by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARKâ€”With the Lady Knight girls cross country roster getting stopped after a sixth-place finish at the Class 2A Belvidere Sectional a year ago, the group wishes to hold off offseason plans a little later, in to November.
For head coach Doug Ecker and crew, the work for postseason glory begins now, with a return of many of their top runners.
â€œWe return the top five from sectionals, plus Haley Johnson, so itâ€™s six of the top eight, and we have talented freshmen coming in,â€ Ecker said. â€œYou never know what theyâ€™re going to do, but theyâ€™ll at least add depth.â€
Junior Andie Strang returns, as does sophomores Kelly Evers and Kris Bowen, seniors Lisa Roberson and Shelby Koester.
â€œThe other teams return good people. Our girls can compete and have worked pretty hard and have been consistent this summer,â€ Ecker said.
Junior Sam Collins and senior Johnson also come back.
Sophomore Jen Howland is not returning in exchange for a go on the national triathalon circuit, and Ali Olson, Laney Deligianis, Chassidy Mangers and Kelli Patterson are gone due to graduation.
Krissy Chapman also makes up the senior side.
Sydney Bilotta, Shaela Collins, Arianna Espino, Liz Hylland, Jessica Stouffer and Bethany Swartz are the juniors.
Sophomores include Ashley Diddell, Jordyn Lawrence, April Smith and Carolina Tovar, while the freshmen are Maggie Brundige, Ashley Castellanos, Abby Dodis and Mikayla Ness.
With depth now on their side, Ecker will try and swat away all challenges, including the injury bug.
â€œYou always get people hurt. Injuries can pop up anytime, and it happens to all teams,â€ Ecker said.
All thatâ€™s left is practice until the starting gun goes off for real.
â€œRight now, the top five are in good shape. Evers had a good track season and could be considerably better, and Strang is probably our top runner going in,â€ Ecker said.
The Lady Knights hit Elburn Woods to host West Chicago and Wheaton Academy on Tuesday, Sept. 1. The girls host the Eddington Invite on Saturday, Sept. 19, and the regular season ends with the Western Sun Conference Invite at Rochelle on Saturday, Oct. 17.