The 'Buttercup' Five Batavia's Crew of Junior Middle- Distance Runners Has the Bulldogs Singing a Happy Tune and Dreaming of Sectional Success
Considine, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Mike Considine Daily Herald Sports Writer
The songs remain the same as middle school for Batavia's junior middle-distance crew, but each of them is entered in different races.
On Batavia's bus, then as now, teammates are serenaded with "Build Me Up Buttercup", "Lean on Me", "We Are the Champions" and - always a crowd favorite -"Baby Got Back."
"We sing the whole thing, too," Courtney Landem said with pride. "We don't stop in the middle."
Of course, whether this is a treat or not might depend on the ear of the beholder.
Batavia coach Dennis Piron and his staff have few complaints about the way Kristina Dredge, Lindsey Johnson, Kristi Nelmark, Lisa Phillips and Landem have performed within the lanes.
Phillips is the reigning SPR 1,600-meter run champion. Landem is the Kane County 800 champ.
Each is an all-Suburban Prairie Red athlete. Most are seeking their third trip to the Class AA meet by qualifying at the Kaneland sectional tonight.
"They're just great team members," Piron said. "They'll do whatever it takes to win. They want to win so bad, they can't stand it.
"They have talent, but they maximize that talent by working very hard."
In one practice this year, the group was doing 16 repetitions of 200 meters and 12 repetitions of 400 meters. Reportedly, there was no singing between runs.
"We were, like, really focused that day," Phillips said. "We would just walk across the track and (run another interval). We were like robots."
More than work ethic or tunefulness, what distinguishes the Bulldogs' juniors is that each can score points in any race from 400 to 3,200 meters.
"Some of the sprinters can just run up to 400 meters," Dredge said. "It's so nice to be able to do any of it. I may not be able to run the sprints very well, but I can still help the team."
Dredge and Phillips were primarily sprinters in middle school but have learned to compete at the metric equivalent of 2 miles, if not to love the race.
"The coaches put you in (different events) in meets from freshman year 'til now," Nelmark said. "I thought I was best in the 100 and 200 and relays. Now the (400) is my race."
The juniors agree there is strength, and support, in numbers.
"Track is the common bond for all of us," Johnson said. "It's very special to go into a race with (your friend). You feel an obligation to run fast for the team."
The friendships run deep.
Dredge and Nelmark were friends in kindergarten. Landem, Phillips and Dredge have been buddies since second grade.
Since sixth grade Johnson and Phillips have shared the same school bus. Phillips and Nelmark have been best friends since seventh grade.
"We've all basically grown up together," Landem said. "When we go to meets and when we're competing, we have so much fun."
Johnson's the most recent addition to the team, but she feels as if she's known the others forever.
"Track becomes part of your life, like an addiction," Johnson said. "From going on distance runs with Lisa, I feel like I know things about her that her best friends probably don't know. …