely advancing to sectionals and hopefully having a state appearance, as well. They have been working very hard all summer."
Others out for the Seneca boys team are: Lucas Altobella (Jr.), Scott Anderson (Jr.), Cole Klicker (Jr.), Brian Kluckhohn (Jr.), James Miller (Jr.), Kyle Odum (Jr.), Jacob Friant (So.), Jonny Wilson (So.), Kole Gallick (Fr.), Ross McCormick (Fr.), Zach Rivett (Fr.), Michael Rhodes (Fr.) and Jacob Weinreich (Fr.).
GARDNER-SOUTH WILMINGTON PREVIEW
It may be a year of transition for the GSW boys and girls cross country teams but Panthers coach Larry Lane remains optimistic.
Starting with the boys team, he says that the returning letter winners are looking for a strong showing.
"We return many letter winners (eight) are are planning for a fine year," Lane said. "The key to the season rests in the improvement of our second pack and they have had a strong start to the season. The 12 boys will be exciting to watch for sure."
The boys team includes: Stinnett Gettinger (Sr.), Austin Walsh (Sr.), Donovan Munter (Sr.), Clay McCormick (Sr.), Lane Hoffman (Sr.), Tyler Halloran (Sr.), Ryley Christoff (Sr.), Ryan Burgoine (Sr.), Nathan Ruffatti (Jr.), Zander Harris (So.), Billy Evans (So.) and Michael Mankowski (Fr.).
The girls have eight runners out.
"There are eight girls out for the team this fall, which is an improvement over last season," Lane said. "The returners have had some injury problems in the past so they must be brought along slowly and easily. While the newcomers have talent and are training hard, they are very inexperienced in distance running. The girls have bonded well and will be much improved by the season's end if they can stay healthy."
Members of the team this year include: Aylssa Brownlee (Sr.), Chelsea Schultz (Sr.), Sara Jablonski (Sr.), Rachel Groll (Sr.), Kitrina Hayner (Jr.), ReAnn Scoggin (Jr.), Kara Kunz (So.) and Madeleine Gartke (Fr.).