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Skyway championship, Runner of the Year and national berth for women’s cross country

The 2018 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship women's cross country team.
The 2018 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship women's cross country team.

After a two-year hiatus, the Cyclones reclaimed the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship, with Calista Stefaniak (Kennedy) finishing first in Skyway, and additionally qualified three runners for the national tournament.

For the first time since 2014, the conference and NJCAA Region IV championships were determined by a single race yesterday at College of Lake County. With this new dynamic came additional competition, but no less ferocity from the Cyclones. They finished first among all conference teams for the championship and third in the region.

"Winning conference was one of our goals all season, and I am so proud of the women for accomplishing that. This makes four conference titles in the past five years, so this is something that our women's teams will continue to strive for each season," said head Coach Dimitri Dimizas.

Stefaniak was individual champion in conference and placed second in region with a 20:21. Victoria Granz (Richards) finished fourth in conference and 10th in region (21:40) while Madison Krisch (Tinley Park) crossed in sixth in conference and 14th in region (22:04). All three earned All-Conference and All-Region honors and will compete at the NJCAA championship on Nov. 10. Reavis alumnae Guadalupe Diaz (13th conference/28th region, 23:51), Carmen Villarreal (15th conference/31st region, 24:15) and Natalie Moreno (16th conference/32nd region, 24:41) each ran a personal best to help earn the team championship.

Becoming Skyway champion was something Stefaniak wanted since last season. She added her name alongside former Cyclones Claudia Nieves (2003), Ashley Shares (2010) and Aileen Gorman (2014) as Conference Runners of the Year. These are runners Stefaniak talked about with Dimizas in striving toward this goal.

"Winning individually made me feel proud about how far I've come in running. I'm satisfied about my performance because even though I won, there is still room for improvement," Stefaniak said. "The work I put into the sport is paying off. I prepared by training my hardest during the off season. It wasn't easy. I wanted to make nationals again and become conference champ, so I kept working toward it. I want to break 19 minutes for the 5K, and I'm shooting for the Cyclone record and All-American."

It was a good day for Cyclone running, but there's still more work to do. "Having the Skyway and Region IV championships determined by a single race this year is an interesting dynamic, and I think we handled it well. From a team perspective, we knew that Sauk Valley Community College and Sandburg College were going to have a number of runners up front. Both teams have been in the national rankings during the season so that also made things tricky when we were looking at individual placing," Dimizas said. "Calista did a fantastic job finishing second behind Sandburg's top runner, who is one of the fastest runners in the nation. Victoria and Madison ran gutsy races to join Calista on the All-Region team. All three will be representing us at nationals in two weeks and for Victoria and Madison that will be a major accomplishment going in to next season."

The trio head to Garden City, Kansas, for the NJCAA Championship with three runners from the men's team on Saturday, Nov. 10.