Central teams face first competitors

Girls, boys cross country, girls swimming and tennis thrilled to be back in the game

After COVID-19 altered the fall seasons to various degrees for Hinsdale Central Red Devil teams, athletes and their coaches are happy to return to a regular season this year.

This is the second in a two-part series previewing fall sports. The first ran Sept. 2.

Boys cross country

First meet: Sept. 2 vs. OP-RF/LT (not scored)

Last year: fifth at sectionals (IHSA state meet canceled due to COVID-19)

Head coach: Jim Westphal

Seasons as head coach: 17

No. team members: 82

Strengths: I think they’re certainly hard working and are certainly having fun. This is kind of the first return to the new normal compared to the last year and a half. I think theres an overall excitement of just coming back to a season.

Challenges: Our conference is really competitive again. Between Lyons Township, York and Downers North, we’re going to have our hands full. It’s just going to be super competitive.

Who to watch: Dan Watcke, our No. 1 kid. I think his goal is to try to finish in the top five overall. We’ve got another senior, Colby Revord. His goal is to stay healthy. He’s had a lot of setbacks and I think he’s very excited (for this season). He’ll be interesting to follow and see how he progresses. He’s found his niche of how to stay healthy and train hard at the same time.

Outlook: We want to finish in the top two in our conference, obviously advance to the state meet and finish in the top five. If we can keep the injury bug at bay, I think we’ve got a pretty good chance of achieving those goals.

Furthermore: We have a really nice bunch of kids. We just had a meet on Saturday and our varsity ran well. They won the meet. They are hoping to use this momentum going forward from here.

Girls cross country

First meet: Sept. 2 vs. OP-RF/LT (not scored)

Last year: eighth at sectionals (IHSA state meet canceled due to COVID-19)

Head coach: Mark McCabe

Seasons as head coach: 21

No. team members: 50

Strengths: I think we’ve got a young team as far as experience, but it’s a good mix of freshmen through seniors at the varsity level. Even the upperclassmen, most of them have not been in the sport for four years. We’re a team that’s going to progress quite a bit. We’ve got one returning All-Stater and then we have a good group battling for all those other spots. We’re going to be a team that relies on the strength of the pack. It’s going to be exciting that we see big leaps and bounds for kids.

Challenges: As always, the West Suburban Silver is by far the strongest conference in the state for girls cross country. We’ve got the defending state champs, York, in there this year and then a bunch of other teams that are currently ranked in the top 15 in the state. It’s going to be a great battle. You’ve got probably four or five teams that kind of stand out and then there is a big log jam of schools that are going to all be battling for those top 10 sports. It’s going to be who progresses the most along the way and who runs the best race at the end, when it matters most.

Who to watch: Junior Catie McCabe, she finished 23rd at the Shazam state meet last year. She was All-State in track. She’s doing really well. She’s mentioned in the preseason outlooks as one of the top individuals in the state. She’ll lead the way for us. We’ve got a group behind — Isabella Terry, a senior, (and) Louisa Brorson, another senior, are going to be two of our other top runners. Louisa is in her third year of cross country, Isabella in her second. We’ve got Sarah Fischer, a junior, who has been one of our top runners since her freshman year. Gabby Thanos, a freshman, and Erin Milligan, a senior, will be top five runners for us.

Outlook: We talk internally about more specific product goals, but our main goal is to be the very best team we can be. We’re weren’t able to do an overnight trip this summer, which we typically do. It’s a great team bonding trip to Wisconsin. Just this past weekend, on Sunday and Monday, we did a mini version of it here in town where we talk about team goals and what our aspirations are for the year. Our theme for the year is “The best we can be.” Each of us are focusing on what am I going to do to be the best I can be. In the end that ends up determining the best we can be. Our hope is at the end of the year, when conference rolls around and sectionals and state, that we run our best races when it matters most. If we can do that, we will walk away happy and satisfied.

Furthermore: We’re all just happy that we got a regular season back. I don’t think there was any sport last fall that was any more close to normal than we were. We were the only sport that had a state meet. It wasn’t an official state meet, but everybody was there. At least we had more than most, but this year, it’s pretty much business as usual, so it’s just really nice and the kids are really grateful and we all are. It’s wonderful.

Girls swimming

First meet: Kendall Pickering Invite Aug. 28 (V placed second)

Last year: won sectionals, 3rd in state based on sectional scores (IHSA meet canceled due to COVID-19)

Head coach: Bob Barber

Seasons as head coach: 22

No. varsity team members: 27

Strengths: Our crew is getting a lot more experienced. We’re coming off an incredible summer, and we have quite a few returning athletes from that successful year last year.

Challenges: Any time you walk into a new building, it still has a lot of things you have to learn how to utilize. The girls are learning how to even just be at a meet. They’re not used to having swim down opportunities or having five of their teammates in the water. It can be draining and exciting at the same time. In reference to opposing teams, there are about three or four teams in the state that are equally as talented if not a little bit stronger at the moment. Two that stand out are St. Charles that we lost to on Friday and New Trier that we lost to a week ago.

Who to watch: Out of the gate it’s been a lot of fun to watch Carrie Kramer, Kit Schneider and (diver) Kayla Teuscher. They just bring a lot of experience, including state (and) USA Swimming and have already performed at championship-level swimming and diving early in the year.

Outlook: We’re still healing (from teammate Kendall Pickering’s death last year) so we’re trying to figure out where we can land. We’re going to fill in a couple of gaps from graduation. I think right now we’re focused on being competitive at the sectional level, and we get to host state this year and we think we have a shot at being a top five team.

Furthermore: I’m just really loving our new home and looking forward to having more and more people come celebrate its opening this year.

Girls tennis

First meet: Aug. 28 vs. Hinsdale South/Whitney Young/LT (V placed 1st)

Last year: won sectionals and conference (state meet canceled due to COVID-19)

Head coach: Shawna Zsinko

Seasons as head coach: five

No. team members: 21

Strengths: We have a lot of returning players. We also have one amazing new freshman, Anna Wiskowski. She played Whitney Young’s No. 1 and beat her 3-0 this weekend. That was pretty impressive. We have 21 players on varsity, and I would say every player is strong. We’re going to divide up varsity and we’re going to each field a team and try to meet in the finals at the Downers Grove South Invite (Sept. 4.)

Challenges: I think everyone’s probably dealing with the fact of COVID. These girls don’t have as much match experience as they normally would because tournaments have been a little weird over the past year. They’re starting to come out of it. They’re starting to get back out there. Restrictions and guidelines have certainly made things a little unique.

Who to watch: Zoe Limparis, Katie Dollens, Prachi Shah, Sophia Kim, Anna Wiskowski, Nicole Hu, Bridget Novatney, Shannon Stover and Delaney Marringa. The list goes on. The top six will be tough to choose. Some of these girls, they will go travel and play a tournament outside of high school and other girls have to fill in. They get an opportunity and they capitalize. You just never know.

Outlook: It will be interesting. We have to go out there and do it. It’s one thing to say we want to win conference and sectionals and state, but it’s another thing to do it. On paper, I think we’ve got a super, super solid team. We just have to make sure it translates onto the court and we take care of business.

Furthermore: Our team is super close-knit and they’re having a great time, so that always helps. They get along well.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean