2023 IHSA State XC Championships Preview - 1A Girls


By Michael Newman


Class 1A Individual Runners to Watch

Isabella Keller, Effingham St, Anthony;  Mia Kotler, Latin School; Molly Farrell, Marshall; Elena Rybak, Father McGivney; Kate Foltz, Tuscola; Tessa Bowers, Shelbyville; Mackenzie Pound, Tolono Unity; Jadyn Gerardi, Anna-Jonesboro; Kennady Anderson, Kewanee-Wethersfield, Meika Bender, Eureka; Sydney Gertsen, Lombard Montini; Louisa Wilson, Williamsville; Emily Downing Cambridge; Ahry Comer, Pope County; Cecilia Hilby, Aurora Central Catholic; Erica Woodard, Tolono Unity; Evelyn O’Connor, Seneca; Kaitlyn Hatley, Father McGivney, Vanessa Teel, Pinckneyville, Ellen Anderson, Latin School.


Class 1A Individuals Preview


It could be a matter of a record happening in the first race of the meet. Isabella Keller is fearless and goes after a quick pace. The same thing can be said about Mia Kotler who also likes a fast pace. This is the first time racing at Detweiller Park for the freshman although I am sure she has received advice on how to run this. Kotler has run in two state meets. Kate Foltz has run on this course twice this season with both of her times under 17-minutes. Molly Farrell ran this course at state last year and it was a little slick. I think we will see a faster track on Saturday. Ahry Comer could be the surprise in this loaded field.


IL XC Speed Ratings State Meet Projections

Teams Previews


Tolono Unity and Anna Jonesboro have separated  themselves from the rest of the field early in the season. Will Tolono Unity get four runners in before Anna-Jonesboro gets their second runner across the line. Read about the team previews below


Tolono Unity

Sectional Runners – Mackenzie Pound SO, Erica Woodard SR, Emily Decker JR, Olivia Shike SR, Camryn Reedy JR, Reagan Stringer SR, Ashlynn Denney JR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (1st)

Overview – The Rockets are in position to win their third straight Class 1A title after running through all of the Class 1A teams heading into this weekend’s meet. Their sectional win by 73 points over a good Shelbyville team is proof of that. The potential for Unity to have three all-state runners is good led by Mackenzie Pound in the top 10 and Erica Woodard and Emily Decker in the top 25. Their top 5 split last week at 88 seconds which is lower than the 100 second split average they have traveled this fall. 5 runners in the top 50 is something we should watch for in this meet.



Sectional Runners –  Jadyn Gerardi FR, Aleah Box SO, Liz Hammer FR, Reese Jones SO, Zoe Jones JR, Zoe Jones JR, Kenzie Miller SO, Kinley Leek FR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (6th)

Overview – The Wildcats could be the one team to challenge Tolono Unity for the state title. Anna-Jonesboro finished second behind Tolono Unity is their only non-win against 1A schools. They received a boost with three runners in the top seven led by their #1 Jadyn Gerardi who could be in the top five runners on Saturday. The split off second runner Aleah Box and fifth runner Zoe Jones last week at Benton was 23 seconds. This will be a good sign if they can achieve that again at Detweiller Park. Gerardi finishing ahead of all Tolono runners would be a good thing. Kenzie Miiler, their sixth runner last week was just two seconds behind the pack of her team. Six runners in before Tolono’s fourth runner could get a state championship in the program’s history.



Sectional Runners – Meika Bender JR, Bre Lehman FR, Reagan Gerber SO, Natali Roth SR, Cora Strawn SR, Adeline Hubert SO, Claire Albertson SR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (7th)

Overview – Eureka escaped from the Elmwood Sectional with a four point win ahead of Peoria Notre Dame. The Hornets are a team that could be among the trophy teams in this meet led by their #1 runner Meika Bender who won the sectional meet last Saturday over a strong individual field. Freshman Bre Lehman finished 36 seconds behind Bender in the top five at Elmwood and could find herself in the top 25 in this upcoming race. Their average split on the top five runners has been near 100 seconds. Their sectional split was 111 seconds. Their 3-5 split led by Reagan Gerber was 30 seconds last Saturday. Cutting that split by 20 seconds on Lehman could have Eureka accepting a trophy this Saturday morning


Peoria (Notre Dame) -

Sectional Runners – Meghan Zopel JR, Julia Mingus JR, Sarah Couri JR, Norah Gould FR, Shannon Zopel FR, Grace Yontz JR, Maya Zopel SO.

