File photo by Jeff Vorva
Marist’s MaryClare Leonard (No. 542), who finished 20th and 10th in the state individually in Class 3A the past two years, wants the whole team to make it down state in Class 2A this year.
Still catching her breath after battling to an eighth-place finish in the Class 2A Marist girls cross country regional Saturday at Midlothian Meadows, Redhawks junior Maryclare Leonard cut off an interviewer to ask, “Can I bring my teammates over?”
Without waiting for an answer, she pulled freshmen Jill Borza, the 12th-place finisher, and Colleen Murphy, 13th, into the conversation.
Later, Borza explained why.
“She’s about the team,” Borza said. “She really doesn’t care about herself. She’s always motivating us.”
Leonard might have gone another route upon the Redhawks’ reclassification into 2A this season after she finished 10th in the Class 3A state meet as a sophomore — in a time (17:06) that would have been good for second in the 2A meet. But, while she has struggled this season — she described her regional time of 18:40 as “a bad day” — she’s had no problem staying on track for her main goal.
“This season has been about focusing on the team,” she said. “The seniors…we want to get them downstate.”
The Redhawks took the first step toward that goal with a solid third-place total of 80 points at their own regional. Lemont (65) edged Montini (67) for first. The top six teams (Rosary, Glenbard South and Wheaton Academy rounded out the group) qualified for the Halloween morning Wheaton Academy Sectional at Kress Creek Farms Park.
The top five team finishers at the sectional advance to the Nov. 6 state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
“We’ll see Yorkville in the sectional — they may be the No. 1 team in the state in Class 2A or 3A,” Marist coach Pat Quinn said. “The five teams that make it out of our sectional will all have a chance to be among the top 10 teams in state. The sectional is really a mini-state meet.”
While Leonard’s 10th-place finish last season and her 20th-place as a freshman trail only the 2006 AA title won by her cousin, Lauren Haberkorn, as the top individual finishes in Marist girls cross country history, she entered this season more mindful of the notion that the Redhawks have never qualified as a team.
“To get the team down has really become the overriding goal,” Quinn said. “Together, together, together — that’s their mantra. This kid is more concerned about how tight the pack of the team is.”
In the regional, there was none tighter. Just 1:19 separated Marist’s top six runners, while Lemont’s first and sixth finishers arrived 1:46 apart and Montini’s 2:11.
Following Leonard, Borza (19:02) and Murphy (19:10) for the Redhawks were senior Catherine Viz (19th, 19:21), sophomore Nora Doyle (28th, 19:51) and junior Carlin McNulty (31st, 19:59).
The pack may be ready to go lower, given their willingness to follow Leonard and Leonard’s history.
“She’s an amazing team leader,” Murphy said. “She really pushes all of us to be our best — and we’ve gotten stronger behind her as a team.”
Last season, Leonard shaved 36 seconds off her time from the regional to the sectional, then dropped another 18 seconds at state. As a freshman, her times also improved from regional to sectional to state.
“That’s always been my mentality,” Leonard said. “The focus isn’t on winning. It’s on running the best time.”
Marist’s boys team also qualified for the sectional, finishing fourth overall behind champion Hinsdale South. Redhawks scorers included Eddie Slack (12th, 16:22), Kyle O’Farrell (13th, 16:24), Matt Wagner (15th, 16:28), Jack Kelly (22nd, 16:44) and Paul Lesley (46th, 17:44).
Brother Rice earned a ticket to the sectional with a sixth-place finish behind Joe Sweeney (14th, 16:27), Jack Mongan (27th, 17:04), Matt McKendry (31st, 17:12), Steve Sloan (34th, 17:22) and Jake Rafferty (35th, 17:22).
Richards had two individual qualifiers: Jason Mallo (6th, 15:52) and Marek Warywoda (24th, 16:49).
In other regional action:
Sandburg, the No. 1 ranked team in the country according to two websites, rested some of their top runners and the team still romped to the team title, posting 21 points to finish ahead of Shepard (67), Oak Lawn (102), Eisenhower (124), Argo (137) and Stagg (148). Brandon Lukas (15:11) and David Gleisner (15:14) finished 1-2 for the Eagles, followed by Dan Laskero (4th, 15:26), Paul Sieczkowski (6th, 15:45) and Alex Szymanski (8th, 15:50). Shepard’s Caleb Washington (3rd, 15:24) and Paul Milkus (5th, 15:36) rounded out the top five.
Sandburg won the team title with 44 points. Mother McAuley (3rd, 54), Stagg (4th, 118), Shepard (5th, 167) and Oak Lawn (6th, 170) also moved on to sectional competition.
McAuley’s Ashley Canner finished first individually, in 18:25, followed by teammate Ashley Bryja. Rounding out the top five were Sandburg’s Erica Cerva (18:43), Shepard’s Kelli Callahan (18:50) and Sandburg’s Jade Lukas (19:00).
Evergreen Park advanced with a sixth-place finish. The Mustangs’ scorers were: Ricky Mutnansky (30th, 18:38), Max Schultz (32nd, 18:42), Daniel Meza (36th, 19:03), Horace Holifield (41st, 19:39) and Dan Novak (43rd, 19:53).
Qualifying as individuals were St. Laurence’s Cesar Vega (22nd, 17:50) and Jorge Velazco (29th, 18:33).
Evergreen Park finished fourth as a team to advance. The Mustangs’ scorers were: Katie Sammon (19th, 22:26), Megan Quick (20th, 22:27), Kayley Burke (23rd, 22:38), Isabella Villamil (24th, 22:39) and Emily Huneck (25th, 22:41).
Bishop McNamara Regional
Chicago Christian, behind individual champ April van Ryn (19:06), won the team title with a total of 33, far ahead of runner-up Clifton Central (72). Jill Van Dyk (5th, 19:57), Allie Boss (7th, 20:15), Cassidy VandeKamp (8th, 20:16) and Becca Falb (12th, 21:01) were the Knights’ other scorers.
Aurora Christian Regional
Queen of Peace finished fifth to advance to sectional competition. Hannah Skrypken finished 22nd overall in 22:26 to pace the Pride.