New Trier girls among the nation’s best cross country teams
New Trier's Mimi Smith runs in the Roy Gummerson Cross Country Invitational at Schiller Woods on Sept. 24, 2011. | Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Boys Runners to Watch
Niles North, sr.
The three-year varsity runner is looking to qualify for the state meet for the first time in his career. He earned all-CSL North honors his first two seasons.
New Trier, sr.
Kaplan is the top returning runner on the Trevians after the graduation of last season’s fastest two, including Class 3A state champion Leland Later. Kaplan placed 100th at the state meet as junior as the team took 11th overall.
He ran behind Todd Ford and William Hague last year, but Kelly now is one of team’s leaders. He’s looking to improve on his 142nd-place finish at last season’s Class 3A state meet and to lead the Ramblers up the leader board.
Glenbrook North, sr.
Finally healthy after struggling through injuries throughout his career, Cheung won the team’s preseason time trial.
Maine South, sr.
Taylor made huge strides last year, and coach Greg Nordahl believes the senior is capable of even more improvement. He ran in a lineup that captured the regional championship a year ago.
New Trier, jr.
Trapp ran on a state-qualifying team last year and is expected to be more of a contributor this season after the loss of the 2011 team’s two top runners.
Maine South, sr.
Vaccaro is expected to be the team’s top performer. Last season he ran behind Zach Eckhart, who has since graduated. With Vaccaro setting the pace, the Hawks could be CSL South’s best club this year.
Daniel Amram, Glenbrook N., sr.
Emmett Barr, Niles North, sr.
Teddy Brombach, Loyola, jr.
Jack Carpenter, Maine South, jr.
Kevin Dolan, Maine South, sr.
Saul Lopez, Maine East, sr.
Anthony Misiak, Maine East, so.
David O’Gara, Glenbrook S., jr.
Chase Silverman, New Trier, jr.
Justin Suh, Niles North, sr.
Updated: October 1, 2012 4:29PM
WINNETKA — In her first year at New Trier, Mimi Smith finished 10th in the Class 3A cross country state meet and helped the Trevians win their first-ever team state title.
New Trier coach John Burnside said Smith will be even better in her sophomore season after she gave up soccer to concentrate on running full time in the summer.
“The big thing with Mimi is that she is now legitimately a distance runner,” he said. “She’s solely training to be a runner. It’s a different kind of training than she was used to with soccer. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, but it’s going to benefit her greatly.”
Smith seemed to downplay the transition, but agreed it’s more demanding.
“The opportunity to run for New Trier was great,” Smith said. “I knew to run at that competitive of a level, I needed to do it all the time. Some of the workouts are hard, but you get used to it.”
Once again, Smith will run alongside senior twins Courtney and Jessica Ackerman, each of whom is back for a fourth varsity season. All three finished in the top 11 at state for the Trevians, who beat Wheaton-Warrenville South by a wide margin at Detweiller Park in Peoria last fall.
Although the Trevians — ranked No. 4 in the country by ESPN’s Dyestat — look to be the state title favorite again this season, but Burnside quickly pumps the brakes on that talk.
“Being the defending state champions I am not sure means a whole heck of a lot,” Burnside said. “We know we need to be sharp because there are teams out there that are stronger, too. Wheaton-Warrenville South has four of its five back, and Maine South’s two are as good as anybody’s.”
Maine South junior Emily Leonard was sixth, and her teammate, senior Megan Lemersal, was ninth at the state meet last year.
“We can’t be as good as we were last year,” Burnside said. “If we are, someone will step in front of us.”
Maine south ready to move on
Last season’s heartbreak fueled Jack Carpenter’s offseason.
After the Maine South boys cross country team finished sixth at the Class 3A Niles West Sectional last year — one spot away from qualifying for the state meet — the junior ran harder than ever during the summer in an effort to escape the memory. He is one of five runners to return from the lineup that helped the Hawks win their first-ever Class 3A regional championship.
“I really stepped up my training, and I’m in the best shape of my life,” Carpenter said. “Things are looking good, and I won’t be satisfied unless we end up on that podium at the state meet.”
Also returning to Maine South are seniors Jon Vaccaro, Robbie Taylor, Kevin Dolan and Stephen Lavelle.
“All of them had great summers,” Hawks coach Greg Nordahl said. “No one wants a repeat of last year. It was disappointing, and we are using it as motivation.”
Maine South should be one of the favorites — along with New Trier and Niles North — in the CSL this season. The Hawks are ranked No. 6 in Mike Newman’s Dyestat poll. The Trevians, who graduated state champion Leland Later, are ranked No. 10, and the Vikings are No. 16.
Maine South’s strength last season was running as a pack. The team’s scoring split at the CSL meet was 22 seconds. Vaccaro figures to be the headliner this season after Zach Eckhart led the team most of last year, but Carpenter won’t be far behind.
“Jack has made a huge amount of progress,” Nordahl said. “Jon (Vaccaro has) been an excellent leader, and he’s finally healthy now.”
Carpenter made cross country a priority once he arrived at Maine South.
“It took me some time to develop into a runner,” he said. “It’s rare someone can pick it up right away and be good. It took a lot of hard work and training to get where I am today.” ~
Although Carpenter believes that there is some pressure on the Hawks this season because of their preseason ranking, he doesn’t mind.
“I can’t pay attention to that,” he said. “There is a lot for us to prove, but I think this group is ready.”
Maine South opens its season on Saturday at the Lyons Invitational. The host Lions are ranked No. 4 in the Chicago area.~.