Montserrat Curran had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to accomplish during her senior year on the St. Ignatius girls cross-country team.

Curran, a four-year varsity runner, wanted to help the Wolfpack pick up where it left off a year ago, a fifth-place finish at the Class 2A state meet. She also wanted to work her way up into the team’s top seven.

As a senior, she wanted to help lead the underclassmen as they adjusted to varsity competition. However, it was more difficult trying to lead when the school’s hybrid schedule meant the team wasn’t always practicing together, but Curran has made the best of it.

“Everyone coming in at different times, that’s what made the beginning of the season really rough,” Curran said. “It was figuring out how to handle it and how to be a senior leader when there aren’t freshmen or sophomores there to help mentor.”

With a strong senior class led by star Lexi Affolter and an influx of young runners, a talented St. Ignatius squad continues to race away this season.

Competing at Marist on Sept. 25 in a nonconference dual, St. Ignatius (26) defeated the host RedHawks (31) by a slim margin. Affolter finished first (18:53) but was disqualified for accidentally cutting part of the course.

Marist junior Nora McClorey (19:39) and senior Cecilia Light (19:45) took first and second place.

Scoring for St. Ignatius were freshmen Meghan Semmer (3rd, 19:56) and Ella Hwang (4th, 19:58), sophomore McKenna Ellis (5th, 20:00), senior Mia Trotter (6th, 20:10) and junior Haley Rieckelman (7th, 20:13).

Affolter said the roster is unusually young as the team lost three of its seven runners who competed at the state meet.

“It’s a very young group. We have a lot of girls who I’m excited to see where they go,” Affolter said. “Losing those state runners, it’s freshmen and sophomores who have joined us. They’re in our varsity top seven, so we’re excited. It’s a brand new, young team.”

Through the first month-plus of the season, St. Ignatius finished second at the Loyola Quad, losing to the host Ramblers but defeating Mother McAuley and DePaul Prep, and also beat Fenwick and Jones in dual meets.

Trotter said the meets are often the only chance the various classes get to know each other. The returning athletes have been extremely positive. St. Ignatius is in Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood with students coming from the city and suburbs to the north, west and south.

Athletes can’t always get to school for practice after e-learning from home.

“It’s been difficult, but we don’t always run with them because they go to schools on different days,” Trotter said. “It’s been really nice to be out running though. Racing again and getting in that mindset with your teammates, it has been really nice.”

Trotter is a three-sport athlete for St. Ignatius, also playing basketball in the winter and running track and field in the spring.

With the schedule up in the air at times between practices and meets, Curran said the Wolfpack seems to have hit a groove in recent weeks.

“The last couple weeks, we’ve grown more than we had in the past,” Curran said. “It’s been really exciting to see all us training and putting the work in, seeing the results. If there is a state meet or not, we’ll be prepared.”

St. Ignatius will compete at a still to be scheduled Class 2A regional. The Illinois High School Association announced on Sept. 23 that a sectional meet has been added to the postseason state series.

A state meet seems unlikely.

Also running against Marist for St. Ignatius were sophomore Reese Crowley (9th, 20:22), Curran (10th, 20:25) and sophomores Curry Murphy (14th, 20:50) and Lexi Noonan (16th, 21:14).