Girls XC overcomes sectionals loss, end season collectively

Despite finishing 14th out of 18 teams at sectionals, girls cross country was able to close the season out with top placements at meets from individuals and long-lasting memories. 

Earlier in the season, at the Warren Bill Dawson Invitational on Sep. 18, the Kits finished fifth out of 18 teams with freshman Stella Davis at 10th, and the Evanstonian’s own Lauren Dain 11th. Although cross country is typically considered an individual sport, at this particular meet, team spirit proved the key factor to success. 

“I started out strong but remember straying off the leading pack at around the first mile marker,” Davis notes. “I added time each mile and started to doubt myself, but then my teammate, Lauren, came up behind me a half mile from the finish and said some encouraging words that pushed me to a top ten placement.”

Later, on Oct. 2 at the Pat Savage Invitational, the team finished eighth out of 42 teams with Dain and Davis continuing to propel the squad forward–individually ranking sixth and ninth respectively.

Head coach Rosette Ochoa reflects on the hard work and dedication that went into overcoming so many teams.

“There’s no way around running fast times, besides putting it in the training, on and off season,” Ochoa explains. “So it’s very telling because a lot of those athletes that placed so high have been very consistent with their training, and very focused and dedicated and just collaborative. They work together; they don’t really work alone.”

In terms of the rest of the regular season, the Kits finished seventh out of 10 teams at the Loyola Academy Flight Night on Oct. 8, and, unfortunately, came in last the following day at the Wheeling Invitational. However, because much of the varsity squad had competed the previous day, the Kits were without their top runners at that particular meet.

“In all groups, times just dropped. I think that had to do [with] a combination [of] the [individual] athletes that we got, but also working together as a team to try to place at every level,” Ochoa remarks on the season as a whole. 

Going into the postseason, Evanston came in fourth out of 11 teams at the Central Suburban League Conference Championship on Oct. 16. Dynamic duo Dain and Davis led the Wildkit pack with 10th and 12th place finishes. 

The following weekend at IHSA Regionals, the Kits overcame their 5th place seed and finished fourth out of the nine teams competing. That day, Dain achieved her season best, running three miles in 18:22.79, and finished sixth individually. 

Although its season concluded with a disappointing 14th place finish at Sectionals on Oct. 23, the team put everything they had into the season, and, overall, had a successful year.  

“I think that the postseason was definitely heartbreaking, but they worked so hard. There was nothing [more] we could have done,” Ochoa affirms. “It was a really great year in terms of just finding each other, and [even] just athletic wise.”

Besides achieving a slew of new personal bests, the Kits also improved upon their team dynamic off the course.   

“Last year was really hard with remote learning. We were in separate groups, and overall very separate from each other,” Ochoa elaborates. “So I knew that this year had to be the year that we all came back together, and I think that the captains and seniors definitely made sure that a lot of our traditional bonding activities were manifested.”

From pasta parties to buddy breakfasts, it’s clear that the team was able to move toward normalcy when it came to team traditions. In the end, this proved to be especially beneficial to the team’s underclassmen. 

“I have so many funny memories, from our overnight in Peoria to when Coach Yitref couldn’t park the bus within the lines–and even our bus breaking down on the way back,” Davis affirms. “Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a race and having your teammates in your arms, which I will continue to look forward to for the next three years.”