IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Four years ago, Lake Forest High School girls cross country coach Steve Clegg thought of Brett Chody as The Wonderful Surprise.
Not much has changed.
Chody came up with another inspiring performance at the Class 3A Schaumburg Sectional at Busse Woods on Oct. 30. While enduring intense back pain in half of the race, the LF senior still found a way to take fourth place in this showcase event.
“I wasn’t going to drop out,” said Chody, who ended up with a three-mile time of 17:34. “The back spasms came in the second half of the race. I was having [shooting] pain every 30 seconds.
“I had to push through it,” the tough-minded distance ace added. “I had to make it to state.”
Before experiencing the back spasms, Chody was in a terrific position to win the race. She was right there with Barrington’s Jocelyn Long (1st, 16:57), Schaumburg’s Madison Marasco (2nd, 17:00) and Libertyville’s Melissa Manetsch (3rd, 17:02).
A grimacing Chody somehow beat the No. 5 finisher — Barrington’s Molly Fitzpatrick — by seven seconds.
Moments after reaching the finish line, a totally spent — and obviously hurting — Chody was helped out of the finish area by her parents, Lance and Megan.
“I’m kind of mad about it previous page,” said a recovered Chody, 15 minutes after the race. “At the starting line, I felt great. My legs felt fresh.”
She had a win on her mind.
“It wasn’t my best race … but it was good enough to get me to state,” said Chody, who is now a four-time state qualifier.
Clegg likes to call this time of year “Chody Time”.
He now has more evidence.
“She just gutted out the second half of the race. She was able to hang on,” Clegg said. “For her not to be on her ‘A’ game and still finish fourth is quite an accomplishment.”
The LF coach has been impressed with Chody from the start.
“Even freshman year, she was running up there with the best people,” said Clegg. “She was The Wonderful Surprise for us.”
As a freshman, Chody helped Lake Forest to a second-place finish at the Class 2A state meet in Peoria. She was 17th at the Kaneland Sectional and 17th in the state race.
Chody also was outstanding at the 2015 sectional at Busse Woods (5th) and the 2016 sectional at Waukegan (6th).
Her best state-meet showing was placing sixth in the 3200 meters at the Class 3A state track and field in Charleston in 2016.
Chody, who is hoping to run at one of three schools — Northwestern, Duke or USC — next season, went into this season with a lot to prove. She missed the track and field season last spring with a stress fracture at the base of her spine.
Chody took a very conservative recovery approach. She didn’t hurry back to running.
But, once healthy, Chody went all out — again.
“I knew that I was capable of running faster,” said Chody. “I trained in Colorado for five weeks [over the summer].”
All of that dedication has paid off. Earlier this fall, she took second in the North Suburban Conference meet, second in the Lake Forest Regional, third in the Palatine Invite and sixth in the Hinsdale Hornet-Red Devil Invite.
Chody will be aiming for another high finish at the 2017 state race at Peoria’s Detweiller Park on Nov. 4.
She will be LF’s lone participant. Fellow senior standout Emma Milburn finished 45th at Busse Woods.
Milburn, a two-time all-state cross country runner and sixth-place finisher in the 800 meters at the 2016 state track and field meet, sustained a stress fracture in her foot late in the summer.
“This was only her third race of the season,” said Clegg. “You can’t miss 2/3rds of the season and then show up and beat these kind of runners.
“But she had a strong finish today. She was tenacious at the end,” the coach added. “Emma is a fighter. And I will always think of her that way.”
Meanwhile, Lake Forest sophomore Nathan Schmitt just missed qualifying to the state meet in the boys race at Busse Woods. He finished 13th overall in 15:23.3.
The last at-large berth went to Zion-Benton senior Collin Luell (15:21.3).