Maine South bands together with sights on state meet

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CHICAGO — If Maine South’s girls cross country team is to make its fourth consecutive trip to Peoria in November, Mirae Mastrolonardo must run one of her best races of the season on Saturday.

She’s not worried.

Maine South will be vying for one of five team spots in the Class 3A state meet Nov. 9 when it competes in the Lake Park sectional this week.

Mastrolonardo, who finished ninth (18 minutes, 32 seconds) at the Oct. 26 regional, said she usually performs her best when the pressure is highest.

“I work better under those conditions,” she laughed. “It’s do or die, you know.”

“These next ones are the races that matter,” the senior said. “Lake Park is a faster course, so I should be able to run well there. I’m hoping to help the team get to the state meet again.”

Mastrolonardo is one of four Hawks who ran on last season’s 10th-place team — the best finish in program history. Seniors Emily Leonard and Cailin Eckhart and sophomore Gina Johnson also were in the state lineup last year.

Leonard, a three-time all-state athlete, looked in postseason form at Washington Park on Oct. 26 when she won the Young Regional with a course-record time of 17:40.98. She beat the previous mark set by Young’s Lavinia Jurkiewicz by more than three seconds.

“I’m very happy with where I am,” Leonard said of her fastest time of the season and first regional title.

Maine South took second place with 66 points despite the absence of Johnson, who missed her second straight meet with a foot injury. Hawks coach Jeff Downing said he hopes she will be ready for the sectional.

Although Leonard will be a contender for the sectional championship, she said she understands it will take a team effort to qualify for the state meet.

New Trier and Glenbard West are the likely front-runners at the sectional, while Maine South, Oak Park-River Forest, St. Ignatius and Loyola will challenge for the remaining three spots.

“We are right on the edge,” Leonard said. “I think it’s going to take everybody running their best races of the season. We’ve trained hard, and we’ve put in the time. We’ve done the work.

“Now, it’s time to perform.”

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