The trail to another successful season turned bumpy last week for the OPRF girls' cross-country team.
Marianne Kirk, who ran in the State finals last season and helped the Huskies to 16th place overall, last week suffered a stress fracture in her leg and is expected to miss six weeks of competition. The loss of Kirk and the departure of last year's top runner Elaine Zelby, who before graduating placed ninth overall in 2004 with a time of 18:04, could hinder the Huskies' goal of reaching the State finals for the fourth consecutive year.
But with experienced State runners and a star freshman on the team, OPRF should pull through.
Returning to the lineup along with Kirk are seniors and former State finalists Jenny Donley and Meghan Keifer. Donley, a captain on the team, is expected to be OPRF's frontrunner.
"We're expecting a lot of good things from Jenny this season," said Sarah McCabe, who enters her 17th season as head coach. "Unfortunately, with the injury to Marianne, we'll be asking everyone on the team to step up and give us that little extra effort."
Alison Rack also returns to OPRF's lineup this season. As a sophomore last season, Rack finished the State finals with the Huskies' third best mark (108, 19:21.89).
Others who are expected to factor into the Huskies' top seven include Chelsea Chrisman, Katie Hopkins, Jenny Corkle, and freshman phenom Olivia Bird, who won the Illinois Elementary School Association State meet a year ago while at Julian Middle School.
The arrival of Bird couldn't come at a better time for OPRF. Nearly every team in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference can boast a top freshman runner this season.
"Hinsdale Central has two young runners, York and LT have All-State returnees as well as new recruits, so we'll have our work cut out for us," said McCabe, whose Huskies finished fifth at the WSC Meet last season. "The good news is Marianne should be back by the time the conference meet rolls around."
The OPRF boys' team is expected to be led by Brendan Murphy, who spent much of last season on the sidelines with a stress fracture to his shin. Murphy healed in time to compete in the State tournament last season, helping his team win the Fenwick Regional.
"Brendan hasn't complained about it at all," said OPRF head coach Jose Sosa. "We think it's totally healed."
This season, a healthy Murphy will be flanked by seniors Ken Ptack, Kris Rey-Talley and Nick Blench, all of whom were members of the regional title team last year.
Other experienced runners able to lend support include seniors Todd Teren, Andrew Viana, and Joe Petrone.
Junior John Binder and sophomore Patrick Geoghen will also compete for the top seven positions.
"The lineup can always change as things develop," said Sosa, alluding to a few freshmen who have potential to compete at the varsity level. "It's never set in stone."
The Huskies will try and improve on last season's fourth place finish in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference. York and Downers Grove North are both ranked in the Top 15.
"Another regional title is certainly attainable," said Sosa, "but the sectional will be awfully tough again. Hopefully we'll be in a position to surprise some people." Fenwick
Jack Gerstner and Mark Spadavecchia return to the Fenwick boys' cross-country team this season. The seniors helped the Friars finish second in their own regional last season, and along with Matt McGillan, kicked off this season with a first place team finish at the St. Patrick Invitational last week.
Gerstner took top honors in the race by finishing in 16:09, while Spadavecchia placed second (16:11) and McGillan fourth (16:44).
With Claire Kissane and Cailley Chakeen graduated, the Fenwick girls' team will rely on runners Liz Boyle and Bridget O'Neil. Boyle already led the Friars to first place at the St. Patrick Invitational with a time of 19:44. O'Neil took third in 20:08.
The Blazers also scorched a path at the St. Patrick Invitational, finishing third as a team with a total score of 70.
Lindsey Purl and Trish Fornek led the way with fourth (20:33) and fifth (20:43) place finishes respectively.