Having the top two runners in the Lake County meet wasn't going to be enough to carry Lake Forest to victory Wednesday afternoon on the new 3-mile Lakewood Forest Preserve course.
That's because Mundelein's top-five pack was just way too strong for the rest of the 17-team field as the Mustangs rolled to the championship of the Art Campbell Invitational for the first time since 2004 with 55 points.
Vernon Hills put together a great team effort in its first outing of the 2012 season to edge Lake Forest 80-86 for second place.
Warren (127 points) took home fourth place followed by Grayslake Central (141) in fifth, Libertyville (142) in sixth, and Lakes (192) in seventh.
After Lake Forest runners finished 1-2, Libertyville sophomore Kristi Del Prato (19:19) led area runners in third place. Del Prato reached the Class 3A state meet as a freshman, but a hamstring injury at sectionals really slowed her down downstate.
"It was just kind of different (the new course), it didn't affect me that much, and I like the course," said Del Prato. "I think we're going to have a great year, and we have three freshmen on varsity who are really good."
Mundelein's push for the team title was led by the duo of Stephanie Johnson in sixth and Elena Palacio in seventh. The Mustangs had another strong tandem in Claire Naughton (12th) and Kelsey Loar (13th) while teammate Emily Schlebecker placed 17th.
"Our plan for the race was to put ourselves in a good position and move up throughout the race," said Mundelein coach John Osmanski. "I thought they (Johnson and Palacios) put themselves in perfect position and Johnson has the best kick around."
Vernon Hills also had a great pack behind Shannon Skeoch (10th), Samantha Hershman (14th), Cassie Lira (16th), Kristen Whitney (18th), and Lexi Reich (22nd) leading the charge.
"We got off to a tough start in one of the center boxes," said Vernon Hills coach Suzanne Richert. "But they really made up a lot of ground before the mile and it looked like a pretty fast pace."
Warren's push was led by senior Meg Tully in eighth place while Grayslake Central had a great finish from teammates Korina Gomez in fourth and Elsie Rehberg in ninth.
"They're two girls that we have high expectations for and we hope they can get downstate if not get the whole team downstate," said Grayslake Central coach Jim Centella. "Two of our normal varsity runners did not run today but we've still got a lot of work to do."
Grant junior Lindsey Lewis is off to another good start after leading the Bulldogs in fifth place Wednesday.
"She (Lewis) ran a real strong last mile where she moved up from 10th to fifth so it was a good race for her," said Grant coach Jeff Durlak. "We're a young team right now, but I think we'll get better and hopefully hit a peak at the end."
Nicole Jaffke (15th) was Libertyville's No. 2 runner, and she captured the final place on the all-county team.
"Kristi (Del Prato) had a great season last year as a freshman and third place is a good showing for this meet," said first-year Libertyville coach Bill Etnyre. "We had a pretty decent gap after our one and two runners. So we just have to keep improving and we're more focused on the end of the year."
Danielle Griesbaum led Lakes' squad in 19th place to nip Warren's Becky Haight in 20th. Kortney Schardt added a 21st-place finish for Lakes followed by Stevenson senior Mackenzie Levy in 23rd, Vernon Hills' Ali Marks in 25th, and Warren's Courtenay Krause in 26th.
"We have a lot of new runners this year and we miss Hannah (Wittman) and Grace (Dean) who graduated," said Lakes coach Keith West. "I think we got off to a solid start today and they are improving rapidly so I'm really happy with the team."