Girls Track: Lady Hubs feature young-but-talented roster

Junior Alivia Henkel returns after qualifying for the IHSA State Championship in the 300-meter hurdles last season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

State qualifier Henkel headlines returning athletes this spring

ROCHELLE — Head coach Alison Vrana has roughly 35 student-athletes out for the Rochelle Lady Hub track and field team this season. It’s the largest roster she’s had during any season as head coach of the Lady Hubs, but with many of those athletes being freshmen and sophomores, Vrana will be looking for continued competitiveness and growth as the season progresses.

Practices are well underway for the Lady Hubs, who will open the indoor season at the Sycamore Invitational on Tuesday, March 7. Despite rostering several underclassmen, Vrana said Rochelle will have some notable upperclassmen returning such as junior Alivia Henkel, who reached the IHSA State Championship meet in the 300-meter hurdles last season. 

“It’s great to see our numbers continuing to grow,” Vrana said. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores and we’re really excited to see how they grow as athletes. We have some good distance runners and that’s a category where we’ve typically been lacking. I think we’ll still be solid in the hurdles and the sprints and I think throwing will be a strong aspect of our team.”

Other notable returners back in action for the Lady Hubs include senior Sammy Sanford as well as juniors Kennedy Adamski and Kylie Smith. Rochelle’s indoor schedule includes the Byron Indoor Preview on Saturday, March 11 and the Sterling Invitational on Saturday, March 18. The team’s first outdoor meet of the season will be the Dixon Invitational on Saturday, April 1.

“We’re excited to have Kennedy, Sammy and Kylie all back,” Vrana said. “We only have three seniors and seven juniors this year so our team is really young. We’re looking for our sophomores and juniors to take on a leadership role this year… It’s tough to say where exactly we’ll be strong right now, but we have a lot of good athletes and we’re hoping those girls welcome the competition because many of them will have the chance to run at the varsity level.”

Sophomores Zoe White and Alex Neece are two additional key returners for the Lady Hubs this season. Rochelle’s first Interstate 8 Conference triangular meet will be at Plano with Ottawa on Tuesday, April 4. The Lady Hubs will travel to Morris with LaSalle-Peru on Tuesday, April 11 before competing with Sterling at Sandwich on Wednesday, April 19. Rochelle will host a nonconference dual meet against the Stillman Valley Cardinals on Tuesday, April 25.

“I think we’ll see a lot of improvement over the next few years,” Vrana said. “I want to see Alivia make it back to the state meet and I want to help her find a field event she can excel at. I’d like to see more than one athlete make it down to state and I’d like to see our team consistently place in their events. I think we’ll be able to do a lot with 35 athletes on our roster this year.”