Halloween already had passed, but it didn’t matter to Kelsey Schrader, Monica York and the rest of the DeKalb girls cross country team in 2011.
Schrader wore an M&M costume to school one day in early November while the rest of the team joined her with crazy mismatched outfits of their own. Current senior Kayla Federici even donned a small princess costume, Schrader recalls.
It was all part of the team’s self-proclaimed crazy dress-up day, a team-bonding exercise put together in celebration of the team qualifying for the state meet the previous weekend. It was the first time DeKalb had qualified as a team since 2006.
“Honestly, that has been the best week of my high school experience so far,” Schrader said. “It was so much fun making it as a team.”
DeKalb is looking to make it back to state this season and is led by four seniors – Schrader, York, Federici and Sara Schafer – who all were part of the 2011 team as sophomores.
Over the years the four have developed into a tight-knit group.
“I’ve loved it, it’s been really great,” York said . “We’ve gotten closer as the years have gone on. It’s been more and more fun with each year.”
Schrader, Schafer and Federici came out for cross country as freshmen in 2010. DeKalb coach Mike Wolf knew there was some talent there, but the Barbs also carried a number of experienced upperclassmen.
Schrader made it to state individually, the first of three consecutive appearances, and finished 38th in Class 3A.
The following year York joined them as sophomores and made an immediate impact. The Barbs finished fifth at the Class 2A Belvidere Sectional to earn the final team qualifying spot.
“We were ranked like eight or nine in the sectional so we weren’t expected to go down,” York said. “We really came together for that sectional race.”
The Barbs took ninth at state as Schrader finished as the state runner-up while York was DeKalb’s second finisher in 59th.
In 2012, DeKalb struggled as York battled through an injury-riddled season. Schrader again qualified for state individually, finishing 10th in the Class 3A race.
But this season the Barbs have been relatively healthy. Schrader has continued to solidify herself as one of the top runners in the state while York looks to have regained the speed she showed as a sophomore.
“I think they’re in a good spot right now mentally,” Wolf said. “They ran well at conference. They really are starting to gel a little bit. They saw that happening a little bit on Saturday.”
But as experienced veterans, DeKalb’s seniors aren’t looking too far ahead. Instead, they’ll use their last cross country season as extra motivation to extend their season.
And maybe Schrader will get to wear that M&M costume one more time.
“We definitely want to focus on this week, regionals and just doing our best there and trying to beat some pretty good teams,” Schrader said. “Going into a regional meet with four seniors, that’s something that can really propel you ahead of other teams. It could be our last race together and that can really motivate you.”