Freshman Nicole Sreenan picking up the slack for Kaneland

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Early this track season it became evident that with the impending graduation of four-year varsity standout Lauren Zick, freshman Nicole Sreenan could very well be the next big thing for Kaneland girls track.

Thanks to Zick’s unfortunate ankle injury at conference, that transition could be sooner rather than later, say at this weekend’s state meet in Charleston.

“I would say (Sreenan) definitely falls in that category of being a pretty exceptional young girl who could be in the same company as Lauren or (former Knight standout) Lindsay Gierke (2006-09),” said assistant coach Keith Snyder, who oversees the Knight sprinters for head coach Doug Ecker.

“She’s been separating herself as a freshman and at the biggest meets she’s done her best.”

Sreenan qualified for state from the Class 2A Freeport Sectional with a first-place finish in the 100-meter dash (12.55 seconds) and runnerup in the 400 (57.54). She was also a member of the Knights’ qualifying 400 and 1,600 relays.

Her times in the 400 and 100 rank fourth and tied for 19th, respectively, in the state this outdoor season, according to DyeStatIL.

“(Zick and Sreenan) are definitely different, personality-wise, but have the same talent,” Snyder said. “(Sreenan) is a little more vocal than Lauren was as a freshman and a little more stubborn.

“The 400 is probably her better race but she doesn’t really like it.”

Sreenan, who remembers running 1:24 in the 400 as a seventh grader, admits she didn’t believe Snyder earlier this year when he told her she could run the one-lap race in 57-something seconds.

“I give him a much harder time,” the youngster said. “I just like to bug him.”

Zick, who transitioned from the 400 early in high school to focus on the shorter sprints and long jump, understands where Sreenan is coming from.

“I haven’t met a person yet that really likes that race,” Zick said of the 400. “It’s really long and it’s more mental than physical. It’s a distance and sprint event.”

“I definitely see myself in (Sreenan). She’s just as competitive, has a lot of drive and is a great athlete who works hard. And she hasn’t let (success) go to her head. In practice she works as hard as anybody else.”

Snyder said Sreenan is just “scratching the surface of what she can do in the 100. She holds her deceleration in that race really well for a freshman. Everyone holds their top speed for about three seconds in that race. The longer you wait to get to that top speed the better. I’d like for her to be hitting it at about 35 meters out.”

Zick and Sreenan head a young sprint group that has been special. It includes sophomores Olivia Galor and Allie Heinzen and freshmen Lexi Guerraro and Carley Elliott.

Snyder said Heinzen, a member of all three state qualifying relays, has flown under the radar but “is the glue” that holds them all together.

Zick has made an impressive return from the high ankle sprain she suffered less than two weeks ago and will run in Friday’s prelims as the anchor on the 400 relay after sitting out sectional.

“I call it my bionic ankle,” she said, pointing to a new lightweight brace she was using in practice this week. “It’s really light and provides a lot of stability.”

Running anchor allows her to run a straightaway and keep stress off the ankle she rolled while running a 200.

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