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Better Together: Katz paces the Cougars to victory one last time

Senior Lauren Katz paces the Cougars to their third straight state trophy

The+girls+cross+country+team+poses+with+their+third+straight%2C+3rd+place+trophy+in+the+2A+division
The girls cross country team poses with their third straight, 3rd place trophy in the 2A division

The girls cross country team poses with their third straight, 3rd place trophy in the 2A division

The girls cross country team poses with their third straight, 3rd place trophy in the 2A division

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Vernon Hills’ girls cross country has consistently been one of the state’s best teams in the 2A division, taking home the 3rd place trophy the past three years. The past two years, however, have been led by current senior Lauren Katz.

Lauren Katz is a four year varsity letterwinner and has earned All-State honors in cross country the past three years.

She shared that leading the team since she was a junior has been a challenge, but says she has learned a lot from the experience.

“I love being able to give advice to the girls on the team, and I have learned how much people can really take into consideration what you say to them,” Katz explained.

She also explained that she loves mentoring the girls in a variety of ways.

“I love to encourage the girls with motivational quotes, or just words of encouragement before a workout or race, and I love giving advice based on my personal experiences in the past,” Katz said.

Head coach of the successful girls cross country program, Coach Suzanne Curry, explained that Katz has developed into a great leader for the team over the past two years.

“She was fortunate to be a part of the team with strong leaders when she was a freshman and sophomore and learned a lot from those upperclassmen.” Curry said.  “She’s not only a vocal force on the team; she sets a great example in every practice.”

Assistant coach, Coach Chris Wolf, told of similar characteristics, calling Katz “an easy kid to coach.”

“She drives other runners to and from practice , makes an effort to connect to younger athletes and knows the importance of fostering a team approach to our sport,” Wolf said.

When asked who she looked up to as well as where she attained her leadership style from, Katz referenced Vernon Hills alumnae such as Shannon Skeoch, Samantha Hershman, Lauren Kim, and her coaches.

Although, more specifically, she said that she looked up to Vernon Hills’ alumna Vivian Overbeck.

“Vivian cares so much about her teammates and she wants to make sure you are confident when you step to the starting line, which she always helped me with before races. She always encouraged me and pushed me to do my best,” she said.

Katz ran with Overbeck her freshman and sophomore year before Overbeck went on to run at the collegiate level at Northern Illinois University.

“I strive to be as encouraging and determined as she is one day,” she said of Overbeck.

Katz finished up her high school cross country career with an All-State finish, taking 11th place with a time of 17 minutes and 34 seconds. She was followed by sophomore Carly Sear (28th, 18:09), juniors Leah Wilkowski (40th, 18:24), Ryan Schofield (41st, 18:24), Katie Wilkowski (47th, 18:31), Hannah Ray (69th, 18:53), and Payton Makowskyj(70th, 18:54).

As a team, the girls took home their third straight, 3rd place trophy with a score of 111. Just short of runner-up Belvidere North (95) and 2A champion Dunlap (72).

Just a day after the sectional meet, Katz committed to continue her academic and athletic career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She explained that she believes that her competitive racing days are not yet complete.

“I am running at the University of Illinois because challenging myself and racing competitively gives my life meaning,” she explained. “I am excited to push my limits even further.”

Coach Curry is equally as thrilled as Katz, as she is an University of Illinois alumna.

“I am excited for Lauren to continue her running career at U of I.” Curry said. “I think she will be a good addition to their young team and she will learn and grow a lot in her 4 years there. I-L-L!”

Coach Wolf is also an alumnus of the University of Illinois and shared that same enthusiasm.

“It’s a great school with rich traditions and a running program that will fit her nicely. I am really excited to see how she grows as a runner with some college training,” Wolf shared.

As Katz finishes up her career as an All-State runner here at Vernon Hills High School, she most definitely leaves a legacy for others to follow in her footsteps.  

“The past four years have been a learning experience for me not only as an athlete but as a person as well,” Katz said.“They have been four years full of memories, pain, success, fun, and friendships. Without cross country, I would be missing a vital part of my life.”

While the state team is losing front runner and leader Lauren Katz, they return the rest of the top 7 next year, and sophomore Carly Sear still has two more years on the team.

“It’s always tough when you lose a strong front runner, but we have a very solid pack of outstanding runners and there is always a new crop coming in,” Curry said of the future. “Running is such a great life-long activity that anyone can do it, so if you are interested and willing to put in the work you are welcome on our team.”

This image shows Lauren Katz running ahead of another runner. Katz wears the number 2383 on a blue tank top.

Lauren Katz (BIB #2383) holds off other runner at the First To The Finish Invitational in Peoria

Katz runs ahead of another girl. She wears a blue tank top and shorts.

Lauren Katz runs at the First To The Finish Invitational in Peoria Sept. 9 Lauren Katz

This image shows the girls team standing together in a circle with arms around each other.

Nicole Pinter
The girls huddle for one last time at their state reception Nov. 4

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Better Together: Katz paces the Cougars to victory one last time