Even when Jacobs’ Lauren Van Vlierbergen was nagged by injuries, her performances as a sophomore were remarkable.
Van Vlierbergen took seventh in the IHSA Class 3A Girls Cross Country State Meet, then followed that with a pair of top-five finishes in the Class 3A Track and Field State Meet.
Besides solidifying herself as an NCAA Division I prospect, Van Vlierbergen proved her toughness physically and mentally.
Golden Eagles coach Kevin Christian said of Van Vlierbergen’s talent that the sky is the limit. She will be one of the main storylines in the girls cross country season, which starts at 9 a.m. Saturday with the McHenry County Meet.
ON TOP OF HER GAME
Van Vlierbergen, now a junior, tweaked her right hip in the sectional track meet, but it did not slow her a bit. The Eagles’ 4x800-meter relay team finished fifth with her anchoring, and Van Vlierbergen came back to run 4:55.95 and take fourth in the 1,600 meters.
To heal, she took more time off than planned over the summer, but she cross-trained enough that Christian thinks she is right where she needs to be.
“We’re still discovering her potential,” Christian said. “If she can get a full season of training this year, who knows?”
Van Vlierbergen amazed people last fall when she battled through a stress reaction (which can lead to a full stress fracture) the second half of the season. Although she trained in a pool more than on land for the last month, she won the Fox Valley Conference championship and her seventh-place state finish was the best in school history.
“I’m excited to see what happens,” she said. “I wish I had more training over the summer. The cross-training helped, I’m just trying to get my legs back. I want to get around the times I was getting last year and improve. By the end of the season, I’m hoping maybe top five [at state]. That would be good.”
BEATTIE AT HER BEST
Woodstock’s Maura Beattie followed an all-state cross country season with a Class 2A state title in the 3,200 meters in track.
That has to help the third-oldest sister from Woodstock’s outstanding running family as she starts her senior year.
NAMES ARE THE SAME
Not a lot will change regarding the top names in girls races this season, as eight of the top 10 girls from the Northwest Herald All-Area team, are back this season.
Van Vlierbergen, Beattie, Crystal Lake Central’s Sami Staples and Maddie Dagley, Cary-Grove’s Talia Duzey, Marengo’s Kitty Allen and Allie Sprague and McHenry’s Lauren Opatrny are back.
For the second consecutive summer, Staples’ training was disrupted with a stress fracture, so her return to the lineup could again be a little slow.
Staples won the Class 2A state championship as a freshman and she finished fourth last year, 13 seconds behind Kaneland’s state champion Victoria Clinton. Considering what she went through, it was a remarkable finish.