Girls Cross Country: Hinsdale Central’s Jill Hardies earns school-record fourth medal at state

Story Image HInsdale- Hinsdale Central-Hinsdale South Red Devil-Hornet Invitational cross country meet. Jill Hardies Hinsdale Central crosses the finish line. | Joe Cyganowski~ For Sun Times Media

Updated: November 5, 2012 5:53PM

Going into Saturday, Jill Hardies knew that no Hinsdale Central girls runner has ever medaled four times at the state cross country meet.

“I knew that, but it was not a big goal of mine,” Hardies said. “If I had any kind of a decent race, I was hoping that would come.”

But previous runners for the Devils have never been able to settle for a decent race, yet still finish in the top 25 for the state meet -- all four years.

Hardies eclipsed the previous record of three state medals for Elaine Kuckertz in the previous decade. Kuckertz, a 2009 grad, placed ninth in 2006, sixth in 2007 and sixth in 2008. Hardies’ last high school race was an eighth place finish over three miles in the Class 3A state meet at Detweiller Park in Peoria.

Hardies ran in pain while suffering from a stress fracture in her left foot that prevented her from doing full workouts in recent weeks.

“I ran a pretty tough race,” Hardies said. “I kicked it in the last 800 and passed a bunch of people.”

She placed 17th in 2009, second in 2010 behind Oswego East’s Ariel Michalek and fifth last season.

Is Hardies the best girls cross country runner in school history?

“I would say she was the most decorated,” Hinsdale Central coach Mark McCabe said. “She’s an extremely competitive runner. I’d say she’s a Warrior Woman. When it comes to big meets, when it really matters, she’s there to really count on.”

Hardies (16:49) ran 12 seconds faster at the state meet than in 2011 in a fast-paced field Saturday. Winner Madeline Perez (16:02) of Glenbard West ran the fastest race in state history for any level.

“She was incredible,” Hardies said. “She is one of the top five girls in the nation right now. I couldn’t think of being up with her [with an injury].”

Hardies does not plan on having surgery on her foot and will rest for the next few months. The injury will force her to pass up an opportunity to run in the Nike Midwest Regionals. She ran in the event last year and missed qualifying for the nationals in San Diego by one spot.

“My legs around kind of gone,” Hardies said. “I didn’t feel right running with that amount of pain.”

One of her big decisions in the next few weeks is deciding where to go to college. Hardies has one more visit to make and has narrowed her finalists to Wake Forest, Virginia and Illinois. One of her senior classmates, Meghan McDowell, verbally committed a year ago to play volleyball at Virginia and the two have talked about the school.

Hardies was the only senior runner for the Devils, who placed 11th (304 points) at the state meet. Junior Becca Marcotte (83rd, 17:57) is the top returning runner back after missing most of 2011 due to an injury.

“We’ll be a pretty good team in the future,” McCabe said. “We have four of our top five scorers back.”

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