CHANNAHON – After placing 13th at the IHSA Class 3A cross country meet as a sophomore, Natalie Waters qualified for state again last year but could not compete because of an injury.
The Lincoln-Way West senior is hoping that things will be different this fall. And after a busy summer schedule, she kicked off the new year in a big way Tuesday at the SouthWest Suburban Conference Preseason meet at Channahon Community Park.
Waters turned in a time of 18:46.7 over a course that slightly reconfigured because of the day’s heavy rains to win the girls title. Her effort was nearly 13 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Sandburg’s Casey Jensen.
“This summer, I was really dedicated to coming back to where I was performing in my sophomore year, or doing even better,” Waters said. “I went out to Colorado to train, so I’m hoping that this season turns out good. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I went into it. I didn’t know if I’d ever get back since I didn’t know how my body would react.”
Lincoln-Way Central received top-10 finishes from Madison Smith (third, 19:41.4), Heidi Killinger (fourth, 19:44.1) and Liz Venezio (eighth, 20:28.6).
Lockport had two finishers in the top six and two others among the initial dozen placers. Haley Beaumont (fifth, 20:20.1), Emily Hahn (sixth, 20:20.5), Alicia Ary (11th, 20:35.9) and Emily Stoklosa (12th, 20:37.0) led the way.
Porters coach Evon Schlotter is pleased with this year’s squad.
She retired from teaching this spring, but is back for her 35th year in coaching, including 29th in cross country.
“We’re missing some leaders from last year,” Schlotter said.
“So there’s a little bit of a leadership-lag and we’ll see if we can fix that. The girls are young, enthusiastic and energetic. Hopefully, if we can steer them in the right direction, they will be OK.”
Lincoln-Way East was led by Kristy Dertz (13th, 20:43.0) while Joliet West was paced by Charlotte Youell (14th, 20:50.0).
“We have an amazing group of young ladies this year,” Tigers coach Matt Almon said.
“From their work ethic, manners, school work, everything that they do is the definition of a student athlete. Our roster is full of great kids, and we have some tremendous runners.”
Tommy Kolacki, a senior from Lincoln-Way Central, claimed top honors in the boys race.
The three-year state qualifier who placed 49th last year in Class 3A, posted a winning time of 15:38.0.
“I was real happy with how I did,” Kolacki said. “There was definitely a lot of competition so I was real excited to be able to come in first. My main goal since I’ve been a freshman is to be all-state, so hopefully, I can do that this year after training real well over the summer.
“Ian Peterson also did real well for us and I think that we’ll have a real strong team this year.”
Raul Rosendo, a junior at Joliet Central who was a state qualifier last season, took second place after turning in a time of 15:46.6, to finish ahead of Kolacki’s Knights teammate, Ian Peterson (15:48.0), who placed third.
“I’m pretty happy with how I did, but I’m definitely not satisfied,” Rosendo said.
“The racing conditions weren’t like I thought they’d be. It was a lot muddier than I expected, and they changed the course and it was a little shorter.
“I thought that I had a pretty good chance of finishing in the top three, and I just stuck to it.”
The Knights had three others placers among the top 15 in the field. They were Andrew Robbins (ninth, 16:20.2), Jackson Waters (11th, 16:21.9) and Ben Alvarado (15th, 16:36.4).
Sandburg had six finishers among the top dozen. Bolingbrook was led by Johnathon Cook (sixth, 16:08.5) and Bjorn Shroda (14th, 16:34.7) while Lincoln-Way West’s top finisher was Evan Mitchell (13th, 16:28.2).