In a “normal” year, we would be getting ready for another trip downstate to Detweiler Park in Peoria for the IHSA state cross country meets. Since the state tourney is not in the cards in 2020, let’s instead take a trip down memory lane as we look back at one of the area’s best distance runners to lace up a pair of shoes.
Naperville North girls cross country is one of the strongest program’s in Illinois history, regardless of sport. With ten state championships and 19 state team trophies, it is not always easy to stand out amongst so many great runners. But 2018 graduate Sarah Schmitt spent her four years as a Huskie becoming a team leader one of the most decorated athletes in program history.
A varsity runner even as a freshman on the 2014 state championship team, Schmitt finished in the top 30 at the state meet all four years. She was an All state performer in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and is one of only two North runners to have two top six finishes at state. The Huskies won three state championships during her tenure, in 2014, 2016 and 2017 with a second place finish in 2015.
Beginning her junior season in 2016, Schmitt formed a dynamic duo with then sophomore Alex Morris. The pair could always be seen at the front of the pack, leading other talented Huskie runners like Claire Hamilton, Hannah Ricci, Claire Hill and Megan Driscoll to more state hardware. Following the 2017 IHSA season, the North girls competed in the Nike Cross Country Nationals and finished as the National runner up. It was the best Nationals performance in program history as Schmitt led the way with an 8th place finish.
Two of Naperville North’s current stars, Maggie Gamboa and Audrey Mendrys were freshman during Sarah’s senior season in 2017, where the team brought home another 3A state title. Now seniors, they both carry on the strong leadership traditions they learned under Schmitt and others like her.
It wasn’t just in cross country where the Huskie standout shined. She also used her distance running skills during track season in the spring. Naperville North won its first ever state track and field championship in 2018 thanks in part to Schmitt’s All State performances in the 1600, where she finished 8th and in the 3200, where she took third.
After achieving so much at Naperville North, Sarah Schmitt took her talents to Bloomington, Indiana where she now runs for the Indiana Hoosiers.
After redshirting her freshman season, the former Huskie hit the ground running. In 2019 she finished in 12th place at both the Big Ten Championships and the Great Lakes Regionals, which was good for second place on the team. Her scores helped the Hoosiers qualify for the NCAA Championships, where she finished in 58th place. She was also named and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put Sarah’s competitive running career on hold for the time being, but hopefully she and the rest of the collegiate running community will be able to get back to competing in the near future.
One of so many sensational runners to come out of the Naperville North program, Sarah Schmitt continues to carry on the tradition of excellence at the next level.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell.