Charlotte Lange

Lyons Township High School girls cross country runners waited a long year to earn a return to the IHSA Class 3A state meet in 2022. For senior Charlotte Lange, it’ll be a welcome return to Peoria’s Detweiller Park since competing there freshman year.

“It’s so great. The team has improved so much over the summer,” Lange said. “It’s great just seeing us get so much better.”

At the state’s toughest sectional at Waubonsie Valley in Aurora on Oct. 29, the Lions comfortably qualified for the Nov. 5 state finals by finishing fourth (124 points), seven points from third-place Naperville Central and two ahead of fifth-place Downers Grove North.

Senior Catherine Sommerfeld was fourth (17 minutes, 29.4 seconds for 3.0 miles) to earn top-10, all-sectional honors, followed by Lange (18th, 18:17.3), juniors Julianne Melby (32nd, 18:45.1) and Shannon Cranny (35th, 18:49.1), senior Scarlett Lestina (37th, 18:57.9) and juniors Anna Bylsma (42nd, 19:03.1) and Kristina Findley (48th, 19:08.7).

Catherine Sommerfeld

In 2021, Sommerfeld was the lone LTHS state representative, finishing 12th for all-state honors The Lions’ highest individual state finish ever is eighth.

“I definitely have individual goals,” Sommerfeld said. “I was kind of set back with my [preseason] injury, but I think I’ve been working well to get back up there.”

Needing a top-seven sectional finish to qualify as a team, last year’s Lions finished 11th (207).

“We still had a really good season and we just fell short at sectionals,” said LTHS coach Eric Simon. “This year we had a really great season and just an excellent race. They’re excited for next week and the improvement they’ve made over last year.”

The Lions should challenge for at least top 10 after being 17th in 2019, when Sommerfeld (124th) and Lange (135th) were the No. 4 and 5 team finishers. Both are having their best seasons as seniors.

Strayer, Henning top 10 sectional finishers

Nick Strayer

In the boys race, LTHS juniors Nick Strayer and Cillian Henning again showed their potential for being the Lions’ first multiple all-staters since 2016.

Strayer (3rd, 14:49.6) and Henning (5th, 14:51.8) were top-10 all-sectional finishers in leading the Lions to fifth (134), just six points from fourth-place Naperville Central and one ahead of fifth-place Neuqua Valley.

Seniors Aidan Collins (37th, 15:41.7), Ruben Guevara (46th, 15:51.3) and Matt McGovern (54th, 15:55.9) and junior Brendan Whalen (78th, 16:21.4) were the Lions’ other five finishers.

“[Sectionals] was a great race. I was able to execute what I was doing and build on some momentum that I’ve been gaining the last couple of weeks,” Strayer said. “I hope to continue doing that at state.”

Cillian Henning

The Lions also expect to improve upon last year’s 12th-place state team finish with Strayer (46th), Collins (104th), Henning (133rd) and McGovern (182nd) in the lineup. Throughout this season, they’ve been looking for their top five to click in the same meet.

“I think the big goal is to earn a top three trophy. We’ve just got to put it together and everyone be on the same day,” Collins said.

Henning is in a much better place than 2021, when he competed at state after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his pelvis following sectionals.

“I was going to try and close the gap on Nick throughout [the sectional] race and execute the same way I’ve been executing all season, so it went pretty well,” Henning said. “[All-sectional] was the plan going into the meet, just making around top six so it would just mean beating everybody that I had already beaten before this season.”