Last State Meet Appearance -  2022 (2A-16th)

Overview – Their first year in Class 1A has been a good one for the Irish missing a sectional title by four points in the toughest Class 1A sectional in the state. The difference in Elmwood is that their top three runners of Meghan Zopel, Julia Mingus, and Sarah Couri were separated by 25 seconds. The problem was the Eureka top two runners were ahead of them. The top five split in their last race was 74 seconds. Notre Dame has all underclassmen in their top seven. We could see one of their top three all-state. The split will need to be under 65 seconds for the Irish finish in the top three and capture a trophy.



Sectional Runners – Louisa Wilson JR, Joelle Wilson FR, Hannah Nation JR, Alaina Woolsey FR, Riley Mendenhall SR, Kaylea Hollinshead FR, Ella Knoles SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (15th)

Overview – The Bullets could end up finishing fourth at Detweiller Park or as low as outside of the top 10 in this race. Their strength of this team is their top three up front in races. Louisa Wilson is a wo-time all-state runner and will be near the front in this race. Her freshman sister Joelle finished 23 seconds back finishing 11th last week. Hannah Nation finished eight seconds behind the younger Wilson. The potential is to have all three of those runners finish in the top 35. A problem to watch for is that the gap off the top three and the next two runners is huge, close to 250 seconds. Williamsville will need to close that gap to near 215 seconds to move near a top three finish.



Sectional Runners – Emily King SO, Alyssa Higgins SO, Emmalynn Hensley (FR), Allie Hopkins SR, Lauren King SR, Makayla Lewis FR, Addi McKee SR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 1988 (6th)

Overview – The Blue Bullets could be in the mix for a top finish after placing third last week at the Elmwood Sectional. There were no expectations on this program to start the year but have continued to improve since the end of September. Their finish advanced Knoxville to state for the first time since 1988, 35 years. Emily King and Alyssa Higgins finished 3-4 at Elmwood and could be among the top 20 runners in this race. Freshman Emmalyn Hensley finished 15th and gives her team a strong front three. What hurts is they had a 74 second split between their third and fourth runners. The team’s overall split was a 113 seconds. This team could finish in the top five teams only if they close that gap to under 60 seconds.


Pleasant Plains

Sectional Runners – Abigail Wolters JR, Teagen Galloway JR, Alaina Hawker SO, Caroline Willenborg SO, Alli VanVeldhuizen FR, Joanna Harney JR, Sara Eddington SR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (8th)

Overview – The fifth of six teams from the Elmwood Sectional. The Cardinals survived the sectional by finishing fourth. Their top five is interchangeable with any of those five able to lead the team in the front. Last week, it was Abigail Wolters that was the top runner with Teagen Galloway and Alaina Hawker within 14 seconds in that pack. The team’s overall split in the sectional race was 41 seconds. Pleasant Plains was among the top 10 teams at Detweiller Park on Saturday. Moving the pack up 10 seconds per each runner should move the Cardinals closer to the top five when all is said and done.



Sectional Runners – Tessa Bowers SO, Aly Douglass JR, Caroline White SR, Anna Tynan SR, Katie Nohren JR, Lily Woolery JR, Sara Tynan SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (22nd)

Overview – Shelbyville has one of the Class 1A top runners in Tessa Bowers. The sophomore will be among the front runners in the race and could be among the top runners in the race. The Rams have averaged a split off usual second runner Lily Woolery by 94 seconds. The sectional race pulled otherwise as Woolery was the team’s sixth runner. Anna Tynan, their usual third runner, was the team’s fourth runner more than three minutes behind Bowers with the team’s overall split at 194 seconds. Shelbyville in that race where they finished second behind Tolono Unity, the Rams needs to have a split at 110 seconds to be among the top five teams on State Saturday.


El Paso-Gridley

Sectional Runners – Caroline Wettstein SO, Sophie Hinthorne, SO, Nellie Mellick JR, Mya Griffin FR, Madyson Harms FR, Piper Zimmerman SO, Elly Huette FR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (12th)

Overview – The final team in this preview from the Elmwood Sectional. The Titans finished fifth last week in their sectional race. There are three freshmen in this top seven with no seniors. The top three runners are interchangeable in the front. So is the split that this team runs on. Nellie Mellick ran 18:56 as the team’s top runner at First to the Finish with Caroline Wettstein close to a minute behind her teammate. Wettstein ran 18:39 to finish sixth in the race with Sophie Hinthorne 32 seconds behind. Mellick ended up 66 second behind Wettstein. The overall split was 93 seconds on the first through fifth runners. The team has the potential to get the top five split under 50 seconds on the top three runners. Keeping the top five runners between 72 seconds would be a good thing for this team. Wettstein in an all-state place gets this team closer to a top five finish.


Glen Carbon (Father McGivney)

Sectional Runners – Elena Rybak JR; Kaitlyn Hatley SR, Jane Cummins JR, McKenzie Jones FR, Ainsley Turkington FR, Bella Redenius FR, Isabella Harris JR..

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (17th)

Overview – There has been dramatic improvement for the Griffins throughout this season. They finished 11 places behind Anna-Jonesboro at the beginning of the year at the First to the Finish Invitational separated by 309 points. Last week at the Benton Sectional, only 41 points separated the two teams. Elena Rybak will be among the front runners in this race having won her sectional race and winning at Detweiller Park at the Patriot Invitational. Kaitlyn Hatley should be among the top 20 runners in this race. The 3-5 pack should be almost 90 seconds behind Rybak/Hatley. The pack led by Jane Cummins was 51 seconds. This team will be closer to Anna-Jonesboro this time to get them in the top 10. It might be tough to finish any higher than eighth in this race.


Palos Heights (Chicago Christian)

Sectional Runners – Grace Mullin SR, Kaylee O’Sullivan SR, Kihra Moes SO, Mia Caporale SO, Abby Mullin FR, Haley Van Til SO, Anais Rivera SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (5th)

Overview – The combination of two runners near the front in the race along a tight pack behind them could get the Knights to a near top 10 finish. Grace Mullin is having a good senior season having finished third last week at Kankakee with possibilities of a top 25 finish. Kaylee O’Sullivan was close to 40 seconds behind Mullin and should give Chicago Christian a strong 1-2 pack. The pack behind the two runners is close to a minute behind but only a 13 second split. Chicago Christian finished fifth last year and could again finish among the top 10.


Effingham (St. Anthony)

Sectional Runners – Isabella Keller FR, Aubrey Denning FR, Stacie Vonderheide SR, Emma Helmink SR, Grace Niebrugge SR, Ava Faber JR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2006 (15th)

Overview – One of the big surprise team in Class 1A qualifying for the state meet for the first time in 17 years. They did that by finishing fifth at Decatur. Two freshmen have led the Bulldogs. The top runner all year has been Isabella Keller whose sister Anna-Sophia Keller won four state championships at Detweiller Park from 2013-2016. Isabella has been undefeated against Illinois runners this fall and will be one of the favorites on Saturday. Another freshman Aubrey Denning is the team’s second runner and could finish among the top 50 in this race. Keeping Stacie Vonderheide within 20 seconds of Denning would be a plus for the team. Their fourth through sixth runners are farther back which could hurt the team finishing in the top 15 in the team standings


Elmhurst (IC Catholic Prep)

Sectional Runners – Graziella Narcisi JR, Kelsey McDonough SR, Grace Gildea SO, Megan Van Koughnet SR, Chloe Brandt SO, Lili Fisher JR, Janny Techamontreekul SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2021 (7th)

Overview – The Knights ran their best race of the season last week at Kankakee led by top 20 finishes from Graziella Narcisi (6th) and Kelsey McDonough (14th). IC Catholic Prep did not advance to state as a team last year, but Narcisi did finishing 47th. The junior could be among the top 25 individuals on Saturday. The split on their top 5 was over three minutes. That will keep this team anywhere from 10th through 15th places..



Sectional Runners – Evelyn O’Connor JR, Natalie Misener JR, Gracie Steffes SR, Lily Mueller SO, Julie Mueller SO, Ruthie Steffes SO, Aubrie Jackson JR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (25th)

Overview – The Irish missed a sectional title finishing behind Winnebago by eight points. Seneca should be among the top 15 teams in this meet. Evelyn O’Connor was a surprise in winning last week at Oregon. She could be among the top 15 runners in this meet. Another team that has a split on five of over three minutes. O’ Connor scoring low numbers can get her team staying in the top 20.



Sectional Runners – Kelly O’Connor SO, Gracie Kent SR, Gianna High FR, Sophie Venckauskas SO, Lily Tucek FR, Emma Haugen SR, Fay Houberg SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2019 (25th)

Overview – Herscher’s second place finish got the Tigers to get back to the state meet for the first time since 2019. Kelly O’Connor, Gracie Kent, and Gianna High finished within 16 seconds of each other. Any of these runners could finish in the top 50. Their overall split of 79 on five runners last week puts themselves of finishing in the top half of this meet.



Sectional Runners – Quinn Wesley SR, Katelyn Jones SR, Sophie Stark JR, Terynn Loftis FR, Ella Tingley JR, Mallory Mosbey SO, Rylee Young SR.

