Inside cross country: Pichardo, Van Vlierbergen athletes of week

Athlete of the week


Jorge Pichardo

Harvard, sr.

Pichardo took sixth in the Crystal Lake South Invitational on Sept. 7 at Veteran Acres Park with a time of 17:34.7.

Harvard’s runners and some individuals from Decatur St. Teresa were the only Class 1A competitors in the race. Pichardo finished eighth in the McHenry County Meet the week before.

“When you look at the talent here, for him to pull that off against challenging competition on a challenging course says what a fighter he is,” Harvard coach Brett Willhoit said.

Athlete of the Week


Lauren Van Vlierbergen

Jacobs, jr

Van Vlierbergen won the St. Charles East Leavey Invitational last weekend at Leroy Oakes with a time of 18:03.3, 14 seconds ahead of the next runner.

Jacobs finished second as a team with 89 points to St. Charles North (77). Geneva (120) was third.

Van Vlierbergen finished second in the McHenry County Meet in the previous week to Woodstock’s Maura Beattie.


Jacobs looks good: Jacobs' boys team matched its girls team’s runner-up finish at the Leavey Invitational, almost finishing with the same point total. Downers Grove North won with 77 points, while Jacobs was second with 94.

Matt Johnson was fourth (15:28.6) and Corey Albrecht (15:39.5) was ninth to lead the Golden Eagles. Albrecht is a former soccer player who finished sixth in the McHenry County Meet on Aug. 31.

Are we there yet? Jacobs' teams had an eventful trip to Peoria on Friday for Saturday's First to the Finish Invitational. About 30 minutes into the trip, their bus broke down and another bus had to be sent from school.

"The engine wasn't sounding so good, I don't think it would have made it all the way," Eagles coach Kevin Christian said.

Christian said the team still was planning to get a practice run in at Detweiller Park on Friday evening before heading to dinner with teams from Downers Grove North and Burlington Central.

It was a tough trip for Christian, who has his left arm in a sling and cast after surgery on his index finger on that hand. He broke the finger batting away a pass on the final play of his team's flag football game.

His team won, but Christian was still in some pain Friday.

"It's not pleasant," Christian said. "But it was worth it."

Warriors’ Purich strong: McHenry sophomore Katy Purich was a Northwest Herald All-Area honorable-mention selection last year and is off to another fast start. Purich followed her 10th-place finish at the county meet by taking eighth at the South Invitational on Sept. 7 in 20:47.9.

“I’m so excited. I wanted to get in the top 10 and get a trophy really bad,” Purich said. “That’s my highest place with this many people [in a meet].”

Purich battled some knee soreness over the summer her doctor felt may have been Osgood-Schlatter disease, an irritation of the patellar ligament. She has been working out in a swimming pool, along with junior teammate Lauren Opatrny (hip), but also has been running.

Welcome back: Two years ago, Huntley’s Kelly Meehleib was one of the area’s top freshman runners, but Meehleib was hardly heard from as a sophomore. She finished 12th in the South Invitational in 21:33.3, an encouraging sign that she is on her way back.

Meehleib battled tendinitis in her right knee last season, then rolled her right ankle when she was about ready to run in the postseason.

“I started working out in the summer and ran about 300 miles,” Meehleib said. “I didn’t want to go too hard. This was pretty good. I’m trying to get my confidence back. It’s nice to start placing again.”

This week’s top meets

Wauconda Invitational

Saturday, Lakewood Forest Preserve

The girls varsity race starts at 10 a.m., with the boys varsity set for 10:40. Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Hampshire, Marian Central, McHenry and Richmond-Burton are the local teams competing.

First to the Finish Invitational

Saturday, Peoria’s Detweiller Park

The large meet is divided into Classes 1A, 2A and 3A for boys and girls as runners get a chance to compete on the course that hosts the IHSA Cross Country State Meet races in November. The Class 1A girls race starts at 9 a.m.

The local teams competing are Dundee-Crown, Jacobs, Johnsburg, Marengo and Woodstock.

– Joe Stevenson

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