Fenwick High School girls cross country coach Latoya Zubowicz-Hill likes how her team is looking at the start of her debut season.
“We feel confident entering the season with numerous juniors and seniors with varsity experience,” said Zubowicz-Hill, who replaced longtime coach Kevin Roche. “This group of upperclassmen has helped me as a new coach to the program tremendously.”
Fenwick returns five of last year’s top seven runners, including sophomore Romy Bergetz, juniors Emma Brennan and Kyra Miller and seniors Amalia Anderson and Ireland Reynoso.
Senior Anna Scholten, who was unable to race last year, returns to supply further depth for the Friars.
“Anna is disciplined and talented and will be one of our top performers this season,” Zubowicz-Hill said. “She and freshman Julianna Gamboa can often be seen leading practices. They have qualities that every coach hopes for when developing runners.”
Three more freshmen, Allison Austin, Lilly Kotynek and Isabella Lefko, could play a role on the varsity this fall.
“We have a strong team atmosphere, which usually leads to a successful season,” Zubowicz-Hill said. “We’re excited to see how our girls grow as a team and in racing as the season goes on.”
Highlights of Fenwick’s schedule include the St. Ignatius Connelly Invitational and the Peoria Invitational on the course where the IHSA state meet takes place.
In the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference, Zubowicz-Hill sees Loyola Academy and St. Ignatius (her alma mater) as the top teams. She also feels DePaul Prep, Nazareth Academy, Rosary and Trinity are strong programs.
“We want to continue to grow as a team and develop a strong mentality of racing,” Zubowicz-Hill said. “Having new coaches [assistants Liam Walsh and Father Chris Johnson] means getting to know the returning runners and continuing to build upon the successes of coach Roche and previous traditions while also developing new traditions. We are looking to have a strong showing in conference and work towards getting our top runners to state.”
State-qualifier McGreal returns to pace Trinity
The Trinity High School cross-country team hopes to build off a modestly successful 2022 season, which saw the Blazers place third in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division meet and have two runners merit all-conference honors.
One of those honorees, sophomore Molly McGreal, is back after qualifying for the IHSA Class 2A state meet with a personal-best time of 19:00 at the Kaneland sectional.
“Molly will look to build on what was a fantastic freshman year in both cross-country and track,” said Trinity coach Johann Gonzalez.
Trinity’s other key returnees include senior Myla Roy and junior Jade Morelli, who were both part of the 3200-meter relay team that qualified for the Class 2A track and field state meet in the spring.
Seniors Anais Fernandez, Andrea Garcia, and Amy Vargas supply the Blazers with further depth. Moreover, Gonzalez feels he has a talented group of freshmen who has the potential to contribute to the varsity later this season.
“We had a big senior class that graduated and left spots to be filled,” Gonzalez said. “We look at it as an excellent opportunity for some of the other athletes to step up and help the team achieve our season goals.”
One of those goals for Trinity will be development of its newcomers. Gonzalez believes that once it happens, he’ll have a better understanding of each runner’s capabilities and be able to establish a regular lineup.
“When I ran cross-country my junior year, our t-shirt quote was “the road to success has no shortcuts,” Gonzalez said. “We will need to work harder than we ever have before in order to achieve what we believe can be a successful season. Nothing will be given; everything will need to be earned.”