Angels Medal at Nike Pre-Nationals

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Recently, twenty Joliet Catholic Academy Cross Country runners competed in the Nike Pre-Nationals meet held in Portland, Oregon.

The team composed of Angels and Hilltoppers: Margaret Bannon, Bryan Bennis, Madeline Blotnik, Zach Corcoran, Marisa Corral, Lauren Crudo, Alyson Egizio, Zach Gochee, Jack Jones, Connor McNulty, Harry McSteen, Natalie Nemanich, Alex Runge, Dani Scudder, Kelly Testin, Monica Underwood, Lauren Vanisko, Adam Wahl, Kennedy Weigt, and Nick Zelehovitis, ran the NXN course in the Division 2 race.

Accompanying the runners on the trip were coaches Mark Clarke and Meghan Prohaska along with adult chaperones Kathy and Steve Blotnik and Marilyn and Harry McSteen. Parents Eric and Julie Jones also assisted the team with the trip including travel plans.

The group flew to Portland on Thursday, Sept. 25.

On Friday, they met with JCA alumnus Jason Au ‘86. Au is a former student of Clarke’s and as fate would have it Clarke ran into Au’s mother prior to the trip.

Coach Prohaska arranged for the group to tour of the University of Oregon campus, considered one of the top three running colleges in the nation. After the tour, they ran the Prefontaine Breeze Trail named after the legendary Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine.

Later, the team traveled to Beaverton, Oregon where they toured the Nike Campus accompanied by Nike employee Sean Doyle ‘87. As an added bonus, Angels and Hilltoppers had the opportunity to meet several professional runners.  Following the tour, the team returned to Portland for dinner arranged by Au at Hollywood-style movie theater called Cinetopia.

Saturday began with the cross country meet at Portland Meadows. The Euro-style course included hay bales and jumps. Two JCA runners, Madeline Blotnik and Kennedy Weigt, medaled. Coach Clarke commented, “All of our runners ran well. We are pleased with the accomplishments of all our runners, eleven girls and nine boys.”

That afternoon, Au arranged for the group to travel to the Adidas Campus, which included a trip to the campus store where they received 50% off their purchases. Afterwards, they headed to the Grilled Cheese Grill for their famous grilled cheese sandwich. Next, they climbed to the top of Multnomah Falls in just under 45 minutes. The end of the day had the runners returning to Cinetopia to view the movie Maze Runner.

The team was set to return on Sunday, but their departure was delayed due to the fire at the FAA’s Aurora Center. The team elected to hang out at the hotel, watch the Bears game, and go swimming. Later that day, they visited a mini mall and met Au at Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.

The group finally returned home safely on Monday.

JCA’s cross country program has been traveling to an out-of-state meet for six years. They have run in Washington DC, Savannah, GA; Dayton, OH; Raleigh, NC; Minneapolis, MN; and now Portland Oregon. Plans are already underway for next year’s trip although the destination has not been confirmed. If the team drives, they may attend the cross country meet at Michigan State. If they decide to fly, meets in Florida, Texas, Virginia, California, and New Jersey will be considered.

Funds for the trip are raised by the team. For the past several years, the runners have paired up with the JCA ice hockey team to work the Chicago Racetrack. Beth Hippman, from the hockey team, handles the arrangements, and the runners are very thankful for her assistance.

The runners would like to send a big thank you out to alums Jason Au and Sean Doyle, die-hard Hilltoppers, for the hospitality they showed them while in Oregon. Although Au and Doyle did not know each other prior to the team’s visit, the group hopes they’ll stay in touch as true Angels and Hilltoppers do.

For more information on JCA’s Cross Country program, contact girls cross country coach Mark Clarke at or 815.741.0500, ext. 416 or boys coach Meghan Prohaska at or 815.741.0500, ext. 414.

Check out the Joliet Catholic Academy Facebook page for more photos from the trip at:


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