New Trier among the nation’s best
New Trier's Mimi Smith runs in the Roy Gummerson Cross Country Invitational at Schiller Woods on Sept. 24, 2011. | Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Girls Runners to Watch
New Trier, sr.
Ackerman and twin sister Jessica will go down as two of the best athletes to ever represent the Trevians. A three-time all-stater, Courtney Ackerman finished fourth last year in Class 3A, leading the team to its first state title.
New Trier, sr.
All that’s left for the Ackermans is an individual state title. Jessica Ackerman, twice an all-stater, took 11th at the Class 3A state meet as a junior and is running varsity for a fourth season, like her sister.
Glenbrook North, sr.
She is a four-year varsity runner and a three-time qualifier for the state meet. Bobart, who placed 59th last year at the Class 3A state meet, is looking to cap her career with an all-state performance.
Maine South, sr.
A two-time all-stater, Lemersal was ninth at the Class 3A state meet as a junior. She helped the Hawks place 20th as a team.
Maine South, jr.
Another two-time all-stater, Leonard was the CSL South conference champion last season. She then went on to take sixth at the Class 3A state meet.
Glenbrook South, sr.
A four-year runner and the team’s No. 2 last season, McMahon will move to the front of the pack as a senior. She ran at the sectionals last season.
Melissa Bastanipour, Glenbrook South, sr.
Jessica Brand, Niles North, sr.
Leslie Christiansen, Maine East, so.
Ellery Marrinan, Glenbrook North, jr.
Jackie McDonnell, Loyola, jr.
Maddie McGrady, Maine South, sr.
Lensa Sedeta, Maine East, sr.
Katherine Weber, Glenbrook North, sr.
Caroline Zaworski, Loyola, so.
Cami Zecker, Evanston, so.
Updated: October 1, 2012 4:28PM
In her first year at New Trier, Mimi Smith finished 10th in the Class 3A cross country state meet and helped the Trevians win their first-ever team state title.
New Trier coach John Burnside said Smith will be even better in her sophomore season after she gave up soccer to concentrate on running full time in the summer.
“The big thing with Mimi is that she is now legitimately a distance runner,” he said. “She’s solely training to be a runner. It’s a different kind of training than she was used to with soccer. There’s going to be some bumps in the road, but it’s going to benefit her greatly.”
Smith seemed to downplay the transition, but agreed it’s more demanding.
“The opportunity to run for New Trier was great,” Smith said. “I knew to run at that competitive of a level, I needed to do it all the time. Some of the workouts are hard, but you get used to it.”
Once again, Smith will run alongside senior twins Courtney and Jessica Ackerman, each of whom is back for a fourth varsity season. All three finished in the top 11 at state for the Trevians, who beat Wheaton-Warrenville South by a wide margin at Detweiller Park in Peoria last fall.
Although the Trevians — ranked No. 4 in the country by ESPN’s Dyestat — look to be the state title favorite again this season, but Burnside quickly pumps the brakes on that talk.
“Being the defending state champions I am not sure means a whole heck of a lot,” Burnside said. “We know we need to be sharp because there are teams out there that are stronger, too. Wheaton-Warrenville South has four of its five back, and Maine South’s two are as good as anybody’s.”
Maine South junior Emily Leonard was sixth, and her teammate, senior Megan Lemersal, was ninth at the state meet last year.
“We can’t be as good as we were last year,” Burnside said. “If we are, someone will step in front of us.”
Maine south ready to move on
Last season’s heartbreak fueled Jack Carpenter’s offseason.
After the Maine South boys cross country team finished sixth at the Class 3A Niles West Sectional last year — one spot away from qualifying for the state meet — the junior ran harder than ever during the summer in an effort to escape the memory. He is one of five runners to return from the lineup that helped the Hawks win their first-ever Class 3A regional championship.
“I really stepped up my training, and I’m in the best shape of my life,” Carpenter said. “Things are looking good, and I won’t be satisfied unless we end up on that podium at the state meet.”
Also returning to Maine South are seniors Jon Vaccaro, Robbie Taylor, Kevin Dolan and Stephen Lavelle.
“All of them had great summers,” Hawks coach Greg Nordahl said. “No one wants a repeat of last year. It was disappointing, and we are using it as motivation.”
Maine South should be one of the favorites — along with New Trier and Niles North — in the CSL this season. The Hawks are ranked No. 6 in Mike Newman’s Dyestat poll. The Trevians, who graduated state champion Leland Later, are ranked No. 10, and the Vikings are No. 16.
Maine South’s strength last season was running as a pack. The team’s scoring split at the CSL meet was 22 seconds. Vaccaro figures to be the headliner this season after Zach Eckhart led the team most of last year, but Carpenter won’t be far behind.
“Jack has made a huge amount of progress,” Nordahl said. “Jon (Vaccaro has) been an excellent leader, and he’s finally healthy now.”
Carpenter made cross country a priority once he arrived at Maine South.
“It took me some time to develop into a runner,” he said. “It’s rare someone can pick it up right away and be good. It took a lot of hard work and training to get where I am today.” ~
Although Carpenter believes that there is some pressure on the Hawks this season because of their preseason ranking, he doesn’t mind.
“I can’t pay attention to that,” he said. “There is a lot for us to prove, but I think this group is ready.”
Maine South opens its season on Saturday at the Lyons Invitational. The host Lions are ranked No. 4 in the Chicago area.~.