Improvisation has become a daily habit for Emily Schilling.
The Indian Creek junior is anything but traditional in her approach to year-round sports training as school and club circumstances have forced her to do things a little bit differently than the normal high school athlete.
Indian Creek doesn’t field a cross country team in the fall or an indoor track team during the winter. So after Schilling emerged as one of the best Class 1A middle distance runners in the state in May, recording two top-seven finishes, she had to find ways to stay in shape and keep her stamina until this spring.
During the past 10 months, Schilling went back and forth training between the DeKalb County Prairie Runners club program and her Northern Illinois FC soccer team.
“It’s hard. It’s definitely a lot of effort and it’s a lot of commitment to both, both sports,” Schilling said. “Choosing which practices and which meets over games. I try to balance them both out and try to make the best out of both of them.”
Even in the spring, Schilling’s schedule doesn’t become any less complicated as she’ll switch between Indian Creek’s soccer and track and field teams.
But Schilling hopes the hard work she put in over that time will pay off in another successful track season.
Although she had practiced with the Prairie Runners in previous years, Schilling made it a point to compete in more meets, sticking with the program through indoor track by driving up to DeKalb for workouts.
“I definitely feel a lot stronger just because I did cross country for a lot longer, and I’ve been staying fit, especially with track and soccer,” Schilling said. “I’ve been trying to make sure I attend more practices and work my hardest to the best of my ability.”
Schilling was seventh in the 800-meters at state last year and took fifth in the 1,600, a race that saw the top four spots claimed by seniors who have since graduated. In addition, Indian Creek’s soccer team won a regional championship.
Schilling will continue to balance soccer and track and is hoping to drop her times in both races by about eight seconds each.
Where, when and how will that improvement happen?
She’ll probably determine it on the fly.
“Definitely I want to improve my times, especially in the mile. I want to get my time down,” Schilling said. “I think the harder I train and the better people I run with is definitely going to help me.”
PREP GIRLS TRACK ANF FIELD PREVIEW CAPSULES
Coach: Stefan Hueber (first season)
Key returners: Kara Alvarez, jr., sprints/jumps; Kelsey Schrader, sr., distance; Savannah Long, so., sprints/hurdles; Brittney Patrick, so., sprints/jumps; Monica York, sr., distance; Savannah Price, jr., throws
Impact newcomers: Alecia Balli, fr., sprints/middle distance; Hailee Vaughn-Dawkins, so., sprints
Outlook: The Barbs lost state champion triple jumper Jasmine Smith, but may have found a pretty good understudy last year in sophomore Brittney Patrick. She barely missed out on qualifying for the state meet in the long jump and should get there this year.
Schrader, the Daily Chronicle’s four-time Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, should also be a factor at state in the 3A distance races.
Hueber’s take: “The key factor is for us to stay healthy and to keep achieving our short-term goals. Hoping to have a top-four finish in the conference meet.”
Coach: Barry Schmidt (14th season)
Key returners: Brianna Kramer, sr., hurdles/sprints; Carly Fischer, so., throws; Brianna Campbell, so., middle distance; Felicia Olson, sr., sprints
Impact newcomers: Rachel Hughes, fr., jumps/sprints; Carli Schmidt, fr., jumps/sprints; Irene Vasquez, fr., sprints
Outlook: Schmidt said the team has a good core group of veterans that will provide leadership for a lot of new faces at G-K. Kramer qualified for state in the 300 hurdles last year and could make it to the finals as a senior.
Schmidt’s take: “Our sectional is very tough with many quality programs who place many athletes at state. Our goal is to be in the top half of the conference meet again and get three events down to state.”
Coach: Greg Burks (13th season)
Key returners: Kristen Clark, sr., middle distance; Katie Hoffman, sr., middle distance/300 hurdles; Emily Clark, jr., distance; Courtney Carls, so., jumps/sprints; Madison Davies, so., sprints; Sophia Peters, so., sprints
Impact newcomers: Emily Freriks, fr.; Audrey Harrod, fr.; Elena Halverson, fr.; Taylor Miller, fr.
Outlook: Kristen Clark will be one of the area’s best distance runners, battling with Indian Creek’s Emily Schilling for supremacy in the 800. She could be in contention for a medal when the state meet rolls around.
Burks’ take: “We have six returners who had a strong finish to the 2013 season and will mix in some new talent with the freshmen that we have.”
Coach: Dane Bell (10th season)
Key returners: Emily Schilling, jr., distance; Chantel Kyler, jr., high jump; Alexis Van Wyhe, so., hurdles; Samantha Mosley, sr., long jump
Impact newcomers: Tamara Ormond, distance
Outlook: Indian Creek had a fantastic season in 2013, qualifying six girls to the Class 1A state meet. Half of them – Schilling, Kyler and Van Wyhe – return and Schilling could be one of the favorites to win the state title in the 1,600.
Bell’s take: “The loss of three state qualifiers from last season is a tough one for a small school to suffer, but our team is fairly well-rounded with a few star athletes. If their work ethic can infect the rest of the squad then we should be in for another banner year.”
Coach: Doug Ecker (fourth season)
Key returners: Lauren Zick, sr., long jump / sprints; Christina Delach, sr., pole vault; Sydney Strang, sr., middle distance; Brianna Bower, so., distance; Allie Heinzer, so., sprints; Elle Tattoni, jr., throws; Jessica Kucera, jr., middle distance; Aislinn Lodwig, jr., middle distance
Impact newcomers: Nicole Sreenan, fr., sprints; Carly Elliott, fr., sprints; Maddie Keifer, fr., jumps; Becca Richtman, fr., middle distance; Taylor Eaves, jr., hurdles/sprints
Outlook: The strengths will be the sprints, relays and distance events for Kaneland, which took second in the Northern Illinois Big 12 last year and was the sectional champions.
Ecker’s take: “We have good numbers and quality girls; we have the opportunity to have a very well-rounded team but we need to develop the young ones in the field events and hurdles to replace seniors we lost in those events from last year.”
Coach: Joe McCormick
Key returners: Lilia Edwards, jr., jumps / hurdles; Christina Dailey, sr., jumps / sprints; Hannah Gross, sr. pole vault; Maggie Lalowski, sr., distance; Briana Iwans, sr., relays; Sarah Grant, sr., throws; Alyssa Feuerbach, so., throws;
Impact newcomers: Elena Edwards, fr., hurdles / jumps; Izzy Dobble, so., jumps / sprints; Claire Emmert, fr., distance
Outlook: Sycamore posted a good run at sectionals last year, qualifying a number of athletes through to state. Lilia Edwards will continue to be a force in the hurdles and jumps while Lalowski should continue to progress after a breakout cross country season.
– Ross Jacobson, email@example.com