Lauren Van Vlierbergen won most of her cross country races as a junior, earned her second Fox Valley Conference individual title and finished fourth in the Class 3A state meet, all after a sore hip curtailed her summer training regimen.
Imagine what the Jacobs senior can do this fall with a full summer of training.
Golden Eagles coach Kevin Christian is excited when he considers the possibilities.
“She still got fourth in state [last year] off of cross training,” Christian said. “This year, she has a full summer of training and it was intense. She’s definitely ready to go. Now, she’s in the shape she was midseason last year already. We’re looking for some pretty big things out of her.”
Van Vlierbergen was the Northwest Herald Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year and the Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. In track, she blew the field away in the Class 3A 800 meters in 2:10.14, winning by almost 3 seconds.
Van Vlierbergen experienced some pain in her right hip after the state track meet in 2013, so she used other methods of training through the summer and began running shortly before the cross country season began. It hardly was evident as she turned in a successful season.
Van Vlierbergen did all the summer work this year, running with high school teammates and incoming freshmen.
“I increased my mileage a little bit,” she said. “We do the same tempo routes we’ve done in the past. I’m hoping to improve on every course I run. I want to run faster this year and see that improvement in myself.”
Van Vlierbergen says she thinks about state, but it’s in the back of her mind as she focuses on early-season races. She also has colleges to consider.
“It’s kind of fun to talk to the coaches, but it’s kind of stressful too,” she said. “There’s so many things to consider when looking at these schools. It’s all part of the process I guess.”
NCAA coaches could call her after July 1 and Van Vlierbergen has heard from numerous coaches. She didn’t list a favorite school presently, but hopes to commit by the signing period in November. The former signing period for cross country and track was in February, but that date was changes this year.
“She’s a straight-A student, great 30-plus ACT ...,” Christian said. “Anything big and local, she’s looking at. Pretty much all the big schools have called.”
Notes: Last year’s FVC Meet has one of the closest finishes possible as Crystal Lake South won with 88 points, followed by Crystal Lake Central (89) and Cary-Grove (90). Those teams all should be strong again, while McHenry also could be a factor.
South did it with balance in its lineup, as the Gators’ top FVC finisher was Kiley Britten at 11th.
Cary-Grove is led by Morgan Schulz, a versatile athlete who was second in the Class 3A 300 hurdles in track and seventh in the 800.
Marengo’s Kitty Allen is back to lead the Indians in their quest for a fourth consecutive Big Northern Conference title.