No regrets for Libertyville’s Ali Urbanski

SHARE No regrets for Libertyville’s Ali Urbanski

When Libertyville’s Ali Urbanski elected to participate in cross country for the first time as a junior, she wasn’t sure it was the right decision.

How would focusing on cross country affect her main sport, soccer? How would she do in a new sport against more experienced runners?

“I was skeptical and wasn’t sure I would like it,” she said. “I enjoyed running, so finally I decided to give it a whirl.”

Those questions were rendered moot after two years of rapid improvement, fast times and bonding with a whole new set of teammates. Urbanski’s time of 19 minutes, 23 seconds placed her third at the Libertyville Regional Oct. 26. The Wildcats placed three runners in the top 10 and captured the regional title.

At Saturday’s rugged Schaumburg Sectional at Busse Woods, the Wildcats did not quality as a team for the state meet. Junior Kristi Del Prato led Libertyville with a 25th-place finish.

As a junior, Urbanski started on the junior varsity team. Her breakthrough came when she earned a medal at the Palatine Invitational.

“When I got to the finish line and saw my time and place, I realized I could do this,” she said. “It pushed me to want to start running for the varsity.”

She didn’t have to wait long. That race earned her a promotion to the varsity, where she quickly become a consistent scoring runner.

“It was awesome to see the way she improved,” Wildcats coach Bill Etnyre said. “She really progressed and just kept getting better and better. We could count on her race-in and race-out.”

At this year’s Peoria Invitational on Sept. 28, Urbanski had a breakthrough, leading Libertyville with a time of 18:37.

“I remember at the starting line knowing I was going to get my best time,” she said.

Urbanski learned to enjoy running, but she appreciated the camaraderie just as much.

“This was an amazing group of girls,” she said. “You could come to practice after a long day at school and everyone would cheer you up. It was a great atmosphere and we all pushed each other to work so hard.”

And the best is probably yet to come.

The Wildcats return six of their top seven runners. At the regional meet where Urbanski placed third, freshman Emily Olson was second and sophomore Sarah Pirih and Del Prato also were in the top 10. Junior Gina Palmieri, sophomore Mia Bertaud and freshman Audrey Paglia all placed in the top 25.

In addition, Etnyre said next year’s freshman class is expected to be particularly strong.

“We’re pretty excited about next season,” he said.

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