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Schlemmel’s rise as elite York runner inspired by setback

ELMHURST — When most high schoolers get cut from a sport, it’s a devastating moment.

For Katherine Schlemmel, it was one of the best things that could have happened to her.

The York senior was cut from the volleyball team her sophomore year, but she was prepared. The summer before her sophomore year, she participated in summer camps for volleyball and cross country. As Schlemmel put it, cross country was her fall back sport.

After three years of training as a distance runner, Schlemmel emerged as the No. 2 runner on the cross country team last fall, helping the Dukes qualify for state and becoming just the eighth runner in York history to crack 18 minutes.

Schlemmel was on the track and field team as a freshman, but ran sprints. Now she is pushing for a state spot in the 3,200-meter run, where she will hope to join one of the state title contenders in the event, teammate Emma Fisher.

“Kath is a strong leader on the team,” Fisher said. “She has come so far over her four years, and I honestly don’t know where the team would be without her.”

Making the transition from volleyball player and sprinter to distance runner isn’t the easiest.

“It was much different,” Schlemmel said. “A lot more mileage than I ever would have imagined. It’s been at the same time really rewarding and I’ve met a lot of great teammates who have pushed me along the way. It’s been a really good experience. It was a little tough adjusting, but it was definitely worthwhile.”

Schlemmel will head to the University of Illinois next year. She doesn’t plan to run for the Illini, but will certainly keep up with her recently discovered love.

“I really hope to keep up with running because it’s almost a part of my life now,” she said. “I enjoy doing it so much. They have a good running club there so there’s a possibility I might try that out. In time I want to run some marathons.”

Schlemmel gushed about her experience at the state cross country meet, and qualifying for the state track meet might come close to duplicating it. The Dukes’ have one more meet before the West Suburban Silver meet May 3 and the sectional meet a week later on May 10.

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