Hardies turns her heels for North Carolina
Hinsdale Central cross country runner Jill Hardies
Updated: April 22, 2013 11:09AM
ELMHURST — The most decorated girls cross country runner in Hinsdale Central history had plenty of colleges to choose from but the beauty of North Carolina captured Jill Hardies’ attention most.
The senior, who has earned a state medal in each of her Class 3A state meets, signed with the Tar Heels last month while she prepared for her final track and field season in a Red Devils uniform.
Hardies will be the only Midwest runner on North Carolina’s women’s cross country team this fall. Coach Mark VanAlstyne, a longtime coach at North Florida, just completed his first season on the Chapel Hill campus.
She selected UNC over San Diego, Wake Forest, Illinois and Notre Dame. Two former boys runners from the Chicago area were instrumental in keeping Hardies informed about North Carolina during her recruiting process. Two-time state track champion Jack Driggs of York and Neuqua Valley graduate Mark Derrick currently compete for North Carolina.
“Jack said how great the school is. It really sparked my interest,” Hardies said.
Hardies, who plans on studying business, took an unofficial visit in January when she was able to meet with VanAlstyne and his staff.
“I fell in love with the school, the campus and the team,” Hardies said. “Cross country and track were one team. It felt like they could be my family for the next four years.”
Hardies placed second in the 1,600 meters Friday night in her final West Suburban Silver indoor meet at York, finding her dependable kick to push York’s Stanford-bound Emma Fisher.
Hardies was just a step or two behind Fisher at the finish line — Fisher won in 5 minutes, 6.17 seconds and Hardies finished in 5:06.35. Hardies, a Hinsdale resident, ran in third place for much of the race before passing Glenbard West junior Madeline Perez down the final stretch.
During her cross-country career, Hardies placed eighth at state in 2012, fifth in 2011, second in 2010 and 17th in 2009. In track and field, she took fifth in the 1,600 in 2012 and third in 2010 — the best place in school history in the event.
Leading up to the conference indoor meet, Hardies had missed the previous month with the flu and a sinus infection. She only returned to running the week before the conference meet and likely will not run in this weekend’s Prep Top Times meet in Bloomington.
Hinsdale Central begins its outdoor season April 2 with a home triangular after next week’s spring break.