CARY – Crystal Lake South junior Mackenzie Aldridge turned in the biggest race of her life, but preferred talking about her team instead of herself.
Aldridge’s individual victory would have led the Gators to a team title at the McHenry County Cross Country Meet, but no team championship is awarded.
Aldridge finished in 19:16.40 Saturday at Hickory Nut Grove to win the race, ahead of Jacobs freshman Elizabeth Kania (19:27.50) and South’s Olivia Beckwith (19:29.50). The Gators would have finished with 55 points and Jacobs would have had 70 in team standings.
“It’s a great accomplishment and I can’t wait for my teammates to be up there with me,” Aldridge said. “The team really stepped it up this year. We put in the most miles we have in a long time. My teammates definitely helped me.”
Prairie Ridge sophomore Chelsea Gale, the 2017 Northwest Herald Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, was dealing with a mild hip injury and did not compete. She hopes to return in two or three weeks.
That opened the race up for any number of runners and Aldridge took full advantage, working with Beckwith as they raced Kania out in front. Woodstock’s Kylie Hagmann (19:34.40) was fourth and McHenry freshman Lydia Zancho (19:37.40) was fifth.
“(Aldridge) really ran well. She put in the time and work over the summer,” Gators coach Ken Greenfield said. “I knew she was better. You just don’t know until you race how you’re going to stack up against other young people who put in work over the summer.”
South also had Emma Murphy in ninth, Chelsea Greene in 16th and Emma Heuck in 26th.
Jacobs coach Kevin Christian said before the season that Kania was finishing workouts with Alyson Doherty, the Golden Eagles’ top returning runner. Kania was thrilled and surprised about her first varsity race.
“I’m really happy. I’m really surprised by this because I was not expecting that,” Kania said. “I felt mentally really good and physically good too. I love this course. It was fun.”
Kania said she discussed being mentally strong and maintaining a good pace with Christian before the race.
“Getting out in front was really important,” Kania said. “At the beginning of the race you don’t want to be stuck in the back of the crowd, it’s so hard to pass people on this course. That was one of the keys to this race. And being mentally strong.”
STAR OF THE MEET
Crystal Lake South, Jr.
Aldridge won the county meet championship with a time of 19:16.40, 11 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
TOP 20 FINISHERS
1. Aldridge (CL South) 19:16.40, 2. Kania (Jacobs) 19:27.50, 3. Beckwith (CLS) 19:29.50, 4. Hagmann (Woodstock) 19:34.40, 5. Zancho (McHenry) 19:37.40, 6. Doherty (Jac) 19:53.20, 7. Stoll (Marian Central) 19:57.80, 8. Dieschbourg (Cary-Grove) 20:09.90, 9. Murphy (CLS) 20:22.40, 10. Pieroni (Prairie Ridge) 20:28.70, 11. Overly (Huntley) 20:29.30, 12. Drage (C-G) 20:30.20, 13. Chloe Gale (PR) 20:30.30, 14. Williams (C-G) 20:34.10, 15. Koscinski (Wdk) 20:34.20, 16. Greene (CLS) 20:36.20, 17. Orvis (CL Central) 20:42.20, 18. Loga (Jac) 20:43.50, 19. Smith (CLC) 20:53.50, 20. Wilk (Hunt) 20:54.20.