A lunch break for Lyons Township senior Danny Kilrea in mid-December became a welcome extension to his cross country season.
Kilrea and Glenbard West sophomore Katelynne Hart were invited to represent Team USA Track & Field in Edinburgh, Scotland for the Junior Division race at the Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh XCountry event Jan. 13 at Holyrood Park.
“I turned my phone on and saw the e-mail asking me to be a part of the team,” Kilrea said. “I immediately smiled and was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to represent my country.”
Kilrea and Hart, the respective Class 3A cross country state champions, are among just 12 junior runners and four from Illinois.
They secured their invitations after outstanding performances at the Nike Cross Nationals Dec. 2 in Portland, Ore. and the Foot Locker Nationals Dec. 9 in San Diego, Calif. The Notre Dame-bound Kilrea was fifth at NXN and third at Foot Locker. Hart was fourth at NXN and second at Foot Locker.
“After Foot Locker, the chaperone had mentioned this race, but I didn’t know much about it and I was caught up in the moment,” Hart said. “After some time home, I realized that this opportunity would be amazing and I really wanted to go. I couldn’t have been more excited.”
The state meet and most of their high school races were 3.0 miles (4.8 kilometers). This week's Under-17 junior races in Scotland are 6k for boys (3.7 miles) and 4k (2.5 miles) for girls and are scheduled for 6:15 and 6:45 a.m. CST, respectively. Their races will be streamed live.
The event also has Senior Division races and a 4-by-1k Senior relay race. In 2017, the U.S. won both junior races and the senior men prevailed for the second time in three years over Team Europe and Team Great Britain/Northern Ireland.
Hart has visited Mexico and the Cayman Islands, and Kilrea went to Paris in eighth grade. They leave for Scotland Jan. 10. Kilrea’s father also is making the trip.
“As a kid, I knew I always wanted to compete internationally, but given the chance to do so now excites me,” Kilrea said. “It was super rewarding knowing that I was chosen. Given the chance to represent the USA at only 17 is amazing.”
Kilrea’s Illinois teammates are Sandburg senior, Foot Locker champion and fellow Notre Dame recruit Dylan Jacobs and Whitney Young senior and Stanford-bound Clayton Mendez. Hart’s teammates include two-time Foot Locker champion Claudia Lane (Malibu, Calif.), NXN runner-up Kelsey Chmiel (Greenfield Center, N.Y.) and Iowa State freshman Cailie Logue.
“It’s definitely more comforting knowing that I will be traveling with people I know,” Hart said. “I have dreamed of representing the USA since I was very little. When I got the e-mail, I couldn’t have been more excited and motivated to work hard.”
While most high school teammates are about to resume training for the upcoming indoor track season, Kilrea and Hart have been going nearly non-stop. Hart said she took some time off following Foot Locker before preparing for this weekend's race.
“It has now been a seven-month season for me, making it my longest ever,” Kilrea said. “I have never raced a 6k and have heard this is a crazy hard course. My goal is to compete tough and represent the country well.”