Last State Meet Appearance -  2022 (19th)

Overview – This is final meet for Coach Tony Cork who will retire after this meet. Quinn Wesley was the top runner for the Maroons last Saturday and could be in a positions to finish among the top 25 individuals. Katelyn Jones leads the 2-5 split that had a 54 second split on that group and a 2:29 split overall.



Sectional Runners – Morgan Capriola SO, Reese Erdahl SR, Ella Carlson FR, Svea Glidden FR, Audra Mecum FR, Hannah Roggensack SO, Emma Woolery JR.

Last State Meet Appearance -  2022  (4th)

Overview – There weren’t many expectations from Bago after losing three all-state runners from this team due to graduation. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Instead, the Indians rebuilt their team and heading back to the state meet for the fifth straight year. Morgan Capriola stepped up as the team’s top runner with teammate Reese Erdahl the second runner 40 + seconds behind Capriola. Three freshmen, led by Ellas Carlson, gave this team a boost during the season. Their top 5 split last week was just over two minutes.



Sectional Runners – Vanessa Teel JR, Zoey Conway JR, Maddy Dill (FR), Sofia Castellano SR, Madison Bruns SO, Emily Baggett SR, Michaela Skorch SR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (18th)

Overview – The Panthers make a return trip back to the state meet finishing third at the Benton Sectional. Vanessa Teel was all-state in the rain last year finishing 23rd. The junior finished fourth last week and could another top 25 finish to her resume. The pack’s split from Zoey Conway to Madison Bruns was 94 seconds. The split last week on 5 runners was close to 3 minutes.


Chicago (Latin School)

Sectional Runners – Mia Kotler JR, Ellen Anderson JR, Ruby Larsen SO, Ava Horvitz SR, Ava Gowder SR, Lucinda Winlaw JR, Aliana Ballard SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2021 (2A-4th)

Overview – The Romans, in their first year in Class 1A, did what they needed to do to state finishing fourth at the Kankakee McNamara Sectional. Latin School is strong on their first three runners led by one of the favorites in the race Mia Kotler. Ellen Anderson could be among the top runners in this race finishing in the top 15. Ruby Larsen is the team’s third runner but almost two minutes last week behind Anderson. Their overall split on their top five runners is close to five minutes.


Lombard (Montini Catholic)

Sectional Runners – Sydney Gertsen SO, Ashlynn Lindt SO, Annalee Defeo JR, Rosie Callaghan FR, Naomy Gonzalez JR, Maryfaith Considine FR, Yeon Park JR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2015 (2A-12th)

Overview - The Broncos make it to state for the first time in eight years by finishing fifth by three points to Latin School at the Kankakee Sectional. Montini has their strength in the front with top 10 finishers Sydney Gertsen and Ashlynn Lindt capable of finishing in the top 25. Gertsen won’t be a surprise if she finishes in the top 10. Their 3-5 split last week led by Annalee Defeo was 46 seconds. Their overall top five split was close to four minutes.


Champaign (St. Thomas More)

Sectional Runners – Paige Stark JR, Alex Anderson FR, Francie Williamson JR, Skyler Anderson SR, Claire Kluesner FR, Natasha Constable FR, Ava Stark.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2019 (11th)

Overview – St. Thomas More makes it back to Detweller Park for the first time in four years after finishing fourth at the St. Teresa Sectional. The team relies on a tight pack on their top 5 runners. It was 43 seconds last week. One senior is in this top seven along with four freshman in the group. Paige Stark was the top runner most of the season. She led freshman Alex Anderson by 26 seconds last Saturday. A tighter pack and move it closer to the front gets this team into the top 15.



Sectional Runners – MaKayla Koeppel SR, Lydia Cahill JR, Adyson Beebe JR, Maddi Leonard JR, Amerie Hemphill JR, Addie Koritz SR, Brielle Morrison JR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 1993 (13th)

Overview – Clinton overcame the loss of their top runner Lexi Lord and made it to state finishing sixth at the Decatur St. Teresa Sectional. It will be the first time that Clinton’s Girls team will run as a team at Detweiller Park. MaKayla Koeppel is the team’s top runner as she finished 10 in Decatur ahead of the rest of the team by close to 100 seconds. The 2-5 split led by Lydia Cahill was at 54 seconds. Cutting the split between Koeppel and the pack to under 70 seconds would be a plus for this team.


Toulon (Stark County)

Sectional Runners – Dusti Smith FR, Cheyenh Smith SO, Alexis Martinez JR, Keagan Hamilton JR, Paytin Terwilliger SO, Sarah Kraklow JR, Haylie Moodie SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2018 (19th)

Overview – Stark County is a young team with all of their top seven runners underclassmen. Dusti Smith finished fifth to help the Rebels make it to the state meet by finishing fourth at the Oregon Sectional. Smith is a runner you can expect finish among the top 25 runners in the first race of the day. Smith should be close to two minutes ahead of the rest of her team. The split on the rest of the scorers led by Cheyenh Smith can be estimated to be near 60 seconds.


Belleville (Althoff Catholic)

Sectional Runners – Breigh Desmond FR, Bethany Kee FR, Brooke Gillum SR, Charlotte Talafuse SR, Ava Lock FR, LilliAna Roberson JR, Isabella Border FR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2005 (24th)

Overview – The Crusaders will make it back to Peoria for the first time in 18 years after finishing fourth at the Benton Sectional helped by four freshmen runners in the top seven. Breigh Desmond, one of their freshmen, led the team finishing eight overall and within a top 25 finish. Desmond finished more than 2 minutes ahead of another freshman Bethany Lee and Brooke Gillum. The top five split from Benton was just over three minutes.


Aurora (Central Catholic)

Sectional Runners – Cecilia Hilby SO, Sofia Orozco FR, Ailidzie Perez FR, Cayla Oldenburger JR, Olivia Koral SR, Nicole Smith JR, Isabella Matty SO.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2014 (14th)

Overview – The Girls team from Aurora Central Catholic have not raced in the state meet since 2014. They will get their chance on Saturday after finishing third at the Oregon Sectional. Cecilia Hilby has been one of the top runners in the races she has competed in this season. Hilby finishing in the top 15 would be no surprise. Freshmen Sofia Orozco and Ailidzie Perez were nearly two minutes behind Hilby in the state series but will lead a 4 runner pack keep their split at 3 minutes.



Sectional Runners – Sarah Link FR, Jessie DeNeve FR, Chloe Stock JR, Clara Ashdown SR, Alana Little FR, Taylor Robshaw FR, Brooke Lalley SR.

FIRST State Meet Appearance

Overview – The Panthers finished sixth at the Oregon Sectional finishing two points ahead of Rockford Christian. Freshman Sarah Link continued her season with an eight place sectional finish. Link might be a runner to keep an eye on up front in Saturday’s race. The team’s top five split is over three minutes. If lowered, the team could finish among the top 20 teams.



Sectional Runners – Alexia Spatz JR, Savannah Wells SO, Emerson Wold SO, Jasmine McCaskel SR, Olivia Popp SO, Pola Frys JR, Alexis Buntenbach JR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (26th)

Overview – The Rockets make it back to the state meet after finishing fifth at Oregon. Alexia Spatz was among the top 10 runners in the race. Savannah Wells was a minute behind Spatz. RB has a split over three minutes that might make it tough for the team get near to the top 20.



Sectional Runners – Maggie Kellerman JR, Isabella Phillips JR, Lainey Miller SR, Alyssa White FR, Ava Gregory SO, Hannah Swiney FR, Olivia Numi SR.

Last State Meet Appearance – 2021 (11th)

Overview – DuQuoin only missed one state meet failing to qualify for state last year. The Indians will have a big split on their top five. They still made it back to the state meet placing fifth to return to the state meet. Maggie Kellerman, who finished 17th at Benton, and Isabella Phillips, who was 80 seconds behind Kellerman, are the top two runners for DuQuoin. Their split should get to close to four minutes in this race.


Breese (Mater Dei)

Sectional Runners – Emma Diekemper SO, Finley Haag FR, Ryann Becker SR, Reid Emig SO, Coryn Toennies SR, Faith Foppe JR, Ashtyn Wheeler SO

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (16)

Overview – Mater Dei made it back to the state meet after finishing 16 in the 1A race in 2022. Emma Diekemper is the top runner for the Knights that should finish in the top 50. They could finish in the top 25 if they can lower their top five split from 3 and a half minutes down to two and a half minutes.


Elgin (Harvest Christian Academy)

Sectional Runners – Caitlyn Terrien SR, Emma Leslie SR, Daphne Brown JR, Leslie Uriostegui SO, Gloria Gonzalez SR, Sophie Lang SO, Julia Winkelman SO

Last State Meet Appearance – 2022 (27th)

Overview -  Top runners Caitlyn Terrien and Emma Leslie finished within 18 seconds of each other to help the Lions finish sixth and qualify for the state meet ahead of Beecher by nine seconds. HCA ran a 2 minute split on their top five runners. The Lions ran their best race of the season last Saturday but could run faster like they have a week later at the state meet.