DeKalb – DeKalb junior Kelsey Schrader knows what it feels like to lead a state championship cross country race, and she knows what it’s like to have designs on winning the Class 2A championship with just half a mile to go.
The adrenaline pumped through her veins last year at Detweiller Park in Peoria as hundreds of fans lined the path to watch her battle with Crystal Lake Central freshman Sami Staples for the lead. Schrader was exhausted after pushing too hard too early, and she dropped off in the last 600 meters in the race, finishing behind Staples by four seconds.
This year, Schrader is going back to Peoria for the state finals, but this time she’ll be running in Class 3A. She’s glad she has the experience of leading the Class 2A race in tow.
“I think it really prepares me because I was able to have the experience of thinking that I could possibly win the state meet down to the last 800 meters or so,” Schrader said.
“I really have the experience of knowing what it feels like, what the mental aspect of that is, knowing regrets that I’ve had from that race and being able to switch it up this year.”
In 2012, Schrader said she’s become a smarter runner. She knows to not let adrenaline get the better of her, and to wait until she’s instructed to break from the pack.
She’s also much faster.
After running 17:42 at last season’s sectional, Schrader won the Class 3A St. Charles East Sectional with a time of 16:57, the second fastest time in the four Class 3A sectionals.
“I think I’m stronger mentally,” Schrader said. “I’ve been able to overcome barriers in the race … Every race, you’ll experience a time when your body knows that you can still continue, but your mind wants to stop, and it just keeps fighting you and wants you to give in and slow down. You’ve got to tell yourself, ‘No, I can do it,’ so I can continue.”
Her competition on Saturday will be fierce. Glenbard West junior Madeline Perez’s time was 19 seconds faster than Schrader in the Class 3A Skokie Sectional.
She’ll head down to Peoria on Friday along with Marc Dubrick, who qualified indiviudually on the boys side.
Dubrick finished the 10th at the sectional meet last weekend in a time of 15:17, the 36th fastest sectional time in the state. The senior has his sights set on a top 25 spot, which would earn him all-state honors.
Normally a slow starter, Dubrick thinks he started off the sectional race too fast, something he’ll try to correct on Saturday. That will be tough considering that Detweiller is one of the fastest courses in the state.
“I feel better when I start out slow and conservative,” Dubrick said. “I need to rethink strategy, because everyone goes out fast.”
Dubrick finished 61st at the state meet last year, and initially he wasn’t confident he could top that in Class 3A this year. Now, his sights are set higher.
“I wasn’t as confident early in the season, but once I realized that I was a pretty strong runner and I was pretty consistent with how I raced that I could qualify this season if I had a good race,” Dubrick said. “Placing all-state has been one of my goals throughout high school. Now that we’re 3A, it’s a big deal.”