Lady Leafs have the makeup to be special
Geneseo Coach Kelley Timmerman thinks this season’s cross country team has a little bit of everything: a senior with state experience, a solid group of returners and freshmen who can make an immediate impact.
“I think they are ready,” Timmerman said. “You kind of get the feel for certain teams. I told them they have something really special here if (they) can take it to the next level.”
Competing in one of the best cross country conferences in the state, Geneseo returns Josie Brown, Lauren Belvel and Anna Girten who each earned All-Conference honors last season.
Josie Brown was the Lady Leafs’ last state qualifier in 2015, and the Lady Leafs qualified for state as a team back in 2012.
Brown had a strong showing over the summer earning All-American honors on the track at the AAU National Jr. Olympics in the 1500-meter run (4:52.54) at Drake Stadium, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Coming off strong sophomore campaigns, Belvel and Girten always seem to be just a few strides away from each other, helping give Geneseo a dependable team score each week.
Strengthening that group will be Julia Poel who was named the Lady Leafs’ most improved runner last season, and Timmerman thinks she’s ready to take another step forward after a strong offseason.
Adding to the Leafs’ depth will be a freshmen class made up Lacey Laxton, Anna Snyder and Taya Fouts.
Following a fourth-place finish at the Class 3A IESA state cross country meet last season, Laxton has shown she has to potential to be at the front of the pack during her freshman season.
Snyder provided solid depth to the Geneseo Middle School team over the past two seasons, and she is always among the top finishers at local Geneseo 5Ks.
Megan Soria showed promise earning the team’s top freshman award last season, and Zoey Gomez earned the Leafs’ heart and soul award.
With so much potential at the top of the lineup, Geneseo runners have been putting in extra work to try to earn a spot with the varsity lineup.
Laxton has been working her way back from an injury, giving other runners a chance to show what they can do to help the team.
"There's going to be some battling going on between the sixth, seventh and eight runners from what I see right now," Timmerman said. "They've trained hard. We've had a great summer of people showing up for team runs. The dedication is there to make things happen."
With the potential for a big season, the Lady Leafs' captains have kept everyone motivated to keep working hard.
Timmerman says each captain brings something unique to the team.
Brown sets the tone leading by example, Adia Raya sets a good example in workouts and helps keeps everyone organized, and Girten is methodical about the team's training.
"We have a good team that is meshing together well," Timmerman said. "They are supporting each other, and the leadership is excellent this year."
Ideally, Timerman is looking for the team to solidify itself around the First to the Finish Invite at Detweiler Park, in Peoria, on Saturday, Sept. 8.
With one final chance to compete for the conference against NIB 12 teams, Geneseo hopes to turn some heads when they kick off championship season hosting the NIB 12 Conference meet at Richmond Hill, on Saturday, Oct. 13.
The Lady Leafs will open the season with a dual at the Sterling Grass Relays, at Woodlawn Park, in Sterling, on Aug. 21 at 4:30 p.m.
Geneseo's first invite will be at the Galesburg Invite, at Lake Storey Park, in Galesburg, on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 9 a.m.
Lady Leafs’ XC schedule
Aug. 21 Sterling Grass Relays Woodlawn Park 4:30 p.m.
Aug. 27 Wethersfield dual Kewanee Dunes 5 p.m.
Sept. 1 Galesburg Invite Lake Storey Park 9 a.m.
Sept. 8 First to the Finish Invite Detweiler Park 9 a.m.
Sept. 15 Geneseo Invitational Richmond Hill 9 a.m.
Sept. 20 Rock Island Invite Saukie Golf Course, Rock Island 5 p.m.
Sept. 29 Freeport Invite Highland Community College, Freeport 9:30 a.m.
Oct. 6 Running Red Invite Black Partridge Park 9:30 a.m.
Oct. 13 NIB 12 Conference Meet TBA 10 a.m.
Oct. 16 Sterling JV Invite Hoover Park 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 IHSA Regional TBA TBA
Oct. 27 IHSA Sectional TBA TBA
Nov. 3 IHSA State Detweiler Park TBA
Lady Leafs’ XC roster
Coach: Kelley Timmerman. Assistant Coach: Patricia Graves. Managers: Elaina Hines and Morgan Laxton.