In an event that's at least as mentally challenging as it is physically exhausting, Naperville North's Jimmy Qiao turned the corner.
Qiao, a junior, followed New Trier's Chip Schaff through the first few laps of the 3,200-meter run at Friday's annual coed Gus Scott Invitational on Qiao's home track.
Qiao dismissed a one-down mentality to overcome Schaff, and the rest of the field in the three-level meet, winning with a time of 9 minutes, 41.74 seconds.
"It was the first race that I have won on varsity by myself," he said. "Also, it proved to me that those people that are ranked higher than me aren't invincible. Because that was my mentality going into the race -- oh, they're ranked No. 1, I'm No. 2. I thought I couldn't beat them. But actually I was on their tail and actually I pulled through this time."
He credited Huskies distance coach Dave Racey's grueling training techniques for picking up his pace.
"I've been going a certain pace for 100 meters, then faster the next 100, then faster and faster, and then slow down to my original pace," Qiao said. "And that's what allowed me to go to that next gear in the middle of the race. So I really thank Racey for putting me through those workouts, even though they were incredibly tough."
On the boys side Naperville North's 162 points finished second to Oak Park (164), with New Trier (158) in third, Waubonsie Valley (138) in fourth, Benet (116) fifth.
The Huskies girls answered with their own second-place finish of 168 points, trailing Cary-Grove (188). Benet (114) was fifth and Waubonsie Valley (82) seventh.
Naperville North won the first event on the track, the 3,200-meter relay with Ellie Gschwendtner, Maria McDaniel, Kimber Meyer and Alex Moxon. A couple hours later McDaniel, Meyer and Moxon comprised the lead pack in the 1,600 to sweep the top three spots.
Benet senior Anne Yahiro enjoyed the last of her four Gus Scott meets with a winning long jump in a personal-best 17 feet, 4¾ inches, and was second in triple jump at 35-1¾.
"I'm happy with what I did, and it's kind of bittersweet," said Yahiro, a 2011 state qualifier who will compete at Villanova. "I remember this meet, coming here since freshman year. So I'm really happy that I ended on a good note."
Waubonsie Valley's Morolake Akinosun made up about an 8-meter deficit when she received the baton to anchor the Warriors' 400 relay, leaning past Romeoville's Kaitlyn Hammock at the wire. The Illinois-bound Akinosun pulled out of subsequent activities in a "precautionary" measure due to the chill, nixing a to-die-for duel against 100-meter winner Sarah Ryan of Cary-Grove and runner-up Alexis Hyshaw of Naperville North.
"This meet is not as important as the sectionals," Akinosun said, correctly.
Waubonsie's Kyle Schafer won both the 110 hurdles and the 400 dash, and Warriors Jamaal Bearden, Riley Kittridge, Jon Harris and Adam Szott combined to sweep every level of both shot put and discus.
"That's an expectation, actually, it's not even a goal," said Bearden, who went 160-2 in disc, 52-9 in shot. "That's what we have to do, or we're walking home, as (throws coach Roger) Einbecker says."
Benet's boys 1,600 relay of Eddie Moline, Mike Lang, Brian Durkin and Hunter Miller concluded with a second-place finish in the 1,600 relay.
"They put forth a great effort today," said Redwings coach Pat Marshall. "In these conditions it's not ideal, and they felt like they ran faster and I think in other conditions they would have. The result is they got second place, so I think they all ran really, really well."