Libertyville’s Del Prato running carefree
Grayslake Central's Korina Gomez (left) cannot hold off Libertyville's Kristi Del Prato (right) for third place during the girls varsity Art Campbell Invitational at the Lakewood Forest Preserve Aug. 29, 2012. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 3:27PM
Life for Libertyville’s Kristi Del Prato is one big party. She’s an effervescent force of nature; a bubbly, bouncy high school sophomore who speeds through daily minutiae with little care or concern. Basically, she’s just a kid.
But when it comes to running, she’s all business.
“I definitely have a goofy, crazy personality,” Del Prato said. “But personality doesn’t matter when it comes to practices or races. It’s just all about running.”
The perplexing dichotomy of Del Prato’s persona isn’t lost on her teammates, who find the young cross country star to be equal parts class clown and inspirational leader. She is, all things considered, a rare and atypical athlete, one who has the presence of mind to flip her competitive switch into overdrive when the right moment beckons.
“When the girls are goofing off in practice, she’s usually the ring leader in all of that,” senior Abigail Toohey said. “She knows the right time to get serious, though. And I definitely look to her for leadership, even though she’s a little younger.”
At this point, it appears the only thing capable of getting in the way of Del Prato’s light and fluffy way of life is her own immense talent. As the meets whiz by and the Class 3A state finals grow closer, her room for playtime will increasingly dwindle, leaving her all the time in the world to focus on her training and contemplate her lofty expectations.
“The goal this year is to get top-25 in the state,” Del Prato said. “After that — and I’ve been thinking about it a lot actually — it would be really cool to get first in state my senior year.”
For a relatively inexperienced underclassman who has barely more than one season of high school racing under her belt, such proclamations should seem boisterous. But Del Prato speaks with such calm conviction about her goals that it seems like only a matter of time until they come true.
Libertyville coach Bill Entyre certainly believes that, eventually, Del Prato’s hopes will morph into reality.
”Kristi is someone who works as hard as she can and leads by example,” Entyre said. “She’s young and has a youthful energy. If she just continues to do the things she’s doing now, she’ll achieve big things.”
Entyre, a former college runner, has taken to personally challenging and pushing Del Prato during practices. The loveable and carefree Del Prato is, ironically, notoriously dubious about running closely with others, usually preferring to break away from the pack and cruise freely in silent isolation. Entyre predicts that, eventually, Del Prato will be pulling away from even him.
“Right now, no she’s not quite there,” Entyre said. “But I hope to get to the point where Kristi is beating me.”
If Del Prato, the silly sophomore who runs with the drive and moxie of someone twice her age, continues on her skyward trajectory, she’ll be beating her coach soon enough. Then, in all likelihood, she’ll be beating everyone else.