The Insider: Cross Country

SPOTLIGHT ON...

Monica York, sr., DeKalb

York was the top DeKalb finisher at the Plainfield Central Invite on Saturday, placing 11th in 19:25.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sycamore, DeKalb, Kaneland at Peoria First to the Finish Invite, 11 a.m. today

The three Northern Illinois Big 12 East schools head down to Peoria to run on the state course for the first time this season in a big invitational.

GIRLS POWER RANKINGS

1. Kelsey Schrader, sr., DeKalb

2. Victoria Clinton, jr., Kaneland

3. Brianna Bower, so., Kaneland

4. Maggie Lalowski, sr., Sycamore

5. Monica York, sr., DeKalb

6. Kayla Federici, sr., DeKalb

7. Stephanie Cole, sr., Sycamore

8. Sara Schafer, sr., DeKalb

9. Sydney Strang, sr., Kaneland

10. Jessica Kucera, jr., Kaneland

NOTES:

Sycamore's strong start: Sycamore coach Michael Lambdin felt coming into the season that his boys team had a chance to advance to state. A fourth-place finish at the Sycamore Invitational last week re-affirmed those aspirations.

It also gave Sycamore some notoriety as the Spartans are now ranked 18th in the state in Class 2A, according to DyeStat Illinois.

"Some of the boys, Mark Stice, Jason Ruetten, Jordan Peterson, there's a core of them, that really had a nice summer," Lambdin said. "The success that we had in that first meet really made them start believing that our goal of racing at state is very realistic. 

The Spartans will be running at Peoria today and they'll use the weekend as a dress rehearsal for if they do get to state.

"We'll run the schedule on Friday as far as meals, practice that we're going to run if we do qualify for the state meet at the end of the year," Lambdin said. "We always like going to meets where there's strong competition."

Barbs teaming up: Both of DeKalb's teams will also be competing at the First to the Finish Invite in Peoria today and the Barbs will be employing a race strategy that should see teammates running together.

DeKalb coach Mike Wolf will be running all of the boys teams together to see how they respond when being pushed by teammates.

"That will give us a chance to see how they can race together," Wolf said. "We're working on getting some of the younger guys to hang with the older guys and vice versa."

On the girls side, Wolf has seen seniors Sara Schafer and Kayla Federici run with each other to start the season, but today will be a much different environment.

"Sara and Kayla ran really well together in the first two meets," Wolf said. "We're hoping to do that again in a bigger race with lots of girls around."

VIEWS: Wrong turns happen to the best of us

Fifteen years ago, my friend Ruby Palmore made a wrong turn.

Leading the fifth-grade city championship cross country race, Palmore momentarily forgot the course path. The one-mile route at Woodward Park in Fresno, Cali. wasn't new to her. She'd run on it several times before, including at a meet just a few weeks before. It was our home course away from school.

Luckily for Palmore every girl in the race followed her lead as the entire pack eventually meandered back to the actual course and finished as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The times were a little slower than usual, but the order wasn't changed.

DeKalb senior Kelsey Schrader did the same thing as Palmore on Saturday at Plainfield Central.

But nobody followed.

DeKalb coach Mike Wolf said Schrader was leading with about 400 meters to go when she made a wrong turn, running about 100 meters in the wrong direction before realizing she had made a mistake. By the time Schrader got back to the course and finished, she had dropped from 1st to 12th.

Similar to Palmore, Schrader wasn't unfamiliar with the course. It was the fourth time she'd run there in high school, winning two of those races. There weren't any surprises.

Was there a minor distraction? A momentary loss of focus? It's impossible to know exactly why something like that occurs.

Yet it happens, and often to the best of us.

Three years later as an eighth-grader, Palmore would win an unofficial state championship at Mt. San Antonio College, the world's largest cross country invitational. In fact, Palmore didn't lose a race for three years following her wrong turn.

Schrader has much loftier ambitions than just winning an early-season Saturday invitational. She's finished in the top 10 at the state meet the past two years and will be one of the favorites to win the Class 2A state championship this fall.

Schrader may have to make do with a week's worth of "Wrong Way Schrader" comments, but it's almost certain that race won't be how she or anyone else at DeKalb remembers her senior season or her running career.

Wrong turns can still lead to good things. Something like that will probably never happen again for Schrader as it never did for Palmore.

It certainly wasn't anything Schrader or Palmore had planned, but sometimes taking the scenic route isn't so bad.

Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at rjacobson@shawmedia.com