By Tony Jones
The state of distance affairs will be interesting because a ton of mainstay athletes have graduated. However, the league will not be void of talent as it always seems someone will step up and produce some great efforts. If this past fall’s cross country season is any indication of what is to come, the fans will not be disappointed.
2012 State Champion: Chelsea Blaase (St. Joe-Ogden) 11:21.25
Key returners: Regan Weidner (So., Malius [Bureau Valley]), Rachel Devereux (Jr., Decatur [St. Teresa]), Chloe Marshinski (Sr., Westmont), Dani Ault (Sr., Ottawa [Marquette]).
Outlook: only three of the top nine all-state runners return is a deceptive look. The main question is whether or not Ivy Handley (Sr.) will compete in the deuce during the state series. Handley won the state title harrier title in November. Last year she anchored her team to a second place finish in the 4x800m relay. If Handley should decline running the deuce, watch for Weidner to assume the title threat. Weidner is the top returner placing third last spring. She has continued to excel by earning runner-up honors to Handley in cross country. Devereux is her team’s second best distance runner but she could be standing on top of the podium after placing 5th last year. Madeline Langer (Jr., Breese Mater Dei) improved mightily from a year ago when she placed 4th in the xc finals. Also, watch for Naomi Springer (Jr., Stanford Olympia) Kady Mahaffey (Sr., Maroa-Forsyth) and of course the dangerous Julie James (Sr., El Paso-Gridley).
’12 State Champion: Sydni Meunier (Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley) 2:11.30
Key returners: Cassie Mundekis (So., Midwest [Central]), Taylor Edwards (So., Arcola), Mallory Tharp (Jr., Monmouth United), Maddison Zimmer (Sr., Delavan).
Outlook: GCMC stalwarts Meunier and Angel Gaesser (insert photo) ruled this event during the past several years but now have graduated. The exodus now leaves the event wide open. Mundekis would be in line as the heir to the throne after placing 4th last spring in 2:14.99. But don’t count out James who wasn’t 100%. James has the speed and endurance to win it all. So it would be best to keep tabs on her all season long.
’12 State Champion: Meunier 5:07.88
Key returners: Mundekis, Savannah Ames (Jr., Belleville [Althoff]), Ault, Weidner.
Outlook: Meunier put on a clinic as one of the best milers in IHSA history last year producing a sizzling 4:50.75- tops for all Illinois girls. She has now taken her talents to the University of Notre Dame. Mundekis by virtue of her third place finish at state would be in line as the top returner. She ran 5:09 in the prelims topping the likes of Handley who didn’t advance to the finals. Handley will be a factor this spring and very well could win it all.