The possibilities are vast with this year’s crop of runners on the Cyclone women’s cross country team. Not only is the fastest runner back after a trip to nationals last fall, but speedy recruits have joined the effort.
Injury plagued last year’s squad; however, Calista Stefaniak (Kennedy) and Theresa Orr, who ran her final season last year, ran at the national tournament. Stefaniak earned her place as the fifth fastest female runner at Moraine Valley with goals this year to not only break the 5K and 6K school record, but also repeat with All-Conference and All-Region honors and become an All-American. She put in extra miles this summer and will be depended on by her teammates for leadership.
Guadalupe Diaz (Reavis) and Natalie Moreno (Reavis) also are back after injuries and setbacks last year. They’ll be joined by speedsters Madison Krisch (Tinley Park), Victoria Granz (Richards), Carmen Villarreal (Reavis), Rachel Brenner (Oak Forest), and Nicola Jarosz (Stagg). Brenner is new to the sport but is in top shape thanks to her time spent in competitive cheerleading. At 6-foot-1, Jarosz has a long stride and untapped potential.
Like the men’s team, the women have goals to become not only Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and NJCAA Region IV champions, but also scholar All-Americans.
“They have a realistic chance to be champions. We lost our core from last year, but with Calista being faster plus Madison and Victoria being a fast pair, that’ll help a lot and make stronger possibilities,” said Dimitri Dimizas, who enters his third year leading the Cyclones.
The women’s team has a strong winning tradition, evidenced by three straight conference championships in recent years (2014-16) and five appearances at the national tournament. Dimizas intends to continue using his tried and true methods of coaching to recapture the crowns while also being cautious to avoid injury. Their most important races of the season are the Skyway and region championship held in a combined race on Oct. 28, which is their focus.
In addition to proven strategies, Dimizas has a new assistant coach in former Cyclone runner Sarah McCann, who competed at the college in 2014 and 2016.
“I wanted a female alum who could work better with the women’s team and also someone who has not only run here but has championships and honors in her resume. That championship experience will help both teams,” Dimizas said.
The Cyclones begin competition Friday, Aug. 31 at the Earlybird Invite at Elmhurst College.