Haff has a laugh at invite

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For a longtime soccer player, Alexa Haff has turned into a solid cross country runner.

Haff played travel soccer in grade school before she started running cross country for the first time as an eighth-grader at Butler Jr. High in Oak Brook.

That was just last year as the Hinsdale Central freshman is making a huge impact on the Red Devils’ varsity. The rookie runner is filling in nicely for all-stater Jill Hardies, who graduated in May and currently runs for North Carolina. Hardies is the most decorated cross country runner in school history, claiming four state medals. She placed 17th as a freshman in 2009 and came in runner-up as a sophomore.

Devils coach Mark McCabe said Hardies and Haff have different training styles.

“Jill came in with a running (background). She had done a lot more running than Alexa,” McCabe said. “There is a big difference with them as freshmen. You train full time for the sport, but Alexa has not trained at that level.”

Haff’s impact with the Devils is more than running. Her outgoing personality has been a welcomed addition to the team, which returned senior leader Becca Marcotte and promising sophomore Annie Zaher.

“It’s a joy and pleasure to have (Alexa) on the team. She is as team-oriented as can be,” McCabe said.

“I love to run,” Haff said.

Alexa Haff won the St. Charles North Invitational Saturday at LeRoy Oaks with a time of 17 minutes, 25.2 seconds. She beat Kendall Cast of Metea Valley (17:52.6). The Devils won their first invitational Saturday, but Haff is no stranger to championships. At the season-opening Hornet-Red Devil Invite Sept. 7, Haff clocked 17:29.88 to beat New Trier’s Mimi Smith (17:34.10), who took ninth at state last year.

Hinsdale ends the regular season at the West Suburban Silver meet at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Proviso West.

Haff started working out with the Devils during the summer and participated in a bonding trip in mid-July when the team spent three days of training and camaraderie in Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Coach McCabe has helped me and the girls have all helped me so much,” Haff said. “They have all been welcoming. Coach McCabe is a great coach.”

Though Haff’s biggest win of the season came at her first invite at Legge Memorial Park, she had her most fun at St. Charles North. Haff, the younger sister of senior baseball infielder Ryan Haff, said she had never seen fans dressed as hot dogs and bananas as a cross country meet.

“I started laughing,” Haff said.

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