Vernon Hills cross-country squads field several veteran runners
The Vernon Hills girls' cross-country team had a strong 2015 season: second in the North Suburban Conference, regional and sectional titles, and third place in Class 2A.
This season brings a new conference and some new challenges, but could see a lot of the same success with an experienced crew.
The list of returners is topped by junior Lauren Katz, who was eighth at last year's state meet. Sophomores Payton Makowskyj, Hannah Ray, Ryan Schofield, Katelyn Dohler and Vivian Tsai also bring a lot of experience from last season despite their youth.
Freshman Carly Sear, who rounds out the projected top seven, trained with the top group this summer and is expected to have an impact, head coach Suzanne Curry said recently.
Newcomers include sophomores Leah Wilkowski, Katie Wilkowski and Abby Kempf, and freshmen Lily Blase and Brynn Ziemke.
Curry said this year's roster is the largest team in school history as it joins the Central Suburban League North.
“This is a close-knit group of kids who all share the goal of improving on last year's performance,” Curry said. “I am looking forward to spending time with the girls again and ready for a fun season.”
The boys' team also has a leader back with senior Shane Williamson, who was eighth at the state meet after finishing second at the regional and sectional meets.
Other key returners are seniors Tim Krashevsky, Nick Mohrdieck and Zak Baumann; juniors Teddy Chen, Nikolay Kravtsev, Evan Webber, Jace White, Bryan Shim and Kevin Cronin; and sophomores Cameron Overbeck, Matt Huse and Antoni Okinczyc.
“We have the potential for two high-placing front runners in Williamson and Krashevsky,” head coach Mark Whitney said. “We have the talent for a strong No. 3 through No. 5 as well, which could make us competitive in the CSL and in 2A.”
The Mustang boys' team has two All-North Suburban Conference performers back from the team that finished fourth in the league.
Sophomores Mike Parduhn and Robert St. Clair earned league honors, and this season will be joined by fellow letter winners senior Ben Krauss – who missed last season because of a staph infection – junior Kaleb Carlson, and sophomores Dario Carrillo and Alan Salgado.
“This is the biggest team we've ever had, with 17 freshmen,” head coach Kurt Rutz said. “Several of the freshmen will challenge for a spot on the top seven before the season is over.”
The boys' team returns five of last season's top seven runners. Head coach Jeffrey Helberg projected this season's top seven as juniors Adam Fox, Jared DeWyze, Mike Messacar and Sam Rayzman, and sophomores Marcus Keller, Nick Brunn and Hunter Thompson.
“Even though we are still a little young, there is a lot of varsity experience that should help us out this year,” Helberg said. “Fox is fully healthy this year after battling injuries and is looking to break through to sectionals this year.”
The girls' team expects to have a strong group of runners, despite a small roster.
Senior Erin Levon is a three-time sectional qualifier, while sophomore Lily Sanchez also is a sectional qualifier, and sophomore Dakota Thompson missed a sectionals berth by one spot.
Key newcomers include sophomore Abigail McHugh, and freshmen Maddie Ryan and Morgan Thompson.
“My expectations are high for this group, but they have to go out and run and compete to the best of their abilities,” Helberg said. “If they do so, I think that having this team qualify for sectionals is a real possibility.”
Note: Not all teams returned information requests by press time.