Homewood-Flossmoor High School’s girls cross country team knows the thrill of winning. The team members also know the value of friendship and empathy. They shared those attributes through an outward display with their Bolingbrook High School competitors Thursday, Sept. 10, after one of the Bolingbrook runners was seriously injured.
H-F’s girls don’t personally know Bolingbrook junior Kaylee Pannek.
H-F coach Mary Kate Pack shared Kaylee’s story at a recent practice. It was Aug. 29 and Kaylee was riding her bike when she was struck by a truck. She sustained serious injuries, including a shattered pelvis.
“We just wanted to do something for the whole team to support them,” said H-F sophomore Caroline Schoen. The girls initially were going to make a poster, but they decided on a more outward gesture. Caroline led the discussion for T-shirts that read “Run for Kaylee.” When Caroline was ready to place the order, the H-F team decided Bolingbrook should also have the shirts.
Bolingbrook’s team matched the kindness by giving the H-F team red and white hair ties. It was something Kaylee would have done. She always wears her long hair in a ponytail with colorful hair ties.
“I know if it was one of our teammates it’d be really nice to have that kind of support because we’re all very close since our group isn’t that large,” said H-F senior Lucia Malseo, team co-captain. H-F has 13 runners this year.
Bolingbrook coach John Sullivan said “it was extremely kind” of H-F to make the shirts for Kaylee. He said Kaylee has been moved from a hospital to a rehabilitation center and is making progress.
As for the three-mile race on the H-F campus, Bolingbrook came out on top, beating H-F by two points. The top finishers were H-F’s sophomore Caroline Schoen finishing first with a time of 19:05; H-F’s freshman Grace Mullin second with a time of 20:38; Ellie DeFarno, a junior for Bolingbrook, third at 21:10.
“I'm proud of the cross country athletes from Bolingbrook and H-F, who did their best and ran in support of one another and Kaylee. We hope that she feels the love of the cross country community as she works towards recovery,” said Coach Pack.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the girls cross country season has been shortened. The girls will run in eight meets against schools in the South/Southwest region and Marian Catholic High School. That's about half of a normal season. There will be no sectionals or state meets this year.
Lucia said it’s a different season with no Saturday meets.
“For right now I guess we’re just grateful for the meets we do have,” the senior said.