Maine South senior Emily Leonard epitomized consistency at the Class 3A girls cross country state meet, earning all-state honors during all four years of high school.
Leonard completed the course at Detweiller Park in Peoria in 17 minutes, 24 seconds on Saturday, finishing 15th overall.
“I was happy with how I finished,” Leonard said. “I wish I would have ran a faster time, and maybe I could have placed a little higher. But just being able to get all-state again this year is a very nice accomplishment that I was hoping to achieve. I can’t be disappointed with what I ran.”
It takes talent to finish in the top-25 four straight years, but it also requires good health.
“For me, one of the reasons why I think I have been at this [all-state] level all four years is we cross train as a team,” Leonard said. “We go in early twice a week, and we would swim in the mornings and we would also run in the afternoons — like a hard workout. I think that definitely was one of the key things that helped me achieve all-state. And also nutrition and eating right, and taking vitamins and supplements and all of that stuff. And then getting enough rest, and even just doing stretching and all of that stuff. Just (try to be) as healthy as you can.”
Leonard tried to eat a lot of meat in order to keep her iron levels high, and the cross training helps reduce the pounding on a runner’s body.
Although Leonard paid close attention to her health, she missed three weeks near the beginning of her senior season when her right Achilles tendon swelled up suddenly. Leonard said she didn’t know the cause of the swelling or why it was gone one morning.
She was able to maintain her fitness during the injury by training in the pool and on an elliptical.
While the top 25 runners at the Class 3A state meet received all-state medals after completing the race, Evanston senior Kyla Steman was handed one of her pink and black New Balance spikes after finishing.
Steman, who completed the state course in 18:25 to finish 91st Saturday, lost her shoe with 2.3 miles remaining in her first state meet. It came off when another runner stepped on her right heel and pulled the shoe off of her heel. Steman, in stride, said she tried to hit her shoe back on before quickly realizing it wasn’t going to happen.
Her shoe fell off completely about one step after she tried to hit it back on, Steman said, and in that moment she decided to just keep running. Steman ran the rest of the race wearing only her left shoe.
“I haven’t even had my shoes come untied because I quadruple knot them,” Steman said. “I had times where I was a little freaked out where you could feel your foot sliding because you’re not wearing a spike. It didn’t really bother me as much as I thought it would.”
The shoe was cleared from the course after it fell off, and she said her father, James Steman, found it in the lost-and-found before returning it to her. Kyla Steman, upon looking at her right shoe after the race, realized there was a dime-sized hole in the heel of it.
“I might have to get new ones,” Kyla Steman said. The spikes “are a little deformed.”
Many cross country runners are busy racing throughout the academic year, transitioning from cross country in the fall, to indoor track in the winter, to outdoor track in the spring.
Loyola sophomore Kathryn House is an exception as she participates in a somewhat unusual combination of sports during the school year. She plays hockey during the winter. House has missed more than a month of the hockey season – the Ramblers’ first game was a 6-3 loss to Latin on Oct. 6 – in order to focus on the end of her sophomore cross country campaign.
House, who is listed as a forward on the Ramblers’ 2013-14 hockey roster, completed the Class 3A state course in 17:50 to earn 35th at the state meet. She was Loyola’s fastest runner at the meet. Loyola finished 16th as a team.
Niles West junior Christine Mujica finished 97th out of 207 runners in the Class 3A girls cross country state race Saturday. She completed the course in 18:28.
Regina junior Kate McDonough took 150th at the Class 2A state meet. McDonough, who was the Panthers’ lone state qualifier, finished in 20:17.