Katelynne Hart isn’t the only Glenbard West state champion in her family.
Her father, Chris, was the starting quarterback for the Hilltoppers’ first state championship football team in 1983.
“He talks about it a lot and he’s definitely friends with all of the people that were on the team,” said Katelynne Hart, the Hilltoppers’ senior distance standout. “There are a couple of kids at Glenbard West whose dads all played together.”
There will be another connection with the 1980s if Hart captures her fourth Class 3A individual girls cross country state championship Nov. 9 at Peoria’s Detweiller Park. She’ll become only the fourth girl to win all four years, and first from the largest class since Dana Miroballi’s Class AA championships for Wheeling from 1984-87.
When discussing her state goals, Hart doesn’t even mention winning.
“I think improvement on my time from last year would be awesome and just seeing the team do better [than 13th],” Hart said. “It was a strong performance, but I definitely think we have a lot of potential.”
Hart impressively won the 3.0-mile race in 15:59.82 – the second-fastest state finals time ever. The Hilltoppers also return three sophomores from state – Delaney Engel (141st), Anna Nickoley (154th) and Audrey Allman (158th).
The girls Detweiller course record is 15:53.8. Hart is fit and eager after her great summer of training that included another trip to Colorado for higher-altitude workouts.
“I feel real strong, really confident,” Hart said. “Each year I try to go with a clean slate. I know there’s going to be some great competition, but I’m just trying to go in and work my hardest. If I keep working to get better each race, that’s the goal right now.”
One change is Hart’s willingness to be a more prominent leader now that she’s among 10 seniors who are all serving as captains.
“She’s always been very respectful of our seniors in the past. Now she can be that amazing runner by example but also a vocal leader in a nice way,” Glenbard West coach Paul Hass said. “We’re focused on getting better and improving. You can’t win a fourth straight title in August, September or October.”
Last season, one of Hart’s most satisfying races was one she actually didn’t win. At the Foot Locker Nationals on Dec. 14 in San Diego, Hart battled Sydney Masciarelli of Northbridge, Massachusetts, and finished second by only .7 (17:00.3 to 17:01.0 for 5,000 meters/3.1 miles) – the event’s fastest girls times since 2010.
“She’s a special athlete in that sense. She’s always driven to get better,” Hass said. “She works as hard as any athlete I’ve seen. I always think Katelynne is an incredible talent, but how she works that talent is why who she is.”
Hart agrees that one great aspect about running is progress can be measured easily by times. Hart also seeks further strength from within.
“I’ve just learned that you have to be mentally tough to complete races and workouts,” Hart said. “I definitely think from junior year what I’ve improved the most is the mental part.”
Hart soon will decide the five colleges for her official visits. She hopes to make her final decision in November.
Then comes track and field, where Hart is undefeated individually at state with three titles in the 3,200 and 1,600 and one in the 800.
Back when Miroballi dominated, girls cross country state races were only 2.0 miles.
“That definitely would be a different experience,” Hart said. “When I was in [Hadley Junior High], that was what we did, so it’s a little hard to remember what it was like. It’s definitely fun to get to run 3.0.”