Lake Park senior Kaylee Flanagan may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but the Lancers senior sure looked super at the 38th annual Harvey Braus Lancer Invitational on Saturday.
As Flanagan flew across the 3.0-mile course on Lake Park's East campus -- taking the title in a course-record 16:27 -- the only thing missing was a cape.
For that matter, the Lancers looked pretty impressive rolling to the team title with 61 points. Glenbard West took second with 69 points, and St. Charles North (104), Maine South (123) and surprising Schaumburg (155) rounded out the top five in a loaded 23-team field.
Last year Flanagan finished third in Class 3A cross country, and in track she won the Class 3A 3,200 title.
This fall, Flanagan is primed for a big season and is the early favorite for the individual state cross country title.
"I think that is on everyone's mind," said Flanagan. "That would be great but whatever happens, happens."
Also on Lake Park's plate is a quest for the first state team trophy -- and Saturday's results show that the Lancers will be in the mix on the first weekend of Novemberin Peoria.
Last week, Glenbard West defeated defending state champion New Trier for the Hinsdale Central Invitational title. This week, the Lancers placed five girls in the top 27 to edge the Hilltoppers. Senior Sam Montalbano (17:52) finished sixth, combining with Flanagan to give the Lancers a solid 1-2 punch. Senior Brianne Murphy (18:12) and senior Rachel Garippo (18:22) added 13th and 14th place, with senior Ruth Garippo (18:43) completing the scoring in 27th.
So can a veteran Lancers pack capture a state trophy?
"That's our goal," said Rachel Garrippo. "But we're taking it meet by meet."
Glenbard West was not too far off the Lancers' pace.
Leading the way in second place was junior Madeline Perez in 16:48 and sophomore Lisa Luczak (17:04) in third.
Although the Hilltoppers were missing freshman Caitlyn Reick, their No. 3 runner, senior Emma Reifel (18:22) and freshman Christina Sedall (18:24) stepped up to secure 17th and 19th places, respectively.
Perez, who won the Hinsdale Central Invite, showed she will be in the mix of state contenders.
"Flanagan took it out hard," Perez said. "She is an amazing runner and she kind of got away from me. We're not really thinking of our team as a target, or where were at right now. What really matters is where we are at state."
And that could be pretty high -- especially with the emergence of Luczak.
"It's a pretty exciting start to the season," said Luczak, who made a huge surge in the second mile. "I knew I really needed to turn it on."
St. Charles North also seems to be turning it on this season with a nice mixture of veterans and the addition of two key freshmen.
Freshman Nina Olshever (17:59) and junior Ashley England (18:02) led the North Stars by taking seventh and ninth. Junior Kaylee Wessel (18:35) and freshman Shelby Artman (18:40) finished 23rd and 24th.
Last year, the North Stars finished 17th in Class 3A, and this year they are aiming higher.
"It's really good to know we have come this far, and how much farther we can come before the state meet," England said. "This meet definitely gave us a boost and exposed us to some really good teams."
Maine South took fourth behind its two all-state runners -- junior Emily Leonard (17:42) and senior Megan Lemersal (18:11) iun fifth and 12th. Last year Leonard and Lemersal finished 6th and 8th in Class 3A.
Schaumburg turned a few heads, powered by a trio of sophomores who helped the Saxons take fifth place.
Sophomore Caroline Kurdej (17:38) placed fourth, while Ali Gutt (18:22) and Erin Falsey (18:24) were 16th and 18th.
Kurdej, who finished 120th in Class 3A last year, has emerged among the state's elite runners this fall.
"I don't want to be overconfident, because I don't want that to bite me later on," Kurdej said. "But I want to be confident to do well. We just want to keep improving."
Prospect was missing its top runner, Brooke Wolfe.
So senior Lauren Poplawksi (18:08) took charge, rebounding from last week's run at the Fenton Invitational to take 11th place and lead the Knights to sixth in the team standings.
"I was disappointed with last week's finish," said Poplawksi who took 24th place at Fenton. "I knew if I got out early I would be able to secure my position and hang on with the top group."
Downers Grove North was also missing one of its top runners, but senior Gabrielle Hesslau (18:02) helped the Trojans take seventh and freshman Kaitlyn Bonfield (18:40) was 25th. Hesslau was a key member of the Trojans' quartet that won the 3,200 relay state title in 2011, and she is hoping the Trojans find that same magic this season.
"Last year I think we were a little overconfident after winning the state title," said Hesslau of Trojans cross country team that finished 21st in Class 3A. "This season we understand you have to work for it."
Junior Solome Haile (18:27) help power Hoffman Estates to eighth place by taking 21st. The Hawks were missing two of their top seven runners.
"I think we all went out aggressive and hung on," said Haile. "This race was really important for building confidence."
St. Charles East, which tied Naperville North for third in Class 3A last season, is looking forward to the challenge this fall.
The Saints were missing top returning runner Torree Scull, but senior Sarah Hill (18:22) took 15th place to push her team to 10th.
"Our finish last year definitely gives us confidence," said Hill, "It helps us push harder."
Elk Grove freshman Jeanne McCormick (17:59) took eight place, coming on the heels of last week's third at the Fenton Invitational.
"I respect the other runners, but I'm not afraid," McCormick said. "I respect what they do, but I just do my own thing."