A funny thing happened as Cary-Grove sophomore Maggie Mason worked out with the girls cross country team this season.
The running whetted Mason’s competitive appetite. She already was close friends with the other girls, whom she ran with in junior high and in the summer before her freshman year.
Mason, who plays with Eclipse Select Soccer Club during the summer and fall, told C-G cross country co-coaches Mark Anderson and Tom Smith she would like to officially join the Trojans and compete in meets. They agreed, as long as Mason could work around her soccer schedule and was committed to making all practices and meets.
A few weeks into the season, the rich got a lot richer.
C-G, which has won the Fox Valley Conference Meet in each of the past two season and qualified for the Class 3A state meet last fall, added a runner to a deep, young team who has been its top finisher each of the past two weeks.
Mason and C-G will be shooting for a return trip to state from the Hoffman Estates Sectional Meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at Busse Woods Forest Preserve in Schaumburg. The boys race is set for 11:15.
The top five teams, and top seven individuals not on those teams, advance to the state meet Nov. 3 at Peoria’s Detweiller Park.
Mason finished second to Crystal Lake South’s Mackenzie Aldridge at the FVC Meet, then took seventh at the Grant Regional last week, leading the Trojans to fourth place as a team.
“I’m really glad I did this,” Mason said after the FVC Meet. “I had been doing club soccer. I didn’t think I’d have enough time. I was just going to practice with them, but then I was able to make it to meets. I’m really glad I chose to run with the team because it’s an awesome group of girls. They’re amazing.”
Junior Allison Drage and sophomores Delaney Blohm, Morgan Dieschbourg, Ellie Miller and Abby Williams gave C-G a strong returning group. Adding a runner of Mason’s caliber during a season is unheard of.
“She is good friends with those kids,” Smith said. “She knows it’s always been an option. She said, ‘I’d like to run. Would that be OK?’ ”
Mason’s first competition was a junior varsity race at a huge invitational at Detweiller, which she won.
“So we’re like, ‘Yeah, girl, you can play,’ ” Smith said. “She is super-smart, already a student of the sport. She knows who’s who and what’s what. She jumps right into workouts, ‘Give me whatever you got.’ ”
Mason does what another area sophomore does with running and playing club soccer. Prairie Ridge’s Chelsea Gale also competes in both at the same time and won the FVC title and finished 10th in the Class 2A state meet last year.
Smith said Mason’s summer running with the team makes her comfortable around the other girls, which made the transition to becoming a team member smooth.
“I was just going to do it for fun,” Mason said. “I love the girls, and they’re really inspiring to me. I’m really lucky to have them. We just go into races having a really positive attitude, and we always talk about how we’re going to work and do everything for the team. That’s what motivates us. Even if you’re the sixth or seventh runner, it’s going to make a difference.”
WHERE THEY RUN
Here is a look at the sectional cross country meets where local teams will run on Saturday:
Class 1A Oregon Sectional
At Oregon Park West
Girls race, 10 a.m.; boys race, 11 a.m.
Local team competing: Johnsburg.
Class 2A Woodstock North Sectional
At Emricson Park
Girls race, 10 a.m.; boys race, 11 a.m.
Local teams competing: Crystal Lake Central, Crystal Lake South, Harvard, Marengo, Marian Central, Prairie Ridge, Richmond-Burton, Woodstock, Woodstock North.
Class 3A Hoffman Estates Sectional
At Busse Woods
Girls race, 10 a.m.; boys race, 11:15 a.m.
Local teams competing: Cary-Grove, Dundee-Crown, Jacobs, McHenry.
Class 3A Waubonsie Valley Sectional
At Waubonsie Valley High School
Girls race, 10:30 a.m.; boys race, 11:30 a.m.
Local teams competing: Hampshire, Huntley.