Free-for-all likely in Upstate Eight River girls cross country meet

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The conference cross country meets this weekend will serve as a tantalizing appetizer for the three-week-long state series to follow.

The Upstate Eight River has three state-ranked girls teams expected to contend for league supremacy on Saturday at Lords Park in Elgin.

St. Charles East and three-time state qualifier Torree Scull are seeking to get the best of Batavia and Geneva.

St. Charles North freshman phenom Audrey Ernst is a top contender for the individual title, along with Scull and seasoned Streamwood campaigner Gabby Juarez.

“According to the coaches’ poll, Batavia and Geneva are ahead of us,” St. Charles East coach Mike Arenberg said of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs, No. 12 Vikings and his No. 14 Saints.

“I think it is going to be close.”

Arenberg is looking for his squad — also featuring top-five athletes Hannah Ewald, Anastasia Honea, Anna Arrick and Jordan Luedtke — to regain their early season form.

“We haven’t put that true race together like we did that first weekend (at the Saints’ Leavey Invitational),” Arenberg said. “I think we’re quite capable of it.”

Scull and Honea were members of the Saints’ Class 3A 3,200-meter state-championship relay team last spring in track.

The former has redemption on her mind after an uncharacteristically poor performance at the Saints’ last major competition, the Wheaton North Classic.

“I don’t know what happened,” Scull said of the flighted completion in which she failed to garner a top-10 finish among top-seeded competitors. “That was definitely my worst race of the season.”

The Saints’ returning All-Stater had finished no worse than fourth at any of her other major invites.

“We’re really looking for a good team race,” Scull said of conference. “I am trying to push toward my final race, which is state.”

Ernst defeated Juarez the last time the two competed head-to-head, but the Sabres’ senior stalwart enters conference with renewed confidence after winning the prestigious West Aurora Invitational last week.

North Stars hopeful

Kevin Harrington, the St. Charles North boys cross country coach, still retains optimism his traditional area power can concoct a potent mix in coming weeks.

The North Stars’ mentor harbors no illusions about a likely scenario in the Upstate Eight River championship on Saturday.

“The River side is chasing St. Charles East,” Harrington said. “They are the prohibitive favorite. They have run great the whole year.”

The North Stars will counter their city rival with Max Markowicz, Carter Stigben, Hayden Joyce, Brett Lee and Bo Ruttens.

Harrington said his current squad has somewhat of an enigmatic personality.

“It all depends on who shows up on what day,” Harrington said. “That’s been the story of our year so far. But I’m still holding out hope we can be something more than what we have been so far.”

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