Mt. Zion Cross Country team members, (l-r) Ashleigh Anderson, Emma Mallory, Chloe Karnes and Kolby Koslofski.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion Girls Cross Country Program on the girls side aspires to go to the Illinois State Tournament for the fourth year. On the boys side of the program, Head Boys Cross Country Coach Bill Harbeck expects a much better year than last year.
In Illinois, Cross Country did not have a State Tournament last year. Instead there was an event called the Shazam. On top of that according to Mt. Zion Head Cross Country Coach Kelly Fox most Cross Country meets were done locally. This year, the team will compete in meets/invites at schools such as Normal West, Peoria High School and St. Anthony.
It’s really hard, because the girls and guys thrive off the competition,” Coach Fox said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing that competition, but we need that competition.”
There are three seniors on the girls side. Those seniors are Ashleigh Anderson, Chloe Karnes and Emma Mallory. Coach Fox said that all three have special gifts and that they’re the only group to go to the state tournament their freshman, sophomore and junior year. She also expects them to show their leadership on and off the field.
Anderson is also a track athlete that broke the school record for the 800 meters and 1600 meters. Coach Fox said that she is driven to be her very best and that the community will see the best of her this season. Anderson love’s to run and is currently looking for a college to continue her running career.
Anderson’s personal best is 19 minutes and 12 seconds. She thinks it would be really awesome if she and the team can make it to state for a fourth year in a row. Her individual goal is to break 19 minutes in a meet this year.
“Honestly it’s just staying focused and making sure we’re getting properly ready and getting a good workout in,” Anderson said.
Coach Fox attributed the role of organizer to Karnes. Coach Fox said that Karnes really brings this group together and that she led the team during the times Coach Fox was on vacation.
Karnes’ personal record is 21 minutes and 59 seconds. Her individual goal for this season is to break 21 minutes. Leading by example, Karnes wants to set the example of coming out every day and having a good attitude.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the top-seven or not,” Karnes said. “Come out and have a great attitude and just do it.”
Mallory’s personal record is 19 minutes flat. Her goal is to also break 19 minutes flat and is also searching for a college to run at the next level. Mallory in her leadership in practice wants to make sure that everyone is included.
“We have a great family and everyone’s so close together,” Mallory said. “We all bond really well together, so I think staying close really helps.”
There are two seniors on the boys side. They are Kolby Koslofski and Byron Gallardo. Gallardo was unavailable to comment due to him being gone for basic training.
Coach Harbeck said that both of his seniors are good people, hardworking and contain good character. That they both lead by their character. So far with the absence of Gallardo, Koslofski has had more of a chance to lead.
Koslofski’s personal record is 16 minutes and 40 seconds. He hopes to break that record and also said that there a lot of good freshman and sophomores he wants to set the example for.
I definitely want to encourage them to be their best and I am not our best runner for sure,” Koslofski said. “So me as a senior it is my job to make sure that these guys are staying on top of their practices, making sure they’re finishing their practices, finishing workouts and really putting on putting their work in for upcoming needs.”
In the off-season the boys side worked on building up their endurance and base while working hard.
Coach Fox has five of her top-seven runners returning and is expecting to be even stronger than last season. In Cross Country, everyone gets to compete, but only seven runners are competing in the varsity run. Points are added up and the lowest score wins. The other competitors compete in the Junior Varsity run or the Open Run.
Coach Harbeck is expecting a much better year. He said that we will just have to see where the season goes. Coach Harbeck said that if a couple kids come through that the team could finish as high as second in the Apollo Conference.
The goal on the girls side is to get in the top-10 at the State Tournament. Also to have an individual place in the top-25. The team hasn’t had anyone done that since Megan Bailey.
Coach Fox also wanted to add that the program’s success is in part due to in her words “the fantastic junior high coach Joe Fritzsche.”
“Sometimes those junior high coaches don’t get the credit they deserve,” Coach Fox said. “He was on the only team that were state champions back in 2011. He brings a lot to the program.”
The overall message Coach Fox wanted to send on the girls side is that the girls put in the work and effort. She hopes that the readers will enjoy seeing the kind of effort they put in and how they represent Mt. Zion with the utmost integrity. Last week, the seniors were involved in an event called Tribe at Mt. Zion which is a freshman mentoring program. The ones involved still got their workouts in for that day.
Coach Harbeck said that his team is building back up and it is hard to maintain numbers in a school the size of Mt. Zion.
“I’m kind of excited about this year,” Coach Harbeck said. “We’re going to get a couple good young runners that are going to contribute.”