Optimism Continues For Girls XC
New Trier’s varsity girls cross country team is on track to repeat last year’s 3A state championship success after senior runner and team captain Courtney Ackerman placed first in Saturday’s First-to-the-Finish Invitational.
The race, which began Saturday morning in Peoria’s Detweiller Park, was just one of three invitationals in which both the girls and boys teams participated that day, in an effort to give each player on the varsity, junior varsity, and frosh/soph teams a chance to compete. The First-to-the-Finish Invitational featured the varsity girls and boys teams. New Trier’s junior varsity teams participated in an invitational at Wauconda’s Lakewood Forest Preserve, while the frosh/soph runners competed at Lake Park High School.
Varsity runner, with sophomore Mimi Smith took 3rd place with a time of 17:18, a mere three seconds behind Hinsdale Central’s second-place runner. But it was Courtney Ackerman’s 1st-place time of 16:45 that really blew the competition out of the water, even beating her own time from last year’s state championship, where she finished in first place at 17:02.
However, varsity head coach John Burnside does not see this as a sign that this season will present an easy state championship for New Trier.
“The biggest thing in the way of winning state [this year] is the state,” Burnside said. “Right now, the level of competition is ridiculous. There are more strong teams than ever.” He added that New Trier’s biggest competition so far this season is Glenbard South, Wheaton West and Palatine.
Despite this, Burnside said that, since the varsity team’s roster is largely the same as last season’s, the transition into training this year’s runners should be easier than most.
“Last year’s success was just that– last year’s. However, the team is largely the same [as last year], so our goals are largely the same as well.”
For the team, Saturday’s invitationals presented an invaluable opportunity for New Trier to scope out the level at which each of Illinois’ teams will be performing in the 2012 season. Despite not winning any of the day’s three invitationals, Burnside believes that the team now has a clearer goal to work towards during practice, and that when the time comes to run for a second-consecutive state championship, the runners will be up to the occasion.
“[Saturday's races] helped us get a better view of the competition,” Burnside says, “We knew this was going to be a battle, but on our best day- not even our best day- we can beat them.”