Coach: John Szabo, 36th year

2016: 5th in Intercity, 7th in Big 12, 8th in 2A regional.

Returnees from top seven: Sr. - Brooke Misukonis, Katie Reidy, Haley Dralle.

Others to watch: So. - Bethany Reesor, Crystal Wilson; Fr. - Paige Kaeb, Kaitlyn Skeate, Alyson Ficca.

FYI: "Hopefully, we're going to be better than what we were last year," said Szabo of his 15-girl squad. The state pole vault runner-up, Misukonis led the Purple Raiders last year on her way to a sectional berth. Wilson ran 1:03.01 in the 400 last spring. Six freshmen will boost the team's depth including Paige Kaeb, the daughter of 1993 BHS state fifth-placer Clint Kaeb. "We've got some numbers so hopefully they keep working hard," Szabo said. "We'll develop as the year goes on." 

Central Catholic

Coach: Bill Rhodes, 6th year

2016: 4th in Intercity, 5th in Corn Belt, 6th in 1A regional, 9th in sectional.

Returnees from top seven: Sr. - Noelle Ghrer, Lizzie Morris; Jr. - Abby Lewis, Olivia Brownlee, Ana Isaac.

Others to watch: Sr. - Alyssa Ely; So. - Kaitlyn Dappen; Fr. - Addison Cervantes, Kelly Becker.

FYI: Health woes have foiled what could have been a promising season for the Saints. Abby Lewis, 30th in last year's state meet in 18:29, may not run because of shin problems. "She runs in the pool, swims, rides bikes … everything she can do besides running on the ground," Rhodes said. Noelle Ghrer and Olivia Brownlee are out with health woes while Lizzie Morris is battling injuries, but is expected to run. Kaitlyn Dappen and Addison Cervantes have shown sub-21:00 potential. The Saints's new conference is the Illini Prairie. "Even though the kids know that new conference is pretty loaded, they are excited about running in that conference meet (at Pontiac on Oct. 3) and seeing some other teams," Rhodes said.

Normal Community

Coach: Tom Patten, 33rd year


2016: 2nd in Intercity, 3rd in Big 12, 6th in 3A regional, 11th in sectional.

Returnees from top seven: Sr. - Alexa Thomsen, Larin Harr, Muriel Bean; Jr. - Lauren Feldner, Samantha Churchey; So. - Anita Cavalcante.

FYI: "Realistically, we want to be top three in conference," said Patton, who looks for No. 7-state ranked Urbana, No. 23 Peoria Notre Dame and Normal West to be other Big 12 contenders. "A lot of our expectations for the state series will depend on how healthy people are. I would expect we could conceivably compete to be in the top five (in sectionals) depending on how many good teams are out there." State track qualifier Anita Cavalcante, who sped 2:23.57 in the 800 last spring, should lead this 40-girl squad. "I just think she's going to be a very, very strong runner this year," Patton said. Alexa Thomsen returns with 12:41.11 credentials in the 3,200 while Lauren Feldner ran 12:46.69. 

Normal West

Coach: Chad Aubin, 2nd year

2016: 3rd in Intercity, 4th in Big 12, 6th in 3A regional, 7th in sectional.

Returnee from top seven: Jr. - Mara Smith, Mackenzie Piazza, Tess Birlingmair, MacKenzie Alsop; So. - Olivia Bloyd, Asia Quizon-Colquitt.

Others to watch: Sr. - Grace Magnuson; Jr. - Elizabeth Betancourt; Fr. - Shae Flairty, Madison Piazza, Liberty Harmon, Sylvia Rice.  

FYI: The Wildcats, who have a 19-girl roster, drop from Class 3A to 2A. "The outlook is super strong for this team for this year and next year," Aubin said. "We're going to be better than we were last year." Mara Smith is the top returnee from last year's Intercity Meet in which she finished third. She was 99th in the 3A state meet in 18:20, a time that would have been 47th in 2A. She sped 11:55.50 in the 3,200 last spring and 5:18.87 in the 1,600. "She put in a lot of work this summer and is ready to rock and roll," Aubin said. "There's a lot of excitement around the team this year." Tess Birlingmair clocked 2:27.42 in the 800 last spring while Grace Gallagher was at 5:42.42 in the 1,600 and MacKenzie Piazza at 5:47.37.

University High

Coach: John Neisler, 5th year

2016: 1st in Intercity, 1st in Corn Belt, 4th in 2A regional, 2nd in sectional, 8th in state.

Returnees from top seven: Sr. - Riley Madix; Jr. - Emmy Mussey; So. - Tasha Schuckman.

Others to watch: Jr. - Olivia Shouse, Lauren Brown; So. - Alexandra Eisenreich; Fr. - Lyndsey Wolters, Mya Kaeb, Ella Bittner, Mackie Madix.

FYI: The Pioneers, who have a 30-girl roster, will seek an eighth straight Intercity title. "I think it could be some pretty stiff competition to get in our top seven, certainly our top 12," Neisler said. "I think it's going to be a little bit of a slow start because we are going to have to rely on either some freshmen or inexperienced varsity runners. I think they are going to pick up really quick." Neisler hopes to have three or four girls under 19:00. "We could have seven under 19:30 depending on how the freshmen come along," he said. Katy Clausen, who won Intercity and Corn Belt titles as a freshman, transferred to Arizona. Last spring, Emmy Mussey qualified for the 3A state 1,600 in which her season best was 5:20.77. Riley Madix sped 5:29.31 while Tasha Schuckman motored 5:35.45. Their new conference is the Central State 8 in which No. 14 Springfield is the favorite. 

– Compiled by Randy Sharer


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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