At some point, Chelsea Gale will have to make a decision on pursuing cross country or soccer at the collegiate level.
Prairie Ridge’s 5-foot-3 bundle of energy is thankful that choice can be made later. The sophomore handled both at the same time a year ago and plans on doing the same this fall.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, two sports I love,” she said. “It’s great getting to do both of those. It’s definitely hard learning how to balance both of them. They’re both such demanding sports where you have to train so hard. I love being a busy person.”
Gale adeptly negotiated her freshman high school cross country season while playing for her Crystal Lake Force club soccer team. It meant she did not log the miles of other runners, but it hardly held her back. Gale won the Fox Valley Conference title and finished 10th in the Class 2A State Meet to become the Northwest Herald Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. She also played an integral role for the Wolves in the spring soccer season, which they started 17-0.
Gale will be the favorite in the McHenry County Cross Country Meet at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Cary’s Hickory Nut Grove. She won the sophomore race at county to start last season.
Prairie Ridge girls cross country coach Kelly MacDonald admires the fervor with which Gale attacks both sports.
“My job is to not overtax her,” MacDonald said. “My job is to keep her reined in a little bit. Last year she was new to high school running, and I didn’t want her putting on the miles of the varsity kids. I’d rather her run fresh at state than run drained.”
There were times this summer when Gale did not run with her high school teammates, which include her senior sister, Chloe, but MacDonald was not concerned. She knew Chelsea Gale was working on her own, balancing her two sports’ schedules. MacDonald also knows Gale’s soccer training, while not the same kind of running, can pay dividends.
“”It’s different than what everybody else is doing,” Gale said. “It’s still beneficial toward me. At soccer, sometimes I have to conserve myself, like not give 100 percent (in practice), which my coach fully understands. In games, I go all out. In practice, sometimes I hang back. I do get really tired, but I was able to balance it.”
Gale is part of a running family. Her parents, Sean and Christine, met while they were running at Iowa. Christine won the 1988 Class 1A state championship at Genoa-Kingston.
During the fall, Gale juggles her cross country and Force soccer practices. She runs in the big meets on Saturdays, then usually plays a tournament with the Force on Sundays. Some Saturdays, she is left off the Force’s pool roster when she is running, then added for the roster on Sunday.
“She’s a great kid, and I love having her on the team,” MacDonald said. “She does so much soccer that I didn’t see her a lot in the summer. I know she was running on her own and had a great summer. She probably will be just as strong as last year. With no injuries and no overworking her, she could challenge for a top-five spot in the state in 2A.”
Eventually, Gale will have to make a hard choice between two sports she loves. At the college level, both compete in the fall.
“I think about that a lot,” she said. “I don’t really know what I want to do. It’s hard thinking what if I chose one and missed out on the other one. I’m hoping to make a decision by the end of this year. It’s really fun to be able to do both.”