Inside cross country: CL Central's Ryan Pitner, McHenry's Lauren Opatrny athletes of week
Athlete of the week
Crystal Lake Central, sr.
Pitner took sixth place to lead the Tigers to third as a team Sept. 14 at the Wauconda Invitational at Lakewood Forest Preserve.
Pitner was one of the area’s top runners last year and a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection. He is back to lead one of the state’s best Class 2A teams this season.
The Tigers were No. 5 this week in DyeStat Illinois’ rankings.
Opatrny was nagged by a sore hip just before the season, but she kept working out, but looked fine in her first race of the season as she took second at the Wauconda Invitational.
Opatrny’s land training had been limited, but she kept working in a swimming pool to prevent the impact on her sore hip.
“I was surprised, I would have been happy with anything in the top 15 after being out for three weeks,” she said. “I’m just really excited.”
Well-rounded: Cary-Grove graduate Kathie Wollney finished her track and field career with a pair of Class 3A state medals, but she also was talented enough to help the Trojans in cross country.
Now, junior sprinter and hurdler Morgan Schulz is trying the same route. It remains to be seen if Schulz, a former soccer player, can equal Wollney’s level in track (where she was fourth in the 300-meter low hurdles in state), but she is already faster in cross country.
Schulz was fourth in the McHenry County Meet to open the season, then took sixth last week at Wauconda.
“She’s an athlete,” C-G coach Mark Anderson said with a grin. “She has to be the most incredible all-around athlete that I’ve ever seen, from what I hear she can do in other sports. She works really hard. She’s not a kid who coasts by. When she does something, she really wants to excel in it. We kind of knew early on [when she came to cross country] this was not just three months of eating up time.”
Schulz burst onto the track scene with blazing times early last spring in the 200 meters. C-G coaches were transitioning her to the 300 low hurdles, thinking her speed and long legs made her a natural for that race. She ran the area’s fastest time, but then suffered a foot injury that held her back the rest of the spring.
“We hoped she could be really good [in cross country],” Anderson said. “But this is even surprising us.”
Where they rank: Crystal Lake Central’s boys have the highest rank of any local team according to Dye State Illinois at No. 5 in Class 2A. The only other area boys team that is ranked is Harvard at No. 25 in Class 1A.
In the girls’ Class 2A rankings, Central is No. 7, Woodstock is No. 12, Marengo is No. 18 and Prairie Ridge is No. 20. In Class 3A, Jacobs is ranked No. 22.
This week’s top meets
Woodstock-Ryan Byrne Festival
9 a.m. Saturday, Emricson Park
The race is named in honor of the late Northwest Herald sports writer Ryan Byrne, who covered cross country for several years. It is a flighted race in which all runners’ scores count the same. The No. 7 runners run against each other, as do the No. 6s and so on. First place in each flight is one point, and the boys and girls varsity and junior varsity scores are compiled to determine one overall champion.
Gurnee Warren Invitational
9 a.m. Saturday, O’Plaine-Gowe Park near Gurnee
Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake South are the local teams competing in the meet.
9 a.m. Saturday, Elburn Forest Preserve
Crystal Lake Central and Jacobs, two of the area’s best boys and girls teams, will compete in the meet.
– Joe Stevenson