As tight finishes go, it will be hard for the girls teams at Saturday’s Fox Valley Conference Meet to top last year’s finish.
Four teams finished within 14 points of each other at the top, with Prairie Ridge edging Huntley by two points for the team title.
The FVC is loaded with talented girls teams again, four of which are listed in the Class 2A rankings by the running website ilxctf.com. Crystal Lake Central, which finished FVC duals unbeaten, Crystal Lake South, Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove should produce another close finish Saturday at the McHenry Township Park.
The girls race will start at 10 a.m., with the boys race following.
“It’s a really tough conference, again,” South coach Ken Greenfield said. “There are some really strong programs and coaches in the FVC.”
Prairie Ridge took third at the last two Class 2A State Meets, South was sixth in 2019 and 15th in 2018. Central’s freshman group, led by Hadley Ferrero and Brynn Matthaei, has helped make the Tigers a favorite.
“It is going to be a fun and exciting girl’s race as there are three or four teams with a legitimate shot to win it,” Central coach Brett Willhoit said. “It will really come down to which team can execute the best that day.
“We have a nice mix of savvy veterans like Annie Ferrero and Emma Macke helping bring along a solid group of freshmen. This group of freshmen (including Addison Bechler and Franchesca Liparoto) has all made serious contributions to the team’s success.”
Hadley Ferrero will be one of the girls individual favorites, along with Prairie Ridge’s Rachel Soukup, South’s two-time defending champion Bella Gonzalez, Jacobs’ Kelly Carpenter and C-G’s Jocelyn Onstot.
Prairie Ridge lost Rylee Lydon, who won the Class 3A 400 meters at the IHSA Girls State Track and Field Meet and is now concentrating on that sport, but still has a strong group returning with Soukup, Sophie Robinson, Bridget Jewell, Olivia McPherson and Addison Taege.
“Rachel has been awesome this year,” Wolves coach Kelly MacDonald said. “She has been running great. If she remains healthy, she should be one of the top kids in the conference.
“There are a lot of big ifs this year. We have had our share of injuries and respiratory issues (non-COVID). We need to be healthy and run an awesome race on Saturday. I do have some strong runners, it will be tough to compete on the same level.”
South is intriguing because its Nos. 2 and 3 runners, Abby Machesky and Addie Frisch, were nagged by injuries over the summer. Greenfield pushed their timetable back, but they are back now. The Gators return most of a group that won the Class 2A Lakes Sectional team title last year.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Greenfield said. “I just keep emphasizing with the girls that we’re working toward our best race. They’re training and racing at a very high level right now and I hope we can continue to build on that.”
Defending champion Crystal Lake Central should again contend in the boys race. Hampshire, Huntley and Jacobs appear to be the other top teams.
Burlington Central’s Yusuf Baig is the boys individual favorite. Prairie Ridge’s Will Gelon and C-G’s Ian Barnes are two of the other top runners.