Boys, girls cross country to compete at Shazam state meet

Although there is no IHSA state cross country meet this year due to COVID-19, boys and girls cross country will still have the chance to compete at the highest level at the ShaZam Racing championship on November 7.

“I’m so excited for this year’s state meet,” Kristin Loftus, junior cross country runner, said. “It isn’t the typical IHSA state meet this year because of COVID, but I’m so thankful for the opportunity to race against the best in the state.”

Of all the teams in Illinois, only 20 were invited to compete, along with 30 individual runners. For LZ’s boys and girls cross country teams, respectively earning third and fourth place finishes at their sectionals meet on October 31 was enough to clinch both a spot at the championships.

Although this ShaZam-sponsored meet is not an official Illinois state meet, the qualifications are approximately the same, according to Loftus, which means that 2020 would have been the first time the girls’ team qualified for state since 2014 and the boys’ team 13th consecutive qualification.

What will not be the same, however, is the way the meet will be run.

“The meet will be different because it’s going to be flighted; this just means that flights of up to 50 girls will be running at separate times based on their rank on their team,” Loftus said. “Normally, everyone from the same division would run together, but because of COVID protocols, they had to change that.”

Loftus has been preparing with her team as “we have been really good about getting enough sleep, staying healthy, and training correctly so that we can run our best,” Loftus says, and focusing on the values of the girls cross country team in order to stay motivated for the race. Since the meet is not operated through IHSA, the teams were not able to train with their coaches for the past week, but that has not stopped them from doing their most to prepare.

“COVID hasn’t affected our ability to train hard; we still run every day and motivate each other to push ourselves. The only thing that has really changed is the way practices have been run,” Loftus said. “All season, we have followed the mask and social distancing guidelines, but that hasn’t hindered our ability to train. We have all just been really good about being careful and making responsible decisions.”

While Loftus has been “mentally preparing myself and staying focused on my goals for the weekend,” she is less focused on winning the race more so than competing to the best of her ability.

“My goal for state is to leave it all out there and push myself harder than I ever have because this is my last chance to race this season. I don’t have a specific time or place in mind, I just want to push past my limits and run hard,” Loftus said. “It’s also really incredible to see all of my teammates’ hard work pay off towards the end of our season and I am so proud of all of them.”