Jenna Schwartz had already earned a pair of all-state medals on the 3-mile cross country course at Detweiller Park in Peoria.
But on a cool, crisp early November morning, Waterloo High School junior Jenna Schwartz became the top Class 2A Cross Country runner in Illinois. By crossing the finish line in 17 minutes, 5 seconds, Schwartz put herself in the Illinois High School record book as a state champion.
“It was a tremendous moment. It was so rewarding to see all of the hard work pay off,” Schwartz said. “When I crossed the finish line though I remember thinking that I didn’t break 17 minutes. That just gives me another goal to aim for next year.
“It was a great day and a great season. We wanted to qualify as a team and we wanted the boys team to qualify as well. I think that’s the first time in school history that both made it to state in the same season.”
The Belleville News-Democrat Runner of the Year for the third straight season, Schwartz joined Kristen Busch of Freeburg and three-time champion Susan Gibson of Wesclin as the most recent local female athletes win state cross country titles.
Busch won the Class 1A state crown in 2010, Gibson won the Class A state championship in 1992 and 1993, placed third in 1994 and won the championship as a senior in 1995.
Following the state meet, Schwartz competed in the Foot Locker Midwest Regional on Nov. 26 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Competing against many of the top runners in the Midwest, Schwartz placed 20th. The top 10 advance to the Foot Locker national finals.
After taking a week off, Schwartz is back running as she prepares for the track and field season that begins in late February. She competes in both the 1,600-meters and 3,200-meters.
“I wasn’t disappointed in how I ran at the Foot Locker Regionals. I do plan to try it again next year because I would really like to qualify for the national finals,” Schwartz said. “I always take a week off after cross country and a week after track and field. Right now, I’m back running every day.”
Repeating this year’s success won’t be an easy task for Schwartz. Among her victories this season were the Mississippi Valley Conference and both the IHSA regional and sectional meets. She failed to win only twice all season, placing fourth at the First to the Finish Invitational and second at the Peoria Invitational.
But once at Detweiller Park on the first Saturday in November, Schwartz was up for all challengers
“Detweiller is my favorite course. I know it well and it’s a very flat and fast course.” Schwartz said. “I didn’t want to go out too fast. Everybody goes out fast. I wanted to make sure I had a good spot when I thought it was time. I took the lead at about the halfway mark and then felt good the rest of the way.”
Schwartz’s time was nine seconds faster than runner-up Campbell Peterson of Dunlap and a full 17 seconds faster than her time of 17:22 a year ago when she placed sixth. Schwartz placed 24th in the state finals as a freshman.
But the real key for Schwartz may have been within her own team. The Bulldogs placed 11th at the Class 2A state finals. She says she was pushed at practice daily by teammates such as Ella King and Sydney Haddick, both first-team all-area selections. Seven underclass runners return in the fall for another state meet climb.
“That really helped all of us. I know having runners of a high level there everyday made me a better runner,” Schwartz said. “The good thing is that we’ve got our top seven runners back next season. I’m interested to see how high we can finish at state. That is one of the main goals, to finish better higher than we did this season.”
Schwartz was also an all-state runner as a freshman, placing 24th in 17:59. Like Busch, who went on to become a collegiate distance runner at Bradley University in Peoria, Schwartz could be a four-time all-state runner with a top 25 performance next season.
2017 Belleville News-Democrat All-Area Cross Country Team
Runner of the Year
- Jenna Schwartz, Waterloo, jr.
Coach of the Year
- Larry Huffman, Waterloo
Class 1A First Team
- Breanna Chandler, Freeburg, soph.
- Brooke Biffar, Gibault, frosh.
- Madelyn Tepe, Okawville, sr.
- Jaylyn Bower, Nashville, sr.
- Kayla Whitworth, Freeburg, sr.
- Abby Riechmann, Okawville, jr.
- Elyse Faust, Mater Dei, jr.
- Gretta Stark, Mater Dei, soph.
- Alayna Toedte, New Athens, sr.
Class 2A First Team
- Jenna Schwartz, Waterloo, jr.
- Samantha Hengehold, Highland, soph.
- Sydney Haddick, Waterloo, soph.
- Ella King, Waterloo, jr.
- Alyssa Kowalski, Triad, frosh.
- Maddie Keller, Triad, sr.
- Jessica Borror, Highland, frosh.
- Julia Kapp, Mascoutah, soph.
- Arianna Climaco, Mascoutah, soph.
- Madi Walter, Triad, sr.
Class 3A First Team
- Abby Korak, Edwardsville, soph.
- Melissa Spencer, Edwardsville, sr.
- Abby Schrobilgen, Edwardsville, jr.
- Seleiya Wilson, Belleville East, sr.
- Jaycie Hudson, Edwardsville, jr.
- Emiley England, Edwardsville, frosh.
- Kaitlyn Walker, O’Fallon, soph.
- Elise Krone, Edwardsville, frosh.
- Brooke Witzel, O’Fallon, sr.
- Sophie Wichlac, O’Fallon, soph.
(One combined list)
- Mya Albers, Mater Dei; Brittnie Bartling, Nashville; Naya Busbea, Mascoutah; Alyssa Comer, Granite City; Joslyn Crosby, Belleville East; Bella Dixon, Mascoutah;Hannah Eastman, Belleville East; Sabrina Favela, O’Fallon; Ellie Hatter, Freeburg; Abby Holcomb, Freeburg; Kylie James, O’Fallon; Emma Jordan, O’Fallon; Sabrina Kollbaum, Nashville; Madison Krieg, Mascoutah; McKenna Laing, Collinsville; Reagan Lucas, Freeburg; Sydney Hartoin, Triad; Laurin Lunk, Waterloo; Katie Mank, O’Fallon; Grace Maschhoff, Nashville; Grace Meyer, Highland; Sofia Parker, O’Fallon; Alyssa Postma, Triad; Faith Rackers, Mater Dei; Emma Rick, Waterloo; Katelyn Singh, Edwardsville; Colleen Sliment, Waterloo; Hannah Stuart, Edwardsville; Kayla Tirey, Collinsville; Breann Wernle, Highland
(One combined list)
- Jenna Alfeldt, New Athens; Carly Carril, Sparta; Lori Cashdollar, Edwardsville; Kailee Chau, Mascoutah; Maddie Collins, O’Fallon; Megan Cook, Okawville; Lily Crader, Alton; Mallory Emig, Mater Dei; Maggie Fitzgerald, Collinsville; Shonjahnea Griggs, East St. Louis; Calyn Hartmann,Red Bud; Claire Hill, Althoff; Malina Isaak, Mater Dei; Emily Johnson, Granite City; Samantha Kilzer, Triad; Olivia Leemon, Marissa; Grace Marlen, Freeburg; Maddie Mense, Freeburg; Maddie Miller, Edwardsville; Chessy Nikonowicz, Granite City; JC Nunnery, Belleville East; Jennifer Palen, Roxana; Sydney Patterson, Waterloo; Havalen Pierce, Nashville; Melanie Rueter, Gibault; Tiffani Siekmann, Althoff; Madeline Sullivan, Mater Dei; Claire Sykes, Granite City; Michaela Tarpley, Roxana; Danika White, News Athens