Lyons Township High School senior Madison Findley is a multiple-time state qualifier in girls track and field.
She’s about to run in her first Class 3A girls cross country state meet Nov. 4 at Peoria’s Detweiller Park. On Saturday, she was the Lions’ top finisher at the 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional at Katherine Legge Memorial Park.
“I kind of focus on track a little more because I know I can do a little more. This is kind of showing that I can widen my horizons on how much I can run and how well I can run,” Findley said.
“(State) feels really good. I know we’ve worked really hard to get there. Not one of my better races, but the finish was good.”
The sixth-place Lions (141 points) earned one of the seven team-qualifying berths. Findley used a nice kick (19:22.69 for 3.0 miles) to join senior teammate Julianne Melby (19:22.81) in taking 19th and 20th. They were followed by senior Anna Bylsma (33rd, 19:37.52), sophomore Jenna Lally (36th, 19:42.09), seniors Shannon Cranny (38th, 19:43.87) and Lauren Bohringer (46th, 19:51.21) and junior Leigh Ferrell (61st, 20:20.01).
Coming off a stronger pack showing at the LT Regional Oct. 21, the Lions still had a 21-second split from their No. 1 to 5 finishers.
“It’s really exciting that we’re going back to state. It wasn’t our best performance but we did good enough,” Melby said.
“It’s been helpful having so many so close together during the race. You know your team’s got you and it takes pressure off. I saw (Findley) at the end. I didn’t see her before that. I’m glad she had a great race.”
The Lions, ranked in the top 10 throughout the season, hope to improve upon taking seventh in 2022. Cranny (70th), Melby (122nd), senior Kristina Findley (136th) and Bylsma (139th) were the team’s No. 3, 5, 6 and 7 finishers. Kristina Findley, Madison’s twin sister, ran at regionals and Ferrell ran Saturday.
The Lions have continued to thrive after graduating their top two runners and three of their first four. Melby and Bylsma improved upon 32nd and 42nd at last year’s sectional. Cranny, who was 35th, is in just her fourth race this season after an injury.
“I think everyone, we just decided, that we wanted to go to state this year and we wanted to do well as a team,” Melby said. “I think everyone did a good job of stepping up and filling in where we needed people. It’s made us really successful this season.’
The LTHS boys hope to contend for their first top-three state trophy since 2015. With their full lineup, the Lions were second (120) to No. 1-ranked Downers Grove North (49).
Returning senior all-staters Cillian Henning (5th, 15:25.25) and Nick Strayer (8th, 15:30.82) were top-10 all-sectional, followed by junior Ben Wuggazer (18th, 15:52.43), juniors Tate Pavelka (40th, 16:22.84), Charles Ciesla (54th, 16:32.67) and John O’Halloran (64th, 16:42.95) and senior Maksym Washchuk (69th, 16:46.52).
“Now that we’re back at full strength, we’re ready to make some things happen,” Strayer said. “My goal is to trophy as a team and contend for a state championship.”
At 2022 state, Strayer and Henning were ninth and 10th for the seventh-place Lions. The rest of the lineup has never raced at state.
Saturday’s sectional featured the top four returning 2022 state finishers and seven of the top eight plus two 2022 2A all-staters.
Because of injury, this was only Henning’s fourth race this season. He equaled last season’s fifth-place sectional finish.
“I think if I just moved 10 or 15 seconds earlier, I could have gotten third. Next week’s when it counts,” Henning said. “I feel like I’m improving. I feel like come (state) I could be at my best, ready to do some big things.”