Gabi Hernandez isn’t sure yet if she’s going to play golf next year in college.
The Mother McAuley senior is weighing her options, whether she’ll play on a team or just casually as a fan.
So, as she makes her way through the year with the Mighty Macs, she’s appreciating each match in her senior season. That season just got potentially longer.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced on Sept. 23 that a sectional round has been added to the postseason for boys and girls golf and cross-country.
“I’m so excited right now. I’ve obviously been looking forward to senior year,” Hernandez said. “Going to sectionals last year, I really wanted to do it again. That’s the goal, to go as far as we can. That we actually get to do that, honestly, it’s so exciting, especially as a senior.”
Hernandez, a four-year varsity player for the Mighty Macs, is a Mt. Greenwood resident and St. Christina Elementary School graduate.
Mother McAuley will compete on Oct. 7 at the Class 2A Hinsdale South regional at Carriage Greens Country Club in Darien. However, advancing to a still-to-be announced sectional will be tougher with the IHSA tweaking the format.
Instead of the top three teams and 10 individuals from non-advancing teams moving on to the sectional, only two teams and top 4 individuals will qualify for the sectional.
Hernandez said the team has made the best of a season played under less than ideal circumstances.
“It’s been a struggle, but [Coach Caitlin Carney] has handled it really well, especially just communicating with us,” Hernandez said. “We’ve adjusted a lot of things. Wearing a mask has been difficult at times, especially with the heat, but we all had to get through it. It’s another challenge that’s a part of golf.”
On the cross-country side, the new sectional round is scheduled for Oct. 31. Five teams will advance from the regional to sectional, along with the top five runners from non-advancing teams.
St. Ignatius Coach Matt Haffner had some fun alerting his girls cross-country team of the news via e-mail.
“Coach wrote ‘Happy Halloween!’ in the subject line, and I thought ‘What’s this?’” said St. Ignatius senior Lexi Affolter. “It was the sectional. Oh my gosh, this is the best. I’m so excited. We only have a month left, and now we have that extra race. It’s exciting to have that.”
St. Ignatius finished fifth as a team in Class 2A last fall, a program-best finish.
The Wolfpack’s regional and sectional has not been scheduled yet as the IHSA seeks a host for both meets.
Marist and Mother McAuley will run in a still-to-be scheduled regional and sectional.
Marist senior runner Cecilia Light was more than pleased to hear the news.
“I was surprised but good surprised,” Light said. “I’m super-pumped our team can do it together. It’s my last sectional, so we get to hopefully run as a team. I’m super-excited.”
A state meet seems unlikely still following the sectional, but Light and the RedHawks are staying positive.
“It’s one of those things. We’ll train for it,” Light said. “If it doesn’t happen, we’ll be grateful for what we’ve got. If it does happen, we’ll obviously try to get there as individuals or as a team.”
The IHSA said in a news release that it did its best to keep numbers low at the respective events and maintain COVID regions. Some schools were assigned to a tournament outside their region but as close as possible.
“Our greatest challenge will be finding hosts,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in the release. “We’ve been granted exemptions to compete outside the COVID regions where assigning schools on or near a region border creates better balance.”
The IHSA announced no changes to the postseason for girls tennis and swimming and diving which begin postseason competition at the sectional level.