Cross Country: Offseason success creating optimism for fall season

Senior Yuelma Ortiz will be a key returning runner for the Rochelle Township High School cross country program this season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Senior runners Ortiz, Koziol headline returning varsity athletes

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub and Lady Hub cross country teams are back in action, with fall practices beginning Monday morning at Rochelle Township High School. Both teams feature notable returning seniors as well as an influx of young talent including several freshman girls.

“I’m looking forward to the season and it feels great to be out there with our athletes,” head coach Mark Zilis said. “We’ve had a lot of changes to our team but we have a lot of new athletes and I’m excited to see how much they want to run. They have a great attitude and I really like that about our team… The early portion of the season will be about building our endurance up and we’ll start focusing on the results as we move into late September and early October.”

Rochelle’s first race of the season will be at the Sycamore Invitational on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Both teams will then compete at the Oregon Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 3 for their first weekend event. Rochelle’s lone home meet will be held on Thursday, Sept. 15 at Skare Park. Senior Yuelma Ortiz will be the leading returner for the Lady Hub varsity team this season.

“Our girls team has increased in size from last season,” Zilis said. “Yuelma improved tremendously during her track and field season and she’s in great shape right now. I’m expecting her to run extremely well this season. We have at least five freshman girls right now and they all look like good athletes so I’m excited to see what they can do during the season.”

Senior Gisselle Robles will also return for the Lady Hubs this season. The Hubs, who lost several seniors from last season’s varsity roster, will lean on a trio of returning athletes including senior Tommy Koziol as well as junior Luis Hernandez and sophomore Christopher Hickey. 

“Some of our boys trained incredibly hard over the summer,” Zilis said. “Luis and Tommy ran over 400 miles over the summer and they’re both in great shape right now. I’m not sure where we’ll stand as a team, but I’m optimistic that we can do better and better as we move forward.”