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Cross Country: IC Catholic Prep, Benet girls teams set for sectional showdowns

Joy Jackson of Benet races Dixon's Paige Stees (middle) and Rhiannon O'Keefe of St. Ignatius.
Joy Jackson of Benet races Dixon's Paige Stees (middle) and Rhiannon O'Keefe of St. Ignatius.

This could be the strongest IC Catholic Prep girls cross country lineup ever.

Although there is no IHSA state meet this November, the Knights continued proving that last Saturday.

They won the Class 1A Harvest Christian Academy Regional as junior and two-time all-stater Carly Manchester took second, junior Kennedy Calcagno was fourth and senior and 2017 all-stater Frankie Chaidez was fifth.

ICCP beat Rosary 28-40 after finishing second to the Royals 38-47 at the Suburban Catholic Conference Blue Meet Oct. 17. The teams meet on the same 5K course Saturday at the Harvest Christian Academy Sectional.

“We now have some confidence so we know we can do it,” Manchester said. “Now we almost want it that much more because we know Rosary will be coming after us.”

In their only two state team appearances, the Knights were eighth last year and sixth in 2018. They became a top-five ranked team in 1A after beating the previously No. 5-ranked Royals.

The Knights also have won three straight regional titles and last year captured their first sectional. Manchester and Chaidez are two of their three top-25 all-state finishers. Chaidez was a program-best third as a freshman. Manchester was eighth in 2018 and 12th in 2019.

ICCP arguably had its best team race at regionals despite its seven runners split into three races to promote social distancing. At conference, the Knights competed in one 49-runner race.

“It was a very different dynamic for the team (at regionals). But I think it really helped to have teammates cheering you on from the sidelines,” Manchester said. “I think we pushed harder. We felt everyone’s bond.”  

Top five teams advanced to sectionals. Montini senior Nick Fisch was fifth for the fifth-place Broncos. The Wheaton Academy girls and boys also advanced as well as Westmont senior Tim Rosland and junior Lizzy Szynal, ICCP sophomore Quinn Hipskind and Montini junior Izzy Juda as individuals.

In 2A, the Benet girls, the defending state champions, dominated the St. Francis Regional in preparation for the highly-anticipated showdown at the Latin Sectional with Latin – the top-two ranked teams in 2A.

Benet sophomore Louisa Diamond and senior Elisabeth Camic finished 1-2 with seniors Joy Jackson and Kelly Andrews fourth and fifth and Fenwick sophomore Bella Daley third.

Six of Benet's seven returnees from the 2019 state lineup competed at regionals. Camic, Diamond and Andrews finished 1-2-3 at the East Suburban Catholic Conference Meet Oct. 17.

“Anyone on this team is capable of being our No. 1 runner. (At regionals), I was just lucky enough for it to be me,” said Diamond about her second team-leading finish this season.    

Benet also won the boys race. Hinsdale South senior Julian Watson was regional champion, followed by Benet senior Niklas Anderson, St. Francis senior Luke Orwig and Fenwick junior Zac Daley and sophomore Grayden Rill.

Other team qualifiers were the St. Francis, Fenwick and Hinsdale South girls and boys, the Nazareth Academy girls and the Glenbard South boys. Nazareth had four of the five advancing individual boys with seniors Brendan O'Brien and Jack O'Brien, sophomore John Mowrer and freshman Will Albright. 

Riverside-Brookfield sophomore Bryce Pacourek, Glenbard South senior Ellie Stewart advanced as girls individuals. The R-B boys were in COVID-19 quarantine and did not compete after winning the MSC Blue with freshman Cooper Marrs the conference champion.

The Lemont boys won the 2A Morris Regional and the girls were second to advance to the Peoria Notre Dame Sectional.

In the boys race, Lemont senior Nick Kania and sophomore TJ Polen were second and fourth. Kania and Polen were 71st (16:06.23) and 158th (16:46.80) at state in 2019 as individual qualifiers. It’s the race Kania is most proud of, a then-personal best on a 3.0-mile course by 53 seconds.

Kania came 1.1 seconds from winning Saturday.

“I was actually leading for a while and then was overtaken at 2.5 miles,” Kania said. “At the end, I closed the gap. If I had an extra 20 to 30 meters, I could have won. I was gaining on him.”

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