Cross Country

2020 Northwest Herald Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year: Crystal Lake South's Bella Gonzalez

Crystal Lake South’s Bella Gonzalez took up right where she left off in her first high school season, which finished with her taking 10th in the Class 2A Girls Cross Country State Meet.

Gonzalez ran unchallenged throughout most of the season. Prairie Ridge’s Rachel Soukup was 1.6 seconds behind Gonzalez in the Fox Valley Conference Meet, which was her closest race until the Class 2A Lakes Sectional.

The Gators’ sophomore repeated as FVC champion, won the Belvidere Regional and was third at the Lakes Sectional. While she did not win that race, her team did for the first time in school history.

Gonzalez is the Northwest Herald Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, chosen by the sports staff with input from local coaches.

Although the IHSA canceled its state meet this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gonzalez ran at the ShaZam Championships on Nov. 7 in Chillicothe, a sort of unofficial state meet run by the website il.milesplit.com. Gonzalez took eighth in the Division II girls race.

What are your best memories of this season?

Gonzalez: Workouts. I never thought I would say that because usually workouts are tough and tiring, but they were always fun with the team. During our time in between reps we could talk with each other and make little jokes about how hard the workout was.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in a race?

Gonzalez: During the Peoria Invitational last year I was coming down the finish and I heard the announcer mix up my last name with Rodriguez. I remember watching the video back to make sure what I heard was correct. He did mistakenly call me “Rodriguez,” so now it’s a little joke on the team.

What kind of bad food do you like to eat after a big race competition?

Gonzalez: After a big race competition I have this odd craving for Cheez-Its and I always have to get a Starbucks drink.

What was the biggest challenge the pandemic caused with your summer training?

Gonzalez: There were many challenges this year with everything. However, not having a coach in the summer was hard because I wasn’t able to tell if or what I needed to do to improve.

How do you go about choosing your running footwear?

Gonzalez: I just choose what fits best for me and what makes me comfortable. I have had the same type of shoe model (Brooks Ravenna) for three years.

What are three of your favorite sports movies?

Gonzalez: “McFarland, USA,” “The Blind Side” and “Soul Surfer.”

What is something many people don’t know about you?

Gonzalez: Many people do not know that after high school I want to major in pre-med so I can become a surgeon. I really want to help people.

What is a sport that you were never good at?

Gonzalez: I have never been good at volleyball.

What do you think about when you are out leading a race?

Gonzalez: I have so many thoughts in my head, however usually the one that stands out most is I hope I’m going the right way.

Who has inspired you most in your running career?

Gonzalez: Of course my parents (Jeff and Cristina). But someone who I am not related to would be my very first cross country coach, coach Brandy Swanson. She is now (an assistant) high school coach at Huntley, and from the beginning she always believed in me and she has always been one of my biggest supporters.

What kind of music do you listen to before you run?

Gonzalez: Before all my races I listen to two songs, “Lose Yourself” and “Till I Collapse” by Eminem, which make me feel ready to race.

Who among your teammates makes you laugh?

Gonzalez: Gianna Pinta and Anna McDermott. They always make my day and if I had a bad workout, they are always there to cheer me up. Honestly, I don’t think that I would have made it this far without them.

What is the nicest gift you have ever received?

Gonzalez: My parents got me this bracelet that I wear during all of my meets. It says, “Believe in yourself.” Every time I look at it I know that no matter what happens they believe in me.

What is the best advice anyone has given you?

Gonzalez: Do what makes you happy and what you love.

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