By Rick Lytle, Online Editor-in-Chief

Four athletes graduating and running in college, three of them at the Division I level, are big shoes to fill. Not only did the team this year have big holes to replace in a storied girls’ cross country program, they only had one senior in their top seven runners. 

“We knew they had potential, I guess but you never really know what you’re going to get,” head coach Pete Wintermute said. 

The team managed to fill those shoes and more, placing the highest at state for the program since 2011. On Nov. 9, the girls’ cross country team finished eighth at the Class 3A state finals in Peoria. Audrey Ginsburg was the highest finisher for the Knights, coming in 21st place with a time of 17:14.68. This was the sixth best time for a sophomore at the meet, and the finish made her an All-State athlete. 

“Audrey started showing some of this potential last year in track and during the summer time she came to me and said ‘A goal of mine is to be All-State and what do you think I need to do,” Wintermute said. 

Runners two through seven for the Knights were Cam Kalaway (38th place), Annika Erickson (79th), Emily Hubbard (90th), Hailey Erickson (127th), Paige Runkle (147th) and Reese Lettow (176th). 

The team has had a successful season, adding their eighth place finish at state to an MSL East Championship and a second place finish at the Mid-Suburban League conference meet. 

Emily Hubbard was the only senior that ran at state so the team has hopes of continued success in the near future. Ginsburg said that Hubbard helped the younger runners on the team get acclimated to varsity. 

“She’s really good about helping us understand how the way our team operates and helping us understand what we need to do to make our team better,” Ginsburg said. 

Wintermute doesn’t want to get ahead of himself just yet, but can’t help thinking about the team’s potential next year.

“To say I’m not excited would be an understatement, but really the focus is getting back to training and having a good track season,” Wintermute said. “Then, as we wrap up the track season getting into the summer mode and having a good summer training because it’s difficult to have a great cross [country] season without putting the time and effort in during the summer.”