Lady Hilltoppers off to great start, looking for better finish
Glenbard West girls cross-country coach Paul Hass found it hard to place this year's squad among his other teams of recent vintage.
“It is difficult to place a rank on this team as the season progresses because, until the state meet concludes, we have not accomplished anything to compare to the others,” Hass told the DuPage Policy Journal. “As far as sheer potential goes, this team ranks among one of the best we have ever had.”
However, he added, potential is meaningless without results. So far this season, the Lady Hilltoppers have produced in a big way. Glenbard West won three titles at invitationals in the first three weeks, a run that included the Hornet-Red Devil Invitational. That meet had a field of teams including defending state champion Minooka; the Lady Hilltoppers won the meet by 16 points, Hass said.
It was a good way to bounce back for the Lady Hilltoppers from a season that Hass said in an earlier article in the DuPage Policy Journal didn't finish like the team wanted. Of course, that disappointment is relative for Glenbard West, which came in sixth at the 2015 Class 3A state meet. That was the program's lowest state-meet finish since 2011 and ended a run of three-straight seasons of placing at least third, including the 2013 state championship.
So in the offseason, the runners did many things to improve — logging thousands of miles of running collectively, incorporating methods to increase strength and avoid injuries, and employing training that is “aimed at ensuring that the team is running its best at the conclusion of the season,” Hass said.
There has been individual improvements already this season. Lindsey Payne, last season's state-meet individual runner-up, has improved her leadership, Hass said.
“In summer she organized runs and prodded others to get their work in by inviting them to meet her for runs on days when we did not have organized camp,” he said. “She cheers on and encourages every runner on the team in a manner that reflects her sweet nature.”
Also, Hass said Katie Hohe has become one of the top runners in the state; Chloe Connolly has emerged as a top-five runner on the varsity; Grace Oh has improved by more than two minutes over last year's times in each race this season; Abby Hoffman has elevated herself to varsity status after not being there last season; and Janie Nabholz has become a solid performer in the four/five spots.
Many challenges remain, as there are a cavalcade of strong teams in 3A this season. Hass cited several of them: Naperville North, Yorkville, Minooka, Wheaton South, Downers Grove South, New Trier, Palatine and Hinsdale Central. He added that there is “a host of others.”
Yet, he said Glenbard West is the only team the squad is concerned with.
“If we focus upon what we need to do to be at our best at the end of the season, then we have done all we needed to do, the rest will sort itself out,” he said.
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