On Campus: CL South grad Kristina Aubert aims high at cross country nationals

When Kristina Aubert competed last fall at the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Championship in Terre Haute, Ind., her start to the race was forgettable.

On Saturday, Aubert expects a more aggressive start at nationals to help her finish a historic junior season at Division I Arkansas State.

A slow start at nationals last season left Aubert chasing the field and finishing 124th in the 6-kilometer race in 20:56.3.

“It was pretty much all about the start,” said Aubert, a Crystal Lake South graduate. “Once you get behind at nationals, it’s difficult to move up fast.”

Racing to the front from the start of a race doesn’t exactly fit Aubert.

“It’s completely not my style,” she said with a laugh. “I like to go out consistently and under control, then hammer the second half (of a race).”

This season, Aubert’s work on sprints has made her a faster starter. She worked on the strategy last month in races at the University of Louisville and a pre-nationals race on the same NCAA course in Terre Haute. She finished third at Louisville and 24th in a field of 340 runners in Indiana.

“This year, I’m way more confident,” Aubert said. “I’m confident that I can get out faster. At nationals, you have 75 girls who are going out at the same speed.”

At last weekend’s South Central Regional in Waco, Texas, Aubert finished fourth in 20:20 over the 6K course to achieve all-region honors.

After winning the Sun Belt Conference individual title and helping her school claim its first league title, Aubert has big goals for nationals.

“No. 1, I’d like to finish in the top 50, which I think is within reach,” said Aubert, the only female runner in Arkansas State history to qualify for nationals. “No. 2, I’d like to be an All-American (top-25 finisher). And, I’d like to get under 20 minutes.”

Freshman phenom: Loras College women’s volleyball player Tara Blake (Marian Central) was one of only three freshmen to make the 15-member All-Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first team this fall.

Blake, an outside hitter, led the Duhawks (15-17) with 295 kills for the season. Her 2.51 kills per set ranked 10th in the conference.

Blake also finished second on the team in digs (380) and service aces (32).

Carthage duo honored: Johnsburg grad Michael Dombrowski was chosen for the All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin men’s soccer first team this fall, while Jacobs grad Taylor Pignataro was named to the second team.

While helping D-III Carthage College to a 13-7-1 record, Dombrowski led the team with 14 goals. The junior forward also had a team-leading 30 points and six game-winning goals, which tied for the league lead. Dombrowski ranked second in the CCIW this season in goals and points.

Pignataro, a junior midfielder/defender, ranked second on the team with four assists. He was part of a defensive unit that compiled five shutouts this season and a 1.20 goals-against average.

Superb swimmer: D-II University of Tampa freshman Marisa Barton won two individual events and was part of two victorious relay teams in a dual meet last week to earn Sunshine State Conference Women’s Swimmer of the Week honors.

Barton, a Prairie Ridge grad who competed for the Crystal Lake co-op team, won the 50- (25.19 seconds) and 100-yard (54.52) freestyle events in a 185-77 victory against Saint Leo. She also swam a leg on Tampa’s 200 medley (1:51.46) and 400 free (3:44.47) relay victories.

Ohio Valley all-star: Jacobs grad Cassidy Sherman was one of four SIU-Edwardsville players to make the All-Ohio Valley Conference women’s soccer teams.

Sherman, a sophomore midfielder, earned a spot on the second team after scoring five goals and 11 points during the regular season for the Cougars (13-5-3). SIUE advanced to the OVC Tournament semifinals, losing to Tennessee-Martin, 1-0, in overtime.

• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.