Marcucci and DeLuca lead girls’ cross country team to success

Junior Maria Marcucci nears the finish of her final lap at the Palatine High School Invitational on Friday, Sept. 18. Marcucci finished with a time of 18:46, taking eighth place. (Photo by Emma Crosson)

By Maura O’Driscoll, Sports Writer

Not letting COVID-19 hold them back, the girls’ cross country team persevered through many obstacles in their fall season. While they were allowed to practice, many things were different compared to previous seasons: every day the players and coaches were required to fill out a self-certification form, wear a mask, and maintain their distance whenever possible. 

All of the coronavirus related steps became a regular part of our routine, and I don’t think anyone really minded the addition as it meant we could continue together,” senior Danielle Ammentorp said. 

In addition, due to a ten-day shutdown towards the start of the season, the coaches made a decision to split the team into three different groups. Each group was led by a separate coach and was not allowed to intermingle to prevent any spreading of the coronavirus. There was one varsity group and two junior varsity groups with seniors Danielle Ammentorp, Cailee Oslowski, and Tara Murphy leading as captains.

“Having the team split into three groups was challenging,” Oslowski said. “Normally, we all warm up together, run separate routes, and come back together to cool down and do an ab workout. But this season we had to remain in our assigned groups. This made it harder to connect as a team because we felt so divided, but at the same time, it urged us to get to know people we normally may not have talked to.”

Remote learning has been hard on everyone involved. Shifting gears from working online all day to having to find a way to get to school is hard for some athletes. 

“I do believe this dynamic of coming into school for practice reduced the size of our team in this particular season,” Coach Jeff Downing said.

All the schools from various districts had their own set of rules and guidelines to follow regarding the structure of meets. Sometimes the runners had to be broken up into waves and in one instance, separate races for each team. Furthermore, a majority of the courses did not allow spectators.

“There was one race at the Maine South course where we had to run entirely by ourselves,” Murphy said. “Maine South ran first, and the other school ran after our race was over. It was definitely difficult to stay in a competitive mindset when you are not physically racing against other teams.”

“The reduction of spectators made the courses much quieter,” Ammentorp added.

Despite many challenges, the girls continued to work hard and felt very fortunate to have a season. 

“We are all so happy that our season was able to happen, although it felt weird at times when we needed to remain several feet apart just to have a conversation,” Murphy stated.

The team ended the season with DeLuca, Marcucci, and Murphy qualifying as All-Conference runners. Overall, the team placed in the top ten at the Lyons Township Sectionals on Saturday, Oct. 31, as it has for the past four years. At Sectionals, freshman Olivia DeLuca received 32nd place with a time of 18:50. She was followed closely by Marcucci, who received 37th place with a time of 19:04.

The team’s key runners proved to be DeLuca and Marcucci, who placed sixth and seventh at conference, separated by 0.4 seconds. DeLuca achieved a personal record of 18:49.6 at the CSL Conference at New Trier on Saturday, Oct. 17. Marcucci on the other hand ran a time of 18:49.2 at the CSL Conference. This season, Marcucci ran a personal best at the Palatine Quad Meet with a time of 18:46.

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