SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Lalowski won the Rock River Run, finishing the three-mile course in 18:23 and helping Sycamore to an eighth-place finish.
“She’s still been improving a ton,” Sycamore coach Adam Bezinovich said. “That’s still a big, big win in terms of a meet.”
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kaneland at Pretzel Invite, 9:30 a.m. Saturday
Knights quickly get back into racing at Freeport’s invitational this weekend.
DeKalb at Burlington Central Invite, 4:15 p.m., Tuesday
Barbs prime for a busy week with a meet at Burlington before going to Sterling next Saturday.
POWER RANKINGS (GIRLS)
1. Kelsey Schrader, sr., DeKalb
2. Maggie Lalowski, sr., Sycamore
3. Brianna Bower, so., Kaneland
4. Victoria Clinton, jr., Kaneland
5. Monica York, sr., DeKalb
6. Sara Schafer, sr., DeKalb
7. Stephanie Cole, sr., Sycamore
8. Hannah Cerny, so., Sycamore
9. Erika Carlson, sr., Kaneland
10. Emma Conway, fr., DeKalb
NOTEBOOK: DeKalb freshman Conway steps up
DeKalb has relied on its senior class for the bulk of the regular season, but one of its freshmen stepped up last Saturday in the Charger Classic.
Freshman Emma Conway finished as the Barbs’ fourth runner, finishing in 20:46 and placing 77th.
“She’s made some big jumps pretty quickly,” DeKalb coach Mike Wolf said. “She’s gotten a little more of her running legs, a little more acclimated to the racing.”
Wolf said sophomores Gaby Bogolin and Tessa Gridley have helped Conway in races, giving her a steady pace.
“They have steadily improved so far this season,” Wolf said. “We’re really pleased with their development.”
Together, the underclassmen have provided nice depth for DeKalb, especially as the Barbs try to get healthy.
Senior Kayla Federici is battling shin splits and was held out of last weekend’s meet, but Wolf said they are aiming to get Federici back in the lineup soon.
Sycamore boys on a plateau
Sycamore coach Mike Lambdin admits his team has hit a bit of a plateau in the middle of the long and grueling season.
Since the First to the Finish race in Peoria in mid-September, Lambdin hasn’t seen any progression.
“We’re at the end of our hardest training phase, so our legs are tired and I think it is showing in our races,” Lambdin said. “We should start to feel stronger from now until the end of the year.”
Sycamore had been doing longer interval runs, but will start to cut back on the distance and add in some things that have a little more quality. Lambdin hopes it will lead to a “sharper, fresher team” as the postseason nears.
Like DeKalb, the Sycamore girls team has relied on a solid senior class. But sophomore Hannah Cerny is running about 90 seconds faster than her times as a freshman.
“She’s moved up all the way to the three position,” Sycamore coach Adam Bezinovich said. “She started at the five at the beginning of the year.”
Cerny finished in 33rd place in the Rock River Run and was just one second behind Sycamore’s No. 2 runner, Stephanie Cole.
VIEWS: Tricky to maneuver through start of races
Anyone who says running isn’t a contact sport hasn’t experienced the first 100 meters of a cross country race.
Hundreds of runners are packed into a small starting area, sprinting at the starter’s gun and usually funneling into a smaller space down the course, all fighting for position.
Runners aren’t polite, either.
Elbows aren’t necessarily thrown, but get too close to another runner and you might run into one, usually of the bony variety. Don’t pay enough attention to the runner in front or make a sudden shift that another person doesn’t see coming and spikes might be felt on your calf.
It’s why many consider the start to be the most tricky and dangerous part of cross country races. Coaches at the start only hope to see their runners make it through before running off to watch the race and take splits from along the course.
Although most races go off without incident, Sycamore’s Mark Stice got tangled up in the starting mess last weekend and was knocked down at the start.
It’s an experience no runner wants to go through. The prerace gameplan almost immediately gets thrown out the window. Thoughts quickly turn to how it happened and why.
Because of the lost time and rhythm, along with the added shock of falling to the back of the pack, it’s almost impossible to overcome an early fall. And it makes Stice’s eighth-place finish that much more impressive.
The result probably wasn’t what the Sycamore senior envisioned going into the race, but it undoubtedly will help him down the road.